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Ancient Polirinia

Place description

The ancient city ruins of Polirinia can be found on a steep hill overlooking the North Cretan Sea. It is believed that the city was founded by the Achaeans around 1100 BC and thrived during the Roman period, becoming the most important town in West Crete. Polirinia’s ports were Phalassarna and Kissamos, and the city had close trade relations with Sparta, Milos, Rhodes, Thiva, the coasts of Ionia (Asia Minor), and Egypt. Besides trade, the town was also known for its livestock, as its name is derived from the words “polla rinia,” meaning many lambs.

Polirinia reacted positively to the Roman invasion, and as a result, it was not destroyed like other cities in Crete. Instead, it formed an alliance and managed to defeat the most powerful city in western Crete, Kydonia, and gained control of the sanctuary of Diktynna at the Spatha peninsula.

The city’s coins depict a bull’s head (voukranio) and Jupiter. On top of the hill, there once stood another temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis or Diktinna, which was demolished in 1894 to build the temple of the Holy Fathers (using materials from the original sanctuary). Today, visitors can see parts of the strong city walls from the Byzantine period, a Hellenistic tower, an aqueduct, and a temple.

The phrase “Cretan Sacrifices” is still used by Greeks today when referring to unfulfilled desires or purposes. This phrase originated from the story of Agamemnon and Polirinia: When Agamemnon, the victor of the Trojan War, returned home, he anchored on Nopigia beach to offer a sacrifice to the gods of Polirinia. However, the prisoners on board started fires, and he had to leave in a hurry without completing the sacrifice.

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