About the City

The town is built on the site of the small harbor which was once the seaport of Knossos. This small harbor much later became an important fortified town under the Arabs, who held it for a period of over one hundred years (824-961 AD). They built strong walls for protection and surrounded the city with a deep moat (from which it got its name “Chandax„ from the Arabic word “khandak„ meaning moat).

During the period of Venetian rule (1204-1699) the city was renamed to Candia. This was a period of prosperity for the town, which was fortified by its occupiers with another strong wall, was adorned with a great number of splendid buildings, fountains, squares and churches and a time during which the arts and literature also nourished.

After 21 years of close siege, the town finally surrendered to its new conquerors who, this time, came from the East: The Turks (1669). Its name was changed to Megalo Kastro (Great Castle), its fortifications were repaired and additions made, but the town was now plunged into the darkness of slavery. Its prosperity was gone, while its population was decimated by savage massacres (1828 and 1898). In 1913, Herakleion was incorporated to the free Greek State, together with the rest of Crete. During the German occupation the inhabitants organized a brave resistance movement together with the other Cretan patriots.