Heraklion, Iraklion, or Heraclion (Greek: Ηράκλειο is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete, Greece. It is the 4th largest city in Greece.
Heraklion is the capital of Heraklion peripheral unit. The ruins of Knossos, which were excavated and restored by Arthur Evans, are nearby. The Heraklion International Airport is named after Nikos Kazantzakis.
The Andalusian raiders who founded the Emirate of Crete moved the island's capital from Gortyna to what a new castle they called rabḍ al-ḫandaq 'Castle of the Moat' in the 820s. This was hellenized as Χάνδαξ (Handax) or Χάνδακας and Latinized as Candia, which was taken into other European languages: French Candie, English Candy, all of which could refer to all of Crete as well as to the city itself; the Ottoman form was Kandiye.
After the Byzantine reconquest, the city was locally known as Megalo Kastro or Castro (the Big Castle in Greek) and its inhabitants were called Kastrinoi or Castrini (Castle-dwellers in Greek).
The pagan name Ηράκλειον was revived in the 19th century and comes from the nearby Roman port of Heracleum ("Heracles' city"), whose exact location is unknown. English usage formerly preferred the classicizing transliterations "Heraklion" or "Heraclion", but the form "Iraklion" is becoming more common.
Heraklion is close to the ruins of the palace of Knossos, which in Minoan times was the largest centre of population on Crete. Though there is no archaeological evidence of it, Knossos may well have had a port at the site of Heraklion as long ago as 2000 BC.
The present city of Heraklion was founded in 824 AD by the Saracens who had been expelled from Al-Andalus by Emir Al-Hakam I and had taken over the island from the Eastern Roman Empire. They built a moat around the city for protection, and named the city ربض الخندق, rabḍ al-ḫandaq ("Castle of the Moat"). The Saracens allowed the port to be used as a safe haven for pirates who operated against Imperial shipping and raided Imperial territory around the Aegean.
Restored Greek Era
Further information: Byzantine Greece
In 961 Imperial forces under the command of Nikephoros Phokas, later to become Emperor, landed in Crete and attacked the city. After a prolonged siege, the city fell. The Saracen inhabitants were slaughtered, the city looted and burned to the ground. Soon rebuilt, the town of Chandax remained under Greek control for the next 243 years.
In 1204, the city was bought by the Republic of Venice as part of a complicated political deal which involved among other things, the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade restoring the deposed Eastern Roman Emperor Isaac II Angelus to his throne. The Venetians improved on the ditch of the city by building enormous fortifications, most of which are still in place, including a giant wall, in places up to 40 m thick, with 7 bastions, and a fortress in the harbour. Chandax was renamed Candia and became the seat of the Duke of Candia, and the Venetian administrative district of Crete became known as "regno di Candia" (kingdom of Candia). The city retained the name of Candia for centuries and the same name was often used to refer to the whole island of Crete as well. To secure their rule, Venetians began in 1212 to settle families from Venice on Crete. The coexistence of two different cultures and the stimulus of Italian Renaissance led to a flourishing of letters and the arts in Candia and Crete in general, that is today known as the Cretan Renaissance
After the Venetians came the Ottoman Empire. During the Cretan War (1645–1669), the Ottomans besieged the city for 21 years, from 1648 to 1669, perhaps the longest siege in history. In its final phase, which lasted for 22 months, 70,000 Turks, 38,000 Cretans and slaves and 29,088 of the city's Christian defenders perished. The Ottoman army under an Albanian grand vizier, Köprülü Fazıl Ahmed Pasha conquered the city in 1669. Under the Ottomans, the city was known officially as Kandiye (again also applied to the whole island of Crete) but informally in Greek as Megalo Castro (Μεγάλο Κάστρο; "Big Castle"). During the Ottoman period, the harbour silted up, so most shipping shifted to Chania in the west of the island.
In 1898 the autonomous Cretan State was created, under Ottoman suzerainty, with Prince George of Greece as its High Commissioner and under international supervision. During the period of direct occupation of the island by the Great Powers (1898–1908), Candia was part of the British zone. At this time the city was renamed "Heraklion", after the Roman port of Heracleum ("Heracles' city"), whose exact location is unknown.
In 1913 with the rest of Crete Heraklion was incorporated into the Kingdom of Greece.
Agios Nikolaos (or Aghios Nikolaos, Greek: Άγιος Νικόλαος) is a coastal town on the Greek island of Crete, lying east of the island's capital Heraklion, north of the town of Ierapetra and west of the town of Sitia. In the year 2000, the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos, which takes in part of the surrounding villages, claimed around 19,000 inhabitants. The town is the capital of the nomos (province) of Lasithi, and sits partially upon the ruins of the ancient city of Lato pros Kamara.
Sitia (Greek: Σητεία) refers both to a port town, with 8,900 inhabitants (2001) and a municipality, with 19,209 inhabitants (2001) in the far east of Crete, in the peripheral unit of Lasithi. It lies to the east of Agios Nikolaos and to the northeast of Ierapetra. The town is one of the economic centers of the Lasithi region.Sitia is served by the Sitia Public Airport. Sitia has not experienced the effects of mass tourism even though there is a long beach along the road leading to Vai and several places of historical interest. The town is visited by few tourists.
The earliest settlement of the town dates back to Minoan times; excavations in the neighbouring site of Petras have unearthed architectural remains that date back to the end of the Neolithic period 3000 BC and continue throughout the Bronze Age 3000-1050 BC. According to Diogenes Laertius, Sitia was the home of Myson of Chen, one of the Seven Sages of Greece.
The town was later expanded and fortified by the Venetians who used it as a base of operations for the Eastern Mediterranean. During the Venetian occupation, the town was destroyed three times: by an earthquake in 1508, by a pirate attack in 1538 and finally by the Venetians themselves in 1651. Sitia was then conquered by the Ottoman Empire.