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Sanctuary of Hermes and Aphrodite

Place description

The Sanctuary of Hermes and Aphrodite can be found in a stunning location in the southern part of the Dikti mountain range, at an altitude of 1150m, near the Krya Vrysi spring, and about 5 km northeast of the village Kato Symi. The site spans 1.7 hectares, with only a portion having been excavated. To this day, it remains the most significant archaeological site in the Viannos province. Established around 2000 BC, like many other Minoan Peak Sanctuaries in Eastern Crete, worship at this sanctuary continued until Roman times, making it one of the most enduring sanctuaries of Greek Antiquity. Hermes was worshipped from the 7th century BC, while Aphrodite was worshipped during the Hellenistic Times (around 330BC). In the early Christian era, a small chapel was built at the site.

The sanctuary’s location is associated with the Ieron Oros (Holy Mountain), as according to Ptolemy, it was situated between the ancient Tsoutsouras (Inatos) and the ancient Ierapetra (Ierapytna). Due to its immense importance, it is believed to have been a point of contention among various powerful cities in the region. However, the respect that everyone had for the sanctuary is evident in the fact that it was never destroyed by vandalism, but only by natural causes.

Most archaeological findings from the 11th century BC include evidence of animal sacrifice and religious feasts, while animal replicas, tubular utensils, plates with male figures carrying or leading animals, clay cups, three swords, a golden ring-seal depicting a runner, and a hieroglyphic plate were discovered in the ashes. Ritual vessels and utensils do not display the typical female figures of the Minoans, so it has not been determined which deities the sanctuary was dedicated to during the Minoan times. After the 11th century BC, the vessels were replaced by figurines whose main theme was the coming of age of the visitors. According to inscriptions found at the sanctuary, the patron saint of adulthood was Hermes Kedritis, who was worshipped alongside the goddess Aphrodite. The most significant findings from the sanctuary are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.

Excavations began in 1972 and continue sporadically. The site can be visited after contacting the guard. A forest dirt road leading to the sanctuary starts from Kato Symi and goes towards the Lapathos plateau.

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