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Travel Guide

Moni Toplou

Ancient Crete



Itanos is an archaeological excavation at the northeast tip of the island. The archaeologists have unearthed a settlement that dates back to prehistoric times, although most of the ruins visible today on site date back to the Hellenistic era, with several Byzantine foundations peering through the ground around the ruins of a Basilica.

Itanos was a large commercial port in ancient times and it reached its zenith during Classical times. The Greek historian Herodotus is the first to mention the town when he described how the fisherman Korovios, who was born in Itanos, led the people of Thera to establish a colony in the shores of Lybia. Throughout history Itanos appears to retain its autonomy and often is found involved in disputes with surrounding towns. During Roman times the town acquired a special status and it minted its own coins. Its affluence lasted until the Byzantine times and it was abandoned sometime in the 17th century CE. It was first excavated by Albherr.

The archaeological site is found within walking distance from the beautiful beaches we call Erimoupoli. In fact, many ancient and byzantine stones protrude right into the beaches, and I saw bathers casually sitting on them probably not recognizing that their seat was un-excavated masonry from some ancient building. Three low, rocky hills host the three different excavation attempts. The first, visible as one approaches the end of the road to Erimoupoli, is the clearly marked and fenced hill to the right.

The hill to the North of this site (to the left as one looks towards the sea) hosts a small Necropolis and can be easily missed because it is not marked. Several large slabs from ancient graves can be found here, and most artifacts from the excavations are exhibited at the Sitia museum.

On the imposing rock that separates the two of the three beaches of Erimoupoli one finds mostly remains from the Byzantine town, along with the well outlined foundations of a large Basilica. From this point one can see opposite teh bay to the south another patch of ancient ruins.

Overall, visiting the site is a nice activity for those who happen to be in the area, but its ruinous state would not reward a traveler from afar, unless he were a scholar. As mentioned in previous pages though, Erimoupolis features some of the best swimming and snorkeling in eastern Crete, so a trip there is a good idea.

The excavations of the Necropolis at Itanos The headland between two beaches of Erimoupoli engulfs ancient ruins which become exposed as the beach erodes away. Close up of the exposed ruins right over the beach. The earth is slowly eaten away by the sea and the winds, taking with it the unexcavated remains below the Byzantine ruins.
  The ruins of a more modern building on the site.  

Athens map. Satellite picture
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