Heraklion is the largest city in Crete with 140,730 inhabitants (2011 census). It is the seat of the Decentralized Administration of Crete, of the Region of Crete (returned as capital in 1971), as well as the seat of the Church of Crete and its Archbishop. The Municipality of Heraklion, as it emerged from the Kallikratis program, is the fourth most populous in the country with 173,993 inhabitants. The city of Heraklion is famous for its resistance and heroism during the German invasion and the Battle of Crete (1941), it was honored with the First Class War Cross.

The main economic sectors of the city are tourism, agriculture and trade. It has an industrial area 4 km southeast of the center. Heraklion also has one of the largest airports in Greece today (second in total after Athens and first in charter flights), the airport "Nikos Kazantzakis", as well as a port with heavy shipping mainly to Piraeus and other islands. The city of Heraklion was named for the year 2017 as the fastest growing tourist area in Europe. According to the ranking, Heraklion emerged as the 20th most visited region in Europe, the 66th region on the planet and the 2nd in Greece for the year 2017, with 3.2 million visitors and the 19th in Europe for 2018 with 3.4 million visitors .

Apart from Athens and Thessaloniki, Heraklion is the only city in Greece that includes within the same urban fabric the seats of two different Kallikratika municipalities. Heraklion, with a population of 140,730 inhabitants, together with the city of Nea Alikarnassos (14,635 inhabitants) and Gazi (12,606 inhabitants) by the Municipality of Malevizi, are one of the largest urban complexes in the country.


City names
The city in its long history changed many names, some of which were used in parallel. Some of the most important are:
Heraklion (Minoan Period, Mycenaean Period, Ottoman Empire, Cretan State, Greece), Heraklion, Castle (Eastern Roman Empire - Byzantine), Rabd Al Hadak (Arabs), Khandox (Arab), Khandax (Byzantine) Candida (Latins), Candia (Venetians, Europeans), Chora (Cretans), Piazza, Cantilier (Ottoman Empire).

The name "Castle" was given during the First Byzantine Period (330-824 AD), because that is what the Byzantines called the fortified cities, as Crete was a Byzantine province with Gortyna as its administrative center.

Regarding the origin of the name Heraklion, the legend states that Rhea, the mother of Zeus, instructed the Kurites to protect her son from Saturn.

One of the Kourites, Ideos Iraklis, leaves for Olympia and organizes the road race together with his brothers. It was the first road race in the world and Idaios Iraklis crowned the winner with a wild olive branch and since then it has been the custom to crown the winners of the Olympic Games with wild olive wreaths. Ideos Iraklis himself gave his name to today's Heraklion. Along with the mythological approach, the historian attributes the name to the descent of the Dorians, that is, the Heraclides who were considered descendants of Hercules.

The above myth wants to demonstrate Minoan Crete as a place where sports were born. The Minoans know from archeological finds and traces of frescoes in Knossos that they loved sports and engaged in sports such as gymnastics, boxing and wrestling, and bullfighting and were held mainly during religious festivals to honor or thank a god.

From the time the first fortress was built by the exiles of Andalusia and for the next thousand years the settlement is mentioned in Greek-speaking sources as Chandakas, while in the Frankish it is referred to as Kandia, and translated into Greek as Chandakas. It has not been ascertained whether there was previously a fortress or a small installation in the area, however it is certain that there was no city and no ancient name for the area is preserved. Today Heraklion extends far beyond the medieval walls of the city, but those areas of Heraklion that are within the walls are often referred to even today as Chandakas.

Minoan, Mycenaean, Greek, Roman Period (7000 BC - 330 AD)
Heraklion is located on the north coast of Crete, opposite the islet of Zeus, at the exact same location as in antiquity the westernmost of the three ports of Knossos, which during the Minoan civilization had the largest population in Crete carrying the same name in honor of the ancient sanctuary of Idea Heracles.

For the city of Heraklion there is no exact information about its foundation. The habitation, however, is considered to begin at least from the third millennium BC, as a port (port) of Knossos. As a port it was a small settlement. Finds have been found in various areas, on the natural hill where the Archaeological Museum is located today. Traces of habitation have been found during the classical, Hellenistic and Roman times. The oldest evidence we have is from the ancient historian and geographer Strabo (1st century BC). "..Knosos Heraklion has a drink".

