Lassithi History

The history of Lassithi is strongly associated with the history of the rest of Crete. According to the myth, Lassithi was the birthplace of Zeus. The Lassithi Plateau was the center of the Minoan civilization and has been inhabited since the early Neolithic times, with the cave of Trapeza being one of the most important Neolithic sites that have been discovered to this day.

Many towns were established in Minoan times, such as Vassiliki, Zakros, and Gournia, and there was a prodigious development of ceramic art, metalwork, and architecture. From about 1450 BC, the Minoan civilization began to decline, while the arrival of the Dorians three centuries later marked the beginning of a new culture, with Lato being the most important archaeological site from this era.

During the Classical and Hellenistic times, the city-states of Lassithi were torn by civil wars, which made it easy for the Romans to conquer them in 69 BC. In 395 AD, Crete became part of the Byzantine Empire, and the region of Lassithi is particularly rich in Byzantine monuments with characteristic frescoes.

In the 13th century, the region was surrendered to the Venetians, who fortified the entire island, including the towns of Sitia, Ierapetra, and the famous Spinalonga island. Over the centuries that followed the first revolt in Lassithi in 1273, the Venetians issued several decrees forbidding the habitation of this easternmost region of Crete. Nevertheless, the island was strongly influenced by the Venetian culture in terms of language, traditions, and political organization, which led to a flourishing of letters and the arts.

In 1669, Lassithi was occupied by the Ottomans, who ruled the island till 1898. During the last years of Turkish rule, the town of Agios Nikolaos was built, named after a Byzantine temple that stands there. Eventually, in 1898, the island gained its autonomy and the Cretan State was established till the island’s official unification with Greece in 1913.