Ancient Eleutherna: A Journey Through Time in the Heart of Crete

Construction Periods:

  • Neolithic Period (c. 7000-3000 BC): Evidence of early human presence and habitation.
  • Early Iron Age (c. 1100-650 BC): Emergence of a significant settlement, with a necropolis at Orthi Petra containing elaborate burials and artifacts.
  • Archaic and Classical Periods (c. 650-323 BC): Development of a city-state with complex social structures, laws, and religious practices.
  • Hellenistic Period (c. 323-67 BC): Expansion of the city, construction of public buildings, and establishment of a strong regional presence.
  • Roman Period (67 BC-330 AD): Continued prosperity under Roman rule, with further urban development and construction of public infrastructure.
  • Early Christian and Byzantine Periods (c. 330-824 AD): Construction of numerous basilicas, indicating a thriving Christian community.
  • Decline and Abandonment: Gradual decline in the late 8th century AD, likely due to earthquakes and Arab raids.


  • Situated on a hill (Prines) in the Rethymno regional unit of Crete, Greece.
  • Strategically located at the crossroads of major routes, offering control over the surrounding fertile valleys and access to the sea.

Places of Interest (Subsites):

  • Acropolis (Pyrgi): Site of early settlements, an archaic temple, and later Byzantine structures.
  • Katsivelos: Eastern slope of the hill, featuring Hellenistic and Roman houses, a small bathhouse, and the basilica of Archangel Michael.
  • Nisi: Northern part of the hill, with remains of a Hellenistic settlement and a large enclosure possibly used as a sanctuary.
  • Orthi Petra: Western slope of the hill, location of the extensive Early Iron Age necropolis with various burial practices and rich grave goods.
  • Agia Eirini and Agios Markos: Eastern slopes, where two large Early Christian basilicas were recently discovered.

Historical Significance Over Time:

  • Early Iron Age: A major center of power and culture, with evidence of complex social structures, religious practices, and artistic expression.
  • Archaic and Classical Periods: A flourishing city-state with a well-organized society, laws, and trade connections with other regions.
  • Hellenistic Period: A period of expansion and prosperity, with the construction of public buildings and the establishment of a strong regional presence.
  • Roman Period: Continued growth and development under Roman rule, with the construction of infrastructure such as roads and aqueducts.
  • Early Christian and Byzantine Periods: A thriving Christian community, as evidenced by the numerous basilicas and religious artifacts.

Current Status:

  • An active archaeological site with ongoing excavations by the University of Crete.
  • Access to the excavation sites including the Orthi Petra necropolis, the Katsivelos neighborhood, and the newly discovered basilicas at Agia Eirini and Agios Markos is restricted.
  • The Museum of Ancient Eleutherna houses a collection of artifacts from the site, showcasing the city’s rich history and cultural heritage.
Access restricted
Prehistoric period
Dark ages
Classical period
Hellenistic period
Roman period
Arab period
Paved Road
Earth Road

Even though the access to the sites is restricted the area offers an abundance of paths for the visitors to view the area from above and walk into the valley towards the Hellenistic bridge.

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