A Roman coin of 169 AD was found in a trench 5m deep inside the church of Agios Petros. Protogeometric pottery shells of the 10oy - 9th BC were also found in this pit. century (excavation of George C Miles). Strabo, in his geographies (X, 476, 7) mentions "Knossos has Heraklion as its port" (67 BC 23 AD). Pliny the Elder in 79 AD mentions the city of Heraclea. The same is mentioned by Claudius Ptolemy (2nd century AD). Two of the Ten Saints who "martyred" in 249-251, Evarestos and Mobios (or Pompey, or Pontius) were from Heraklion. In 348 the distances of Astali Bali) - Heraklion and Heraklion - Herronissos (Hersonissos) are mentioned in the stages of the great sea.

First Byzantine period (330 AD - 823 AD) and Arab rule (823 AD - 961 AD)

In the Byzantine period, Heraklion was known as Kastro (probably due to the fortification that surrounded it), although it also mentions Heraklion (Stefanos Byzantios - Heraklion). It was a small but walled city, but there is not much information. Remains of the Byzantine or Roman wall have been found in the area of ​​Agia Aikaterini.

In 823 the Saracen Arabs under Abu Hafez (Apocalypse of the Byzantines), originally from Cordoba in present-day Spain, occupied Crete and destroyed the then capital of the island of Gortyna. Seeking then a new coastal city for capital, they chose Heraklion, which they began to fortify the following year, 824, strengthening and expanding the former Hellenistic and Byzantine walls further west as the city expanded and designated it as the capital of their state, the Emirate of Crete. They built a large fort, part of which survives to this day, within the city, behind newer structures on sections of Chandakos, Daidalou and port streets, with a large perimeter moat. From that fortified moat, which stretched from sea to sea, the Saracens named this city بض الخندق ربد ال حنداک (Fortress of the Trench), or simply Handak (Hellenized Chandakas), creating a period of great prosperity and civilization. But at the same time, they allowed pirates to camp in the port, something that was widespread at the time, but which created many problems and annoyed the neighboring states.

The continuous pirate activity of the Saracens who, together with the pirates of Cilicia, ravaged the islands and coasts of the Aegean and the Mediterranean in general, having made Chandakas (Heraklion) a warehouse of pirate booty and a center for the purchase and sale of prisoners, especially women and children. (especially after the occupation and conquest of Thessaloniki, Demitriados and other cities by the Arabs and the fact that they reached the walls of Constantinople threatening it). It was natural for Byzantine politics to focus its interest on the recapture of Crete. After some failed attempts, such as e.g. that of Goggilis, the Queen decided to end the case of Crete. During the reign of Romanos II, with Joseph Vriggas weak and asleep, the preparation and leadership of the campaign was entrusted to Magister and General Nikiforos Fokas, the later Emperor.

Second Byzantine Period (961 - 1204)
Thus, in July 960, the Byzantines landed in the gulf of Heraklion (in Ellinoperama), 3 km west of the city. An eight-month siege followed, on March 6, 961 they captured (conquered) the city. The forces of Nikiforos Fokas, carrying out massacres, looted and burned the city, ending the Emirate of Crete. At first, the capital of Crete was moved to the fortified two-peaked hill near the present-day Prophet Elias, who became known as the Mosque. However, the new location did not serve the needs of a city, and so the settlement in the ruins of the Arab city began again and its name was Hellenized in Handax. Nikiforos Fokas arranged for the establishment in Crete of noble-feudal families from Constantinople for the elevation of the Cretan mind, their control and the re-establishment of ties with the Queen State. The same policy is ratified by the Decree of Alexios II. Komninou (1182) with which the Mansion (Chief) Families of the well-known "Twelve (12) Archontopoulos" ie of Ioannis Fokas (whose name during the Venetian rule evolved into Kalliergi and then Kallergi), Konstantinos Varouchas, officially settle in Crete. Marinos Skordili, Leonta Mousourou, Filippou Gavalas, Andrea Melissinou, Thomas Archoleos (Archoleontos), Dimitrios Vlastos, Efstratios Chortatzis, Nikiforos Argyropoulos, Louka Litina and Matthaios Kafatos (Kalafi). After this annexation, Chandakas remained the capital of Crete, the seat of the General Commander who bore the Byzantine title "Doux" as well as a metropolitan seat. Around the same time, the church of Agios Titos (the first bishop of Crete) was built, which had previously been destroyed by the Saracens.


