Ancient Lyktos (or Lyttos)

  • Construction Period: The original settlement dates back to the Minoan period (around 1800 BC), but the visible ruins primarily belong to the Hellenistic and Roman periods (4th century BC to 7th century AD), when the city experienced significant growth and prosperity.
  • Location: The ruins of Lyktos are situated on a hill at an elevation of 656 meters, 1 kilometer northeast of the modern village of Lyttos (also known as Xidas) in the Pediada region of Crete, Greece. The city’s strategic location offered control over the passage between the Pediada plain and the Lasithi plateau.
  • Dimensions: The ancient city covered an extensive area estimated to be over 1000 stremmata (approximately 250 acres), encompassing the hilltop and its slopes. It consisted of various clusters of buildings, including residential areas, public structures, sanctuaries, and cemeteries.
  • Historical Significance: Lyktos was one of the most powerful and important city-states in ancient Crete. It is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad as a participant in the Trojan War and is referenced by numerous ancient authors, including Aristotle and Polybius. The city was a major rival of Knossos, the dominant power in Minoan Crete, and their conflicts shaped the political landscape of the island. Lyktos flourished during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, boasting impressive public buildings like a bouleuterion (council chamber) and a well-preserved Roman aqueduct that supplied water to the city. The city’s prominence is further evidenced by the discovery of statues of Roman emperors Marcus Aurelius and Trajan within its ruins.
  • Current Status: The site of ancient Lyktos is an active archaeological site with ongoing excavations revealing new insights into the city’s history and culture. While the Minoan-era settlement remains elusive, the Hellenistic and Roman remains are well-preserved and accessible to visitors. The site’s significance is recognized by its inclusion in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, where artifacts from Lyktos, including the statues of Roman emperors, are on display. The ongoing research and preservation efforts aim to shed more light on this important ancient city and its role in Cretan history.
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