Heraklion, or Heraclion also Iraklion (Greek: Ηράκλειο Greek pronunciation: [iraklio]) is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete, Greece.
It is the 4th largest city in Greece. Heraklion is the capital of Heraklion regional unit. The ruins of Knossos, which were excavated and restored by Arthur Evans, are nearby. The Heraklion International Airport is named after Nikos Kazantzakis.
The Arab raiders from Andalusia who founded the Emirate of Crete moved the island's capital from Gortyna to a new castle they called rab al-andaq 'Castle of the Moat' in the 820s. This was hellenized as Χάνδαξ (Handax) or Χάνδακας and Latinized as Candia, which was taken into other European languages: in Italian as Candia (used under the Venetian rule), in French as Candie, in English as Candy, all of which could refer to all of Crete as well as to the city itself; the Ottoman name was Kandiye.
After the Byzantine reconquest, the city was locally known as Megalo Kastro or Castro (the Big Castle in Greek) and its inhabitants were called Kastrinoi or Castrini (Castle-dwellers in Greek).
The ancient name Ηράκλειον was revived in the 19th century and comes from the nearby Roman port of Heracleum ("Heracles' city"), whose exact location is unknown. English usage formerly preferred the classicizing transliterations "Heraklion" or "Heraclion", but the form "Iraklion" is becoming more common.
The snake goddess (c.1600 BCE) in Heraklion Archaeological Museum.
Heraklion is close to the ruins of the palace of Knossos, which in Minoan times was the largest centre of population on Crete. Though there is no archaeological evidence of it, Knossos may well have had a port at the site of Heraklion as long ago as 2000 BC.
The present city of Heraklion was founded in 824 by the Saracens who had been expelled from Al-Andalus by Emir Al-Hakam I and had taken over the island from the Eastern Roman Empire. They built a moat around the city for protection, and named the city ("Castle of the Moat"). The Saracens allowed the port to be used as a safe haven for pirates who operated against Imperial shipping and raided Imperial territory around the Aegean.
Restored Greek Era
Further information: Byzantine Greece
In 961, Imperial forces under the command of Nikephoros Phokas, later to become Emperor, landed in Crete and attacked the city. After a prolonged siege, the city fell. The Saracen inhabitants were slaughtered, the city looted and burned to the ground. Soon rebuilt, the town of Chandax remained under Greek control for the next 243 years.
The Venetian loggia (1626–28).
Α part of the Venetian harbour (used for warehouses).
Further information: Republic of Venice
In 1204, the city was bought by the Republic of Venice as part of a complicated political deal which involved among other things, the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade restoring the deposed Eastern Roman Emperor Isaac II Angelus to his throne. The Venetians improved on the ditch of the city by building enormous fortifications, most of which are still in place, including a giant wall, in places up to 40 m thick, with 7 bastions, and a fortress in the harbour. Chandax was renamed Candia and became the seat of the Duke of Candia, and the Venetian administrative district of Crete became known as "regno di Candia" (kingdom of Candia). The city retained the name of Candia for centuries and the same name was often used to refer to the whole island of Crete as well. To secure their rule, Venetians began in 1212 to settle families from Venice on Crete. The coexistence of two different cultures and the stimulus of Italian Renaissance led to a flourishing of letters and the arts in Candia and Crete in general, that is today known as the Cretan Renaissance.
The Ottoman Vezir Mosque (1856), built on the site of the church of St Titus, and now the basilica of St Titus.
After the Venetians came the Ottoman Empire. During the Cretan War (1645–1669), the Ottomans besieged the city for 21 years, from 1648 to 1669, perhaps the longest siege in history. In its final phase, which lasted for 22 months, 70,000 Turks, 38,000 Cretans and slaves and 29,088 of the city's Christian defenders perished. The Ottoman army under an Albanian grand vizier, Köprülü Fazıl Ahmed Pasha conquered the city in 1669. Under the Ottomans, the city was known officially as Kandiye (again also applied to the whole island of Crete) but informally in Greek as Megalo Castro (Μεγάλο Κάστρο; "Big Castle"). During the Ottoman period, the harbour silted up, so most shipping shifted to Chania in the west of the island.
An outdoor market in Heraklion.
In 1898, the autonomous Cretan State was created, under Ottoman suzerainty, with Prince George of Greece as its High Commissioner and under international supervision. During the period of direct occupation of the island by the Great Powers (1898–1908), Candia was part of the British zone. At this time, the city was renamed "Heraklion", after the Roman port of Heracleum ("Heracles' city"), whose exact location is unknown.
In 1913, with the rest of Crete Heraklion was incorporated into the Kingdom of Greece.
A street of Heraklion.
The municipality Heraklion was formed at the 2011 local government reform by the merger of the following 5 former municipalities, that became municipal units:
• Nea Alikarnassos
Panoramic view of the Old Harbour.
Panoramic view of the harbour.
Heraklion is an important shipping port and ferry dock. Travellers can take ferries and boats from Heraklion to destinations including Santorini, Ios Island, Paros, Mykonos, and Rhodes. There are also several daily ferries to Piraeus, the port of Athens on mainland Greece.
Heraklion International Airport, or Nikos Kazantzakis Airport is located about 5 km east of the city. The airport is named after Heraklion native Nikos Kazantzakis, a writer and philosopher. It is the second busiest airport of Greece, due to Crete being a major holiday destination.
The airfield is shared with the 126 Combat Group of the Hellenic Air Force.
European route E75 runs through the city and connects Heraklion with the three other major cities of Crete: Agios Nikolaos, Chania, and Rethymno.
There are a number of buses serving the city and connecting it to many major destinations in Crete.
From 1922 to 1937, there was a working industrial railway, which connected the Koules in Heraklion to Xiropotamos, for the construction of the harbor.
There is a study from the year 2000 for 2 tram lines in Heraklion. The first line would link the Stadium to the airport, and the second the center of Heraklion and Knossos. No approval has yet been given for this proposal.
In the summer of 2007, at the Congress of Cretan emigrants, held in Heraklion, two qualified Engineers, George Nathenas and Vassilis Economopoulos recommended the development of a railway line in Crete, linking Chania, Rethymnon and Heraklion with a total journey time of 50 minutes (30 minutes between Heraklion and Rethymno, 20 minutes from Chania to Rethymno) and with provision for extensions to Kissamos, Kastelli Pediados, (for the planned new airport), and Aghios Nikolaos. No plans exist for implementation of this idea.
Crete has a warm Mediterranean climate. Summers in the lowlands are hot and dry with clear skies. Dry hot days are often relieved by seasonal breezes. The mountain areas are much cooler, with considerable rain in the winter. Winters are mild in the lowlands with rare frost and snow. Because Heraklion is further south than Athens, it has a milder climate.
Colleges, Universities, and Research Centers
• University of Crete
• TEI of Crete
• Foundation for Research & Technology - Hellas
The Phaistos disk (2nd millennium BC) in Heraklion Archaeological Museum.
• Heraklion Archaeological Museum
• Historical Museum of Crete
• Natural History Museum
• The Battle of Crete and National Resistance Museum
• Nikos Kazantzakis Museum
• Lychnostatis Open Air Museum
• Collection of Agia Aikaterini of Sinai
• Museum of Visual Arts