Venetian rule (1204 - 1669)
In 1204, after the conquest of Constantinople by the crusaders, part of Crete was initially ceded to Boniface the Momferatikos who sold it (sold) to the Venetians (to Doctor Henry Dandolo). But before the Venetians could settle in Crete and the capital Chandaka, the Genoese rushed and occupied it, which the Venetians finally managed to drive out after a seven-year war that followed, from 1204 to 1210. The Venetians established a feudal and At the same time, a democratic system of government, by their standards, maintained Chandakas, the capital of the island and seat of the Duke, general governor of the Most Peaceful Republic, paraphrasing the name of the city into "Kandika", "Kandiga", "Kandida" and finally Candia. as it prevailed as the name of the island with the official name "Kingdom or Duchy of Candia".

Then the Venetians erected great buildings that illuminated the city such as the Ducal Palace, the Palace of the Archangel, the Palace of the Archbishop, the Palace of the Latin Archbishop, the Church of St. Mark, and other temples, such as St. Francis Our Lady of the Crusaders etc. (more than 120 in total), the Venetian Club (which was demolished in 1904 and then restored), the so-called Morosini fountain (aqueduct), the orthodox church of St. Catherine with the continuation of the Sinaitic School of scholars and painters, etc. But the most important Venetian project was the famous mega wall of Heraklion, or the Venetian walls of Heraklion that included the whole city, as it had developed in the meantime, making it the strongest fortress in the Eastern Mediterranean. Initially, the Venetians improved the existing Arab and Byzantine fortifications, but the great earthquake that occurred in 1303 and the discovery of gunpowder, forced them to build this new wall, up to 40 m thick in some places, "seven-walled" and "seven-gate ", being a perfect fortification project. This began to be built after the Fall of Constantinople (1453), in the year 1462. During its construction, in 1508 a new great earthquake occurred. Finally the project was completed after 108 years, in 1570 by a Venetian engineer. Most of it is preserved to this day.

From this great wall the Cretans called the city Mega Kastro or "Megalo Kastro" or Kastro, a name that was maintained for three centuries and the inhabitants of Kastrinos or Megalokastrinos, a name that is preserved until today.

Another studied work of the Venetians was the construction of the large port of Hadaka which was created in the ancient Minoan port and later Byzantine and Arabic. The construction of the port began in 1523 and was completed after 17 years, in 1540. The port had two jetties, the largest to the right of the entrance, at the edge of which was built a large tower called "Leo's Tower", or "Great Kastelli", or " Rokka "which survives to this day with the Turkish name Koules, or" Koules "and the smaller jetty, to the left of the entrance that also ended in Mikros Koule. In the interior of the port, 12 new settlements were built for the construction, repair and storage of Venetian ships, their kits and supplies, some of which survive to this day.

With the above basic works of the Venetians, but also others that concerned both the landscaping of the city, and the new administrative measures that were introduced at the same time, Chandakas soon developed into a great shopping center and gained so much glamor that he had never met before. From its port, the largest artificial that had been built until then in the eastern Mediterranean, all the trade of Crete was carried out, mainly exported to Europe and Asia, thus revealing the great commercial organization of the city, even reaching the point of being called "soul of Venice".

