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Leben Archaeological Site (Ancient Levena)

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Lendas is located where the ancient city of Levina once stood, 74km south of Heraklion, nestled amidst the breathtaking Asterousia Mountains. The name “Levina” is believed to stem from the Phoenician word “Lavi,” meaning “Lion.” This reference is evident in a nearby cape shaped like a lion’s head, considered one of the lions that once drew goddess Rhea’s chariot and turned to stone. Another theory proposes the name originates from the Phoenician term “levina,” indicating the pale hue of the region’s rocks. The present name, Lendas, evolves from the Greek “Leondas,” translating to “lion.” This lion-shaped cape is an esteemed archaeological site, with a short 15-minute trek offering a mesmerizing sunset view.

Archaeological excavations have unveiled Minoan graves and a settlement here, revealing ties to ancient Egypt. Levina prospered during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, operating as a port for Gortys, Crete’s predominant city at the time.

To Lendas’ east lies a therapeutic spring, reputed for its curative properties, especially for stomach issues, blood disorders, and bleeding tendencies. This led to the establishment of a grand temple in the 4th century AC, dedicated to the revered physician deity, Asclepius, and the goddess Hygeia Sotira. This temple was renowned for its hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, and psychiatric treatments, attracting patients from regions as far as Libya. From this sanctuary, remnants like the altar, two marble pillars, and Asclepius’s statue base remain visible. Using materials from this temple, a Byzantine church was later constructed, dedicated to Agios Ioannis Theologos. Additionally, Roman bath ruins have been found near the springs.

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