The village of Eleftherna is 24km southeast from Rethimnon on a road
right at Viran Episkopi (14km) of the Rethimnon - Iraklion highway. Route: Rethimnon
- Viran Episkopi - Skouloufia - Eleftherna. Eleftherna is one of the most important
ancient locations in Crete and one of the largest sites, occupying a large area
across two hills. Inhabited from Minoan times, it reached its peak and flourished
during the Greek and Roman through to the Byzantine periods. Remains from all
those eras can be seen in the area. Recently archaeologists discovered traces
of human sacrifice dating from the late eighth century B.C. In the Archaeological
Museum of Rethimnon there is a display of articles from the excavation.
Roman Remains: Several sites from all the eras are currently been excavated by the University of Crete. Greek carved stone cisterns and Roman aqueducts are in the area, as are Byzantine churches of the early Christian period. To find the cisterns walk from Ancient Eleftherna towards the acropolis. After you pass the large Roman tower at the entrance of the acropolis, look for a path on the left side of the acropolis going directly down. After a few metres of descent you are on a path that goes around the acropolis. Take the path backwards and you will see two sets of very large cisterns cut deep into the rock and supported by hewn rock pillars.
Hellenistic Remains: An incredible bridge from the Hellenistic era has survived and is still in a good state of preservation in the valley. It is triangular and is made of large stones. It is still usable and you have to walk over it before you descend to observe it.
First Byzantine Period Church: For the Byzantine church take the path forward, going by the path that brought you down from the acropolis and after a while you will see a gate higher up. Climb through the gate and you will soon see the remainders of a church of the first Byzantine period. A cemetery of the Early Iron Age has also been excavated and has been invaluable in the formation of theories about the burial practices of the era.
This extract is cited Nov 2002 from the Crete TOURnet URL below, which contains images.
Excavations in the area of Eleftherna were started 16 years ago, in 1985, when the Department of Archaeology and History of Art of the University of Crete started research on the ancient city and subsequently brought it to light, of which philological texts had already given mention.
As early as 1929, H. Payne, the director of the British Archaeological School, had also carried out minor research in the area. Remains were discovered in the wider area of the two contemporary and neighbouring villages of Eleftherna and Ancient Eleftherna, which are situated in the northern foothills of Psiloritis, at a distance of 24 and 29 kilometres respectively from the town of Rethymno. More specifically, the most important findings have been discovered at three places on a hill, which is situated between two converging streams: at the place of Orthi Petra on the west side of the hill (excavation section III), at the place of Pyrgi on the summit of the hill (excavation section II) and at the place of Katsivelos on the north side of the hill (excavation section I). Further important findings have been discovered in the area of Nisi, near the modern village of "Eleftherna", which mainly include remains of a settlement of the Hellenistic Period. At the place of Orthi Petra, Professor N. Stampolidis, archaeologist and leader of the excavating team, brought to light a necropolis dating back to the Geometric and Ancient Period, as well as Hellenistic and Roman buildings and streets, which had been built on top of earlier constructions. At the place of Pyrgi, on the summit of the hill, where the centre of the ancient city is believed to have been, the archaeologist Professor Ath. Kalpaxis has discovered parts of buildings of the Roman and Early Christian Period.
On the east side of the hill, in the area of the modern village of "Ancient Eleftherna", the archaeologist, Professor P. Themelis, discovered a part of the settlement showing all the chronological stages from Pre-historical to Early Christian times. Among others, Hellenistic supporting walls, Roman buildings and baths have been discovered as well as an early Christian basilica with three aisles, boasting a narthex and a superb mosaic displaying geometric and floral motifs.
This text is cited Feb 2003 from the Tourism Promotion Committee of Rethymno Prefecture URL below, which contains images.
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