By the middle of the Venetian period, Chandakas already gathered almost 2/5 of the total population of Crete. According to the systematic census of the population of Megalonisos attempted by Petros Kastrofylakas, the region of Chandakas, one of the four created by the Venetians, numbered, in the year 1575, 84,158 inhabitants, compared to 48,790 in Chania, 46,400 in Rethymnon. and 22,312 of Sitia. The main inhabitants of Chandakas were the Venetian nobles and other Latin government officials as well as merchants, Greek natives, for the most part, but also settlers from other areas of Venetian possessions as well as some Jewish merchants. It is noted that the population of Crete at that time fluctuated from various causes such as epidemics but also from Greek settlements, which occurred recently, from other Venetian possessions occupied by the Ottomans. The city had about 25000 inhabitants inside the walls and 5000 outside the walls (Maroulas area).


In 1647 AD The siege of the city by the Ottoman Turks began, which lasted 22 years and cost the lives of 30,000 Cretans, Venetians and Europeans and 120,000 Ottomans and finally ended with the surrender and capitulation of the city in 1669, to Kioproulou Fazil Ahmet.

The siege of Heraklion, for the defense of which all the Christian states of the time were united (under the orders of the Pope of Rome, is the longest and uninterrupted recorded in world history, remaining in history as an epic, with the title " Siege of Candia "(Great Cretan War).

After the surrender (September 6, 1669), almost all the inhabitants of the city left and as refugees moved to the Ionian Islands, Venice, Dalmatia and others.

First Ottoman Period (1669 - 1830), Egyptian Occupation (1830-1841), Second Ottoman Period (1841 - 1896)
The city was destroyed immediately after the fall, but the Ottomans chose it as their new capital. During the Ottoman period the city became known as "Great Castle" or "Castle". Periods of peace, movements, revolutions and severe repressions by the Ottomans (Turks) followed. For example, it is mentioned that "in the great massacre of Heraklion, on June 24, 1821, which remained in the memory of the people like the great lord, the enraged Turks slaughtered the Metropolitan of Crete Gerasimos Pardalis and five Bishops: Knossos Neophytos, Ierimos Herron , Zacharias of Sitia and the titular Bishop of Diopolis Kallinikos, for two or more years the Church of Crete remained headless.Due to the constant revolutions and the constant demand for Union with the newly formed State of Greece, the faltering Ottoman Empire (the Imperial Empire) in 1830 in Egypt under which it remained until 1841. This period was smoother and many public works were carried out.In 1851, the capital was moved by the Ottoman Administration, from Heraklion to Chania for defense reasons (port of Souda), due to of the great pressure received by the Ottoman Empire.

In 1856, Heraklion was leveled by an earthquake. Of the 3,620 homes in the city, only 18 were deemed habitable.

Cretan State (1896 - 1913) - Union with Greece
The Cretans, not enduring the Turkish occupation, repeatedly revolted with major revolutions in 1770, 1821, 1841, 1858, 1866-1869 and 1897-1898. In 1897, fleets of Britain, France, Russia and Italy sailed to Crete, dividing the island's administration. The administration of Heraklion was taken over by the British. On August 25, 1898, an attempt was made by a British detachment to replace the executive officers in accordance with the decision of the four Admirals, but the Turks of the city reacted angrily, massacring Christians in the city, looting the city and finally setting it on fire. . To stop the uprising, a British ship bombed the city. Among the dead were Lysimachos Kalokairinos, Britain's deputy consul in Heraklion, and 18 British soldiers, while the total death toll was initially estimated at 1,000, but later estimates put the death toll at around 450. For the incidents, 17 significant Turko-Cretans were sentenced to death, while the Great Powers forced the removal of the Turkish army, which was the final one. In December 1913, the union of Crete with Greece was officially proclaimed. Thus, Crete is now an integral part of the Greek state.

Settlement of Asia Minor (1922-1924)
After the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922 and the exchange of populations, Greek refugees from Asia Minor settled in Heraklion and enriched the local culture. They came from various regions of Asia Minor and most of them from Smyrna, Vourla, Alatsata, Nymfaio of Ionia, the region of Ikonio, Bursa etc. The families of Greek refugees who arrived also included several from Eastern Thrace. They created the settlements that bear the names of the cities of Asia Minor from where they came from, such as Nea Klazomenes, Nea Alikarnassos, Nea Alatsata, Nea Vryoula. The reception of the refugees by the Cretans was hospitable and the coexistence peaceful.