Cydonia is one of the five great cities of Minoan Crete, although exact location of the ancient city was not even resolved until the latter half of the 20th century. The most powerful center of western Crete, Cydonia produced Bronze Age pottery and Linear B writings circa 1700 to 1500 BC, and was one of the first cities of Europe to mint coinage. A temple of Britomartis was erected on Mount Tityros near the city.
HISTORY Cydonia was likely established as a Neolithic settlement in the fourth millennium BC. Archaeological excavations in the old town of present day Chania have revealed the remains of Middle Minoan Period Cydonia. These explorations are difficult, since the entire Venetian city of Chania was developed over Cydonia, with virtually no recorded medieval or modern mention of the ancient city specifics until the first finds in 1965. (Andreadaki,) Ancient mention of the civilization in Cydonia is also made by Polybius, Strabo, Scylax and by Hanno in the ''Periplus''. (Smith, 1878) Interestingly Pashley was able to work out rather accurately the location of ancient Cydonia without any archaeological data; he deduced the location near the port and Old Town from passages in the classical literature. (Pashley, 1837)
The Minoan culture likely peaked in Cydonia at a similar time to that of Knossos, (Hogan, 2007) around 1800 to 1500 BC. After the Minoan Period, the Dorians from mainland Greece colonized Cydonia, possibly as early as 1100 BC. By about the sixth century BC the Aegina peoples established control of Cydonia, although contact with Aegina has been verified to much earlier Bronze Age times; in particular, the Minoan goddess Britomartis was adopted by people of Aegina within the Bronze Age, and was one of the first images used in Aeginean coinage. During the maritime expansion of Aegina in the Archaic Period Cydonia would have been an ideal naval stop for the Aegina fleet on its way to other ports known to have been controlled or visited by that emerging power.
In 429 BC, the Athenians laid waste to Cydonia to assist the neighboring city of Polychna. In 343, BC, Phalaikos, leader of the Phokaians, unsucessfully laid siege to Cydonia. In the third century BC Cydonia was in war with Phalasarna, Elyros, Aptera and Polyrrenia. At 219 BC, the Cydonia joined the Aitolian and thence the Achaian Federation. As the Romans conquered other Cretan cities, Cydonia fell to Roman forces led by by Caicilius Metellus in 69 BC.. Panares, one general of the city, signed a truce, while Lasthenes, the other general, fled to Knossos.
ARCHITECTURE AND ART Recent excavations indicate a palace building at Cydonia dating to the beginning of the Neo-palatial Period (Middle Minoan III). Numerous elements of pottery, coinage and Linear B writing have been recovered in subsurface excavations, and considerable numbers of coins and ceramic objects have been found at other Aegean centers with whom Cydonia traded. For example, Cydonian inscribed stirrup jars for transporting perfumed olive oil or wine have been found at many sites in the rest of Crete and the Greek Mainland, while fine ceramic products of Cydonia have been recognized in many of the Aegean centers, including Cyprus and Sardinia. Many of the Minoan, Hellenistic and Roman finds are housed in the Khania Archaeological Museum.
COINAGE As one of the first European cities to mint coins, Cydonia first began this activity by overstriking coins of Aegina, with whom a close relation was maintained in the mid first millennium BC. One silver coin struck in Cydonia was that of a stater featuring the Minoan goddess Britomartis. Many of these early specimens were actually overstrikes of coins of Aegina. Britomartis exhibits the early custom of grape cultivation in this region with grapevines enwreathing her hair.
ENVIRONMENT Cydonia is characterized in ancient literature as having a highly protected harbor, which circumstance can be witnessed today. In addition to the sizable city developed by this natural harbor there was a considerable agricultural adjunct territory governed by Cydonia.
From its center at Kastelli Hill, Cydonia controlled an expansive area: the Khania Plain to its south towards Malaxa Mountain (Verekynthos) and Aptera; the Akrotiri peninsula to the east; and towards Polyrrhenia at the west. An an area of roughly 100,000 square meters has been deduced for the Minoan settlement of Cydonia, excluding the extended farms and outlying peasant communities. For example, the hilly countryside near the city was known to have been used for growing grapes, as attested by a third century BC stone inscription found at Cydonia. (Chaniotis, 1999)
* Maria Andreadaki-Vlasiki, "Discoveries at Khania in Western Crete" with Metaxia Tsipopoulou, Athena Review, vol.3, no.3,, pp 41-52
* William Smith (1878) ''A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography'', J. Murray Publisher
* Robert Pashley (1837) ''Travels in Crete''
* http://themodernantiquarian.com/site/10854/knossos.html#fieldnotes">C. Michael Hogan (2007) ''Knossos'', The Modern Antiquarian
* Angelos Chaniotis (1999) ''From Minoan Farmers to Roman Traders: Sidelights on the Economy of Ancient Crete'', Franz Steiner Verlag, 391 pages ISBN 3515076212
Posted by C Michael Hogan
23rd January 2008ce
Edited 28th April 2008ce