One of the most important cities in the northern coast of western Crete,
it was built in upland (231m. height) near the sea. It is at Souda
gulf, between the capes of Kyamos and Drepanos. The city was a very important
trading centre of this period.
The city had two ports at Kisamos. Some believe that these were west towards Kalyves and some others near Kalami, at north by east of the Cape,
near Sternes. The ancient city Aptera is known as the settlements
at Palaiokastro Apokoronou at Chania prefecture. According to the
tradition, the name of the city derives from the abstraction of the
wings of the Sirens by the Muses. This took place in this area after
the defeat of the Sirens in a musical contest.
According to another version, the city took its name by Pteran or
Apteran, the mythical constructor of the Delphi oracle. The hero of the
city is also called Apteros. Recent research testifies that the name
of the city is found in tables of Linear B from Knossos, in the form
APATAXA (ARATACHA). These are the most important historical moments
of the city: Pausanias says that archers from Aptera were allies to
Sparta in the second Messenian war, in 668 BC. Aptera also participated
in civil wars between the Cretan cities. It was in alliance with Knossos.
In 220 BC, Philip B', leader of the Achaian army, laid siege to the
city. Also, Aptera was one of the thirty Cretan cities that signed
the decree with Eumenes B' of Pergamos. The ruins, which are preserved,
show the flourish and power of the city. The walls (Classical and
Hellenistic period) are expanded. Their length is four kilometres
and they have towers and parapets. In late 5th and early 4th century
BC, there a small temple was constructed , which was excavated by H.Drerup.
It has two alcoves, and each one of them has a door in the east. Remarkable
are two cisterns from Roman times, which are in a very good condition.
One of them is divided in three parts by pessaries. In the same
period is dated the vaulted structure that has three conches. The
theatre of the city is hardly recognisable today. Based on inscription,
we may assume that in the city there was a temple of the goddess Eileithyia,
cult of Apteran Artemis and Prytaneion. 500 metres away from the
city, has been discovered a cemetery with vaulted tombs of Roman times.
The area of the ancient city and its outskirts has not yet been systematically
excavated. Inscriptions and coins from the area testify to the trading
importance of the city in late Classical until Roman times. During its
period of great flourishing, the city had many coins. Svoronos
talks about seventy-six different forms.
The majority of them have the head of a woman, probably of Hera, and
the word APTARAION or APTERAION, and on the other side, there is a
bearded warrior and the word PTOLIOIKOS. Some others had Artemis and
a bee. K.Dounakis, who has studied the history of Aptera, says that
the city had eight suburbs at the foot of the hill, at Stylos valley.
This area is from the banks of Kylaris River to Neo Chorio, at the
hills Kalosykia, Azogyre, Kefalas ton Tholon, ton Selion, and tou
Ai Lia, according to the artefacts that were found there. The suburbs
were older settlements of a more ancient city, of the same location,
the name of which was "Ippokorona". .
The most important monuments of the site are:
Bipartite temple, known as the "bipartite sanctuary", dated
to the 5th-4th century B.C.
Part of a Roman bouleuterion.
Monastery of Hagios Ioannes Theologos (St. John the Baptist).