At least two areas of the prefecture of Rethymno are directly connected with mythology: TheIdaion Andron Cave in the mountain range of Psiloritis and the Talarian Mountains (today’sKouloukounas) in the Milopotamos area. According to mythology, Rhea refuge from her furious husband, who gulped down his children, in the cave of Idaion Andron and here gave birth toZeus. To hide the baby’s cries, the legendary demons of Crete were dancing wildly, hitting their shields and the nymphe Adrastea became its nurse. The golden bees fed him with their honey and the goat Amaltheia offered her milk.
The Talean Mountains are connected with the legendary giant Talos. Talos protected Creteagainst its enemies and hindered them from getting close. It took the beauty of Medea arriving on the Argous to make him weak and by removing the nail from his foot spilled his blood and made him fall on the Cretan soil.
The History Of Rethymno - (3500 B.C. – 1200 A.D.)
Archaeological findings show that man first arrived in today’s area of Rethymno in the later Neolithic years (3500-2800 BC). Until now, 13 instances of human presence in this period have been found, 5 of which are in caves. The most well-known is the Gerani cave which brought important archaeological and palaeontological findings to light.
During the Minoan period (2800-1100 BC) human activity spread throughout the whole prefecture. Settlements and large building complexes (Elenes, Monastiraki, Apodoulou) appear. During the Geometric Period (710-270 BC) there is evidence of civilization in the area of Eleftherna and its eastern areas, including at least 15 cities founded between 710 and 470 BC, the majority of which were small towns. Of these, Axos enjoyed particular prosperity. During the Classical years (470-323 BC), Sivritos boomed as did Rithymna, the predecessor of today’s Rethymno. During theHellenistic and Roman periods, Lappa appears as the most important city.
The 5th, 6th and first half of the 7th centuries AD passed peaceful under the jurisdiction of the Byzantine Empire. From the second half of the 7th century on continuous Arab invasions disrupted Crete until it was finally conquered in 821 or 828. The successive attempts of the Byzantines resulted in its re-conquest only 150 years later (961 AD). So, Crete and Rethymno passed another 150 years under Byzantine rule.
The History Of Rethymno – (1200 A.D. – TODAY)
In 1204 Crete canie under Venetian rule, a period of domination which lasted until 1669, the last centuries of which are characterised by the phenomenon of Cretan Renaissance. Rethymno was the third largest town of the “Kingdom of Crete” and a considerable number of important monuments of the time have been preserved. The Turkish occupation brought a dark period forRethymno and the whole of Crete. Economy became thoroughly agricultural, education ceased for centuries and oppression became unbearable. The revolution of Sfakia in 1770 prepared for the uprising of 1821, which in turn sparked off the events of 1866. It was in this revolution that the Arkadi Monastery near became known all over the world after the martyrdom of its defenders. In 1913 Crete was eventually unified with the rest of Greece and since then followed the nation’s history.
In May 1941 Rethymno was one of the German parachutists’ three fronts. The memorable resistance of the local people led to the execution of hundreds of inhabitants and the levelling of whole villages. Both sides suffered considerable losses.
The Monuments Of Rethymno
The “Fortezza” Fortress was built after 1573 to protect the city’s population. It comprises four bastions and three entrances while to the north, its design is typical for the period with three look-out posts (salients). The most significant of the surviving buildings is the Ibrahim ?an Mosque, originally built by the Venetians as a cathedral.
The Venetian Harbour: Since 1300, Rethymno‘s harbour has constantly been changed and rebuilt to make it safer and hold more boats. Due to the prevailing currents along the coast, this was never entirely successful. It has retained its picturesque character up to today.
The Loggia: It is the most characteristic Renaissance monument of Rethymno and the most important architectural reminder of the Venetian occupation.
The Rimondi Fountain: Rebuilt in 1626 on the foundations of an earlier one, the new fountain is architecturally and sculpturally ornate.
The Saint Franciscus Church: It was the church of a Franciscan monastery. It sports a single-aisled, wooden roofed basilica with an impressively decorated entrance door.
The Neratzes Mosque, the Kara Mousa Mosque, the Great Door Mosque, the Veli Pasa Mosque: The surviving mosques are a reminder of the years of the Turkish occupation. Of these, the first is the only one that can be visited and houses today a music conservatory.
The Prefecture Building (Nomarchia): A Neoclassicistic monument built in 1845.
The Old Town: The old town of Rethymno is well preserved with public and private monuments of the Venetian, Turkish and later periods. ?? the little alleys embraced by the streets Melissinou,Ethnikis Antistaseos, Dimakapoulou and the Iroon Polytechniou Square, the visitor can read the history of the old Rethymno, discovering at the same time a small town with Medieval and Renaissance character, which has kept typical features of all following periods.