History of Kissamos


Kissamos was also known as Kastelli and got its name from the Venetian castle that used to stand in the town. Predating that time, “Cisamon”  is mentioned by Pliny and “Kissamos Town” by Ptolemy. The town flourished during the Roman period and much evidence of this has been uncovered, with Roman baths, villas with mosaic floors, cemeteries, an aqueduct and the remains of the fortress walls. In the museum there are archaic, classical and Hellenistic objects, pots, statues, glass containers and coins etc. Roman Kissamos also had a famous theatre which was noted by Onario Belli in the late sixteenth century, and   the famous archaeologist B. Theofanidis has established Seli, an area just outside of the town of Kissamos, as a base for King Agamemnon.

During the first Byzantine period Kissamos retained its power and the diocese was established but during the second Byzantine period the bishopric was moved to the village of Episkopi to escape the pirate raids on the coast. During the Venetian occupation the diocese of Kissamos was received into the universal church , as mentioned by a Latin bishop in 1307. During the period 1579 to 1582 a fortress with a pentagon shaped church, prison, barracks and well was constructed. Some of the wall is still visible in the town today. During the Turkish occupation Kastelli actively participated in all revolutionary attacks against the Turks and sought union with Mother Greece. Also during World War II  Kissamos the town, and the whole area, was active in the resistance against the occupying Nazis.

Ancient Falassarna

Ancient Falassarna was built in the classical period, and although it did pre exist this time little is known about it. It flourished during the Hellenistic times as an independent city with its own currency. The coins depict the nymph Falassarna on one side and a trident on the other. Excavations have shown that the port was built below the main city, the remains of which include sections of walls, two towers, housing foundations and ruins of the temple of Artemis or Apollo. Near the entrance to the ancient city is a stone throne dedicated to Poseidon, according to one version, as Falassarna was the commercial centre for shipping. Even now the quayside can clearly be discerned as can the remains of the walls that surrounded the port which was connected to the open sea by a channel.
Falassarna was destroyed by the Romans plus the fact that an enormous earthquake caused the West of Crete to rise by up to 9 metres. This is why today the remains of the port are 300 to 400 metres from the seashore.

Ancient Polyrinia

Built in the natural amphitheatre fortifications of a hill at 418m above sea level the ancient city of Polyrinnia was both strategic and influencial in the Cretan Sea where it was served by two ports – Falassarna and Kissamos. Although founded during the Minoan period it flourished during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. It was an independent city state with its own currency which bore the bust of Zeus Kritageni on one side and a bull on the other. It is worth noting that one of these coins was found in the mouth of a skull of an athletes tomb from the 1st Century AD as payment to Charontas and is displayed in the archaeological museum of Agios Nikolaos Lassithi.
Polyrinnia had a 4th Century BC temple devoted to Diktynna, otherwise known as Artemis, that is now the site of the church of The Holy Fathers built circa 1894. Columns and stones from the temple were used to build the church and can still be seen today in its walls, some even with inscriptions on. Polyrinnia also has a particularly  impressive Roman aqueduct which channels water through the rocks and down into todays village where it is available for drinking water at two outlets.

Villa Trevizan

Villa Trevizan is a 17th Century Venetian villa in the district of Mithimna Kissamos and is one of 120 feudal houses of Venetian origin that are dotted around the Cretan countryside. It combined High Renaissance architecture in an advanced technical stone building. Although it is not in its complete state (missing its roof and intermeadiate floor) it is a fine example of Cretan-Venetian architecture that has weathered the years and still remains impressive.