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Ancient Lyktos

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Place description

Ancient Lyktos, also known as Littos, can be found near the settlement of Xidas. This city was one of the most powerful in ancient Crete, a perpetual rival of Knossos, and it controlled the port of Hersonissos. Many ancient historians have written about Lyktos, mentioning that it was the oldest city in Crete, well-organized and constructed, and the place where Rhea’s parents advised her to give birth to Zeus.

Lyktos was a colony of the Lacedaemonians, and the deity Karnian Apollo was worshiped here. The city participated in the Trojan War, during which the leader of the Lyktaeans, Kiranos, sacrificed himself to save Idomeneus from Hector’s spear.

Lyktos held dominance over Eastern Crete and was in continuous conflict with its archenemy, Knossos. In 343 BC, Knossos occupied Lyktos, but the Spartans assisted the Lyktaeans in regaining their city. However, in 220 BC, while Lyktos was at war with Ierapytna, Knossos invaded the unguarded city, destroyed it completely, and captured the women. The returning Lyktaeans were too afraid to enter the city and instead sought refuge in Lappa (present-day Argiroupolis). This event led to the formation of an alliance against Knossos and the beginning of the First Cretan War.

With Sparta’s help, Lyktos was rebuilt and once again became one of Crete’s strongest cities. During the Roman period, the city fiercely resisted the Roman general Metellus, who eventually occupied it. Statues of Marcus Aurelius and Trajan from Lyktos can be found in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.

To supply water to Lyktos, water from the Kournia spring, located between Kera and Krassi, was transported to the city via a massive aqueduct. A portion of this aqueduct still stands north of Kostamonitsa village, resembling a wall (tihos).

The emblem of Lyktos coins featured an eagle with open wings and the head of a wild boar, accompanied by the word ΛΥΤΤΙΩΝ (Lyktaeans). Numerous artifacts have been discovered, including sculptures and two inscriptions of the city’s laws written in boustrophedon (alternating text direction per line).


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