Chania Ancient Aptera

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Location: Kalami

The ruins of the Ancient City of Aptera can be found at the entrance of Souda Bay, next to the picturesque Kalami village. The founder of Aptera, whose name means "without wings", is believed to have been Glaukos of Cyrene or Apteras of Delphi. Archaeological excavations have revealed a great part of its fortifications, an ancient theater, the Roman cisterns and various other buildings, as well as an ancient necropolis.

Historical background

The ancient city of Aptera is one of the most significant archeological sites in Chania and a visit will allow you to familiarize yourself with one of the most powerful ancient civilizations that flourished in Crete. It is located on Paleokastro hill, a magnificent location near Souda with amazing views of both the White Mountains and the sea.

Several theories have been put forward as to how Aptera got its name. The most widely accepted one is that Aptera was an appellative of Artemis, while according to Pausanias, the city was named after Apteras, the mythical king of Delphi, who seems tohave been its founder. The most captivating myth, though, speaks of a contest that took place here between the Muses and the Sirens. After the latter were defeated, they threw down their feathers and remained wingless (apteres), while their wings fell into the sea and formed Lefkes, the islets of Souda Bay.

Ancient Aptera was one of the most significant Cretan city-states. Thanks to its strategic location within a short distance from two of the island's major ancient ports (Marathi and Kissamos), it controlled maritime activity and evolved into one of the greatest commercial centers in Crete. Though its foundation goes back to the Minoan times (3500-1070 BC), the city's development reached its peak during the Hellenistic Period (323-67 BC). Gradually, the city's commercial power became so great that it was able to mint its own coins, depicting King Apteras and the goddess Artemis, the protector of the city.

Aptera’s decline as a commercial and political center started during the Roman times and was accelerated after it was destroyed by an earthquake in 365 AD. However, it wasn’t completely abandoned until the Byzantine years, when pirate raids drove its inhabitants away.

What to see there

The findings you can currently see in the archeological site date back to various periods. Some of the most impressive ones include the Roman cisterns and baths, the ruins of a colonnaded Roman villa, the building of the ancient parliament, a Doric temple, an ancient theater and the ruins of houses and other buildings. The 3.5-kilometer-long walls that enclosed Aptera also survive. In addition, an ancient necropolis is located outside the walls in the modern-day location of Megala Chorafia. 

Visitors can also see more recent constructions, including two Ottoman fortresses (Koules and Izzeddin), and the monastery of Agios Ioannis Theologos, which was made with fragments of the ancient city's ruins. Built before 1181, it was fully functional until the 1960s. On the western side of the plateau, there are also two German pillboxes from the Second World War.

Archeological excavations in this area began around 1850 and are still going on, as large sections of the city remain under the ground. All other findings, including coins, jewelry, sculptures and other small objects have been transferred to the Archaeological Museum of Chania.

Additional information

Opening hours: The archeological site is open on a daily basis during the summer season, from 08:00 to 20:00, except on Tuesdays. The site remains closed on all public holidays as well.
The entrance fee is €4, while visitors under 25 years of age can enter for free.
The only facilities available are a car parking area and a WC, while a leaflet can be procured while purchasing your ticket to help you find your way around.
It will take you around 2 hours to see the entire site.



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