A SHORT HISTORY OF CRETE AND A NEW CACHE OF OMILOS
It was a short while ago that I first read the history of Crete and I found it very interesting. During the last 2000 years it seems there was always someone who wanted to occupy the land. There were even centuries when the island was sold from one country to another without even a battle. Maybe for that reason the Cretan spirit is so revolutionary, stubborn but also hospitable.
The island has been inhabited for 8000 years. Unfortunately we do not have much evidence from the Neolithic years. More is know from the Minoan era 3000-1400BC. From this period come the palaces, and art and the way of life of the people of Crete today. It shows the Minoans played an important part in human civilisation. The Minoan civilisation was destroyed by natural disasters, so it was easy for the northern tribe of Dorians to come and occupy the island. They brought the Iron Age into Crete and it lasted from 1000 to 67 BC, until the Romans came. The first attempt by the Romans to invade Crete failed in 74 BC so they came with a much bigger fleet and Crete became part of the Roman Empire. I mention this because it is a recurring theme in the history of the island; invaders underestimate the power of the locals so they have to come back again with stronger power. The Roman and Byzantine era lasted until 1204 AD with a pause for Arab occupation 824-961 AD.
In 1204 Crete was sold to the Venetians and the longest period of occupation began. Many people are unaware that even during this period there were revolutions on the island. There was not even ten years during this period of 500 years when there was not a revolution. Most of them were for financial reasons and to benefit the Cretan aristocracy. But we have to admit this period gave us major constructions such as fortresses, aqueducts and roads. That’s the reason why the Turks came in 1645; it took them 24 years to conquer the whole island, finally doing so in 1669. The siege of Candia (Heraklion) lasted 21 years, one of the longest in history. They still had to wait another 22 years to conquer the island of Gramvousa the last fortress in Crete.
The Turkish occupation (1669-1898) was very aggressive and brutal. They tried to change the religion of many Cretans and that brought more conflict. The attempts of the Cretans to gain their freedom resulted in many acts of cruelty by the Turks. When the Greek Revolution began on the mainland in 1821 the Cretans took as their motto, for their revolution, “Union or Death”. After the revolution of 1866 and the incident at the Arkadi monastery they gained some benefits even though they had lost. For the first time the Greek language became the official language and the local council had both Christian and Muslim members. However since this time there have still been brutal incidents. At the end of the slaughter of Christians by Muslims in Heraklion on the 25th of August 1898, the death of 17 English soldiers forced the big powers of that time to abandon their neutral stance, which they had held until that time. The last Turk left Crete on the 2nd of November 1898 and Crete became a colony which was shared between Italy, Germany, England, Russia, Austria and France. The Cretans tried many times with both force and political effort to secede the union with Greece as an ally. It finally happened in 1912 with the Treaty of London. Then Crete was gifted to Greece for its win in the Balkan Wars.
THE AREA OF “TSOULI” GRAVE
I have wished for a long time to visit this place. There you can se a monument which reminds us of a dark period in Cretan history. During this period Cretans became Muslims and treated Christians badly much worse than even then Turks. One of these was Tsoulis he was a wealthy Cretan from a Christian family (in the yard of his family house his grandfather had built a church, he turned it into a mosque). He stole crops from the people of Pediada (this region) and Lassithi and he often kidnapped beautiful girls. This was not acceptable to the society of this time so he was murdered at this place by seven Christians. He was so unpopular that whenever people passed this place they threw stones and cursed him.
On the way there walking on the Minoan path is worth it for the great views. It is amazing to think of how many people since prehistory have walked this path. It was in use until 1970 by the locals.
We (myself with our friends RenPet) left our car at the beginning of the Minoan path and after two hours of hiking, with and ascent of 400 metres we arrived at “Lakos tis Hortatsas”. I hid the cache nearby and had the “fantastic” idea of coming back on the dirt road not on the path. We didn’t have a map with us; I thought I would remember the road. After one hour of walking uphill again we had some doubts as to whether we were on the right road. Black clouds started to cover the sky and in a short time it would be dark. We didn’t want to try our luck so we started to go back at speed like a forced march. Then after a while I had another “fantastic” idea to phone for a “taxi”. The male member of Omilos was at home with Juktas so I asked him to come and pick up the tired Cachers from the Lassithi plateau. Finally after 6km of walking we entered the warm car. It was just in time before it started to rain! We had to drive for almost an hour and many kilometres to pick up the other car. It was then I understood why the people were using the Minoan Path for so long.
Let’s see what “fantastic” will come into my mind next week!