ANCIENT POLYRRINIA

 

Kastelli Kissamou's name is taken from ancient Kisamos, which one stood her and Kisamos served as a port for the sizable ancient city of Polyrrinia. In the town you will see an junction signposted to Polyrrinia 6km south. The road climbs passing olive groves and vineyards. Once Polyrrinia was one of the most important cities of Western Crete.

 

Built high on a well fortified hill 418 metres high above sea level, with magnificent views commanding both the Cretan and Libyan seas.

 
Originally an 8th century B.C. Dorian colony from the Peloponnese, built the town of Polyrrinia 'poly' meaning many and 'renea' sheep or 'rich in lambs'. The inhabitants were probably shepherds and it must have had a lot of sheep, which was needed to keep up the strength of the citizens of this 'Acropolis',  as they were in constant fights with their neighbours the Kydonians. The Kydonians had settled on what now is the site of modern day Hania. 

 
The emblem of the city was the bull as it was the most fortified city of ancient Crete and dominate all the western coast of the island. This image of the head of a bull was represented on the one side of Polyrrinia's coinage. With others depicting Athena as a warrior-goddess, wearing a helmet and bearing a spear in her hand.

 
A temple was built and dedicated to Artemis. During the whole of the classical and hellenistic period the town and seaports survived. Falassarna used to be the west coast harbour for Polyrinnia (the other one being Kastelli) but later became Polyrinnia's chief rival. They continued to prosper until the Roman period and beyond. Simply because they quickly entered into an alliance with them before the Kydonians could attempt to do the same. They even made a sycophantic gesture by building a statue in honour of the Roman conqueror of Crete, Quintus Metellus, referring to him as the 'saviour and benefactor of the city' this was probably a significant reason as to why it was spared destruction. 


Stones from the temple were used for the building of the church of the Holy Fathers, built in 1894 and was built on the temples remains. The altar from the ancient temple forms part of the eastern wall, along with many inscription carved into rocks which contain treaties and dedications are also incorporated to the walls of the church.

 

There have been no excavations in Polyrrinia since 1938. As a result today's visible ruins are the 'top-layer' dating as far back as to the Roman and medieval ages. There are remains of Andrianos Aqueduct, consisting of two conductors in the rocks ending in two marble fountains that supplied the lower city from the Roman era, there is a cemetery with rock tombs, ancient cisterns, threshing floors scattered along the ridge, can be seen above the town before arriving to the acropolis. Close by is a small cave dedicated to the Nymphs, on the walls you can still see the carved niches that contained the Nymphs' small statuettes.

 

The walls that are left, surrounding the top of the hill were built on top of the previous existing ones and modified in every past era, they have parts representing the Hellenic, Roman, Byzantine and Venetian periods. The small village of 'Pollirrinia', its old name was 'Apano Paleokastro' was even built from the remains of the ancient houses and temples. A true monument to past history and the structure of Crete.

 
 
 

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 More Round the Island pages
: Beaches - Western Crete : Apokoronas : Hania Town : Kournas Lake : Aptera :
: Frangokastello : Gramvousa : Spinalonga : Monasteries
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