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Kritsa Gorge
Category: Gorge
Prefecture: Lassithi
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Kritsa Gorge

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Kritsa 3710 hits

If you wish to get to know the essence of the people from Kritsa, you must first gain an insight into the "soul" of their locality. Only by understanding their interconnectedness with the natural environment, and the nuances of their actions and behaviour, will you have an appreciation of the character and soul of the Kritsan people. Kritsa is a unique community of people with their own cultural progression, their own tradition, and their own local dialect.

Their locality rises gradually from a place where the sun shines on the sea, to the highest peaks of the Dikti Mountains towards the west, creating two flat geological plains in between, one called the plain of Kritsa where the village is situated at the lowest point, beside abundant water springs and extensive olive groves, and another at the Plateau of Katharo.The subtlety of the natural climatic changes of the area, and its high altitude shape the soul of its people, a soul that is rough-hewn, yet hospitable; a soul of the mountains… unwrought… fearless, like that of an eagle…, exposed; a soul also of the plain, with refinement and reverence;…a soul akin to the calm blue and restlessness of the foam of the Mirambelo seashores.

Local civilization and traditionDespite the current spread of contemporary lifestyles into Kritsa, the genuine local traditional way of life is still sustained. It survives in the traditional production of both agricultural and garden produce, in daily nutrition, local habits and customs, in its celebrations and festivals, as well as in the lifestyle and dress code of the older generation.During a ten year period the representation of The Kritsan Wedding was curtailed, the old traditional Cretan wedding with the wedding party, the wedding celebration to the accompaniment of the lira, but this is now almost the first choice of couples today. During festivals and religious celebrations, the local dances and the old ceremonies of worship are eagerly brought to life again and performed with verve and earnestness.Kritsa is the typical paradise of living local tradition in Crete, and moreover, the village still maintains a significant proportion of older unchanged architectural facades.

The "Kleftohori"of the Turkish Occupation.Since at least pre-Minoan times, the village of Kritsa has been continuously inhabited. It was reckoned to be in its prime during the Byzantine years. The Arabs devastated it in 823 A.D. and it was rebuilt in 961A.D. Its peak growth was reached during the Frankish period in the 13th and 14th century. It used to be the largest village in Crete during the middle ages. In 1867, it became the headquarters of the municipality which included Krousta, Prina, Kalo Horio, Mardati, Aghios Nikolaos, Mesa Lakonia and Tapes. In 1925 it had its own community, but since 1998 it has comprised one of the 14 precincts of the Municipality of Aghios Nikolaos.

The battle of Kritsa - KritsotopoulaThe people of Kritsa made a huge contribution to the battles for the freedom of Crete. Amongst them, the battles against the Turkish leaders Alexomanolis Koziris, Father Pothos and Captain Tavlas are particularly remembered. In the two-day battle of Kritsa which took place near Lato, the Kritsans suffered heavy losses; the village was set on fire as recorded in January 1823. It was during this battle that the brave female warrior Thriliki Kritsotopoula was killed.

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Lato 2739 hits
The English admiral Th. Spratt, in his work "Travels in Crete", published in 1865, mentions that he located the remains of the ancient city on the hill of Goulas, but wrongly identified them as the remains of Olous or Oleros. The archaeologists F. Halbherr, L. Mariani and A. Taramelli, visited the site and identified it as ancient Lato. In 1894-96, A. Evans conducted a small-scale investigation. Systematic excavation started in 1899-1901 by the French School of Archaeology, with J. Demargne, was resumed in 1968 by P. Ducrey, O. Picard, and B. Chatzimichali, and lasted until the 1970s. 

The most important monuments of the site are: 

1) The fortified city on the saddle between two hills. It had a steep double acropolis with fortification walls. The main gate had three successive entrances and two internal square courtyards so as to control the incoming. At this point started a street with almost eighty steps, which led up to the Agora. On its north side was a wall with towers, and private houses built on successive terraces, so that the roof of the lower ones was the actually the court and the way of access to the upper ones. These houses and others in the area of the north acropolis were simple in plan, usually with two square rooms having a hearth at the centre. Subterranean cisterns, cut in the rock were used for the collection of rain water for the needs of the household. Industrial workshops, such as an interesting dyehouse were located on the south side of the street. 

2) The "Agora" is an open space, including a deep square cistern, once roofed, and a small rectangular temple without columns, with a single chamber, probably unroofed, where many figurines of the 6th century B.C. were found. A rectangular platform with two steps, partly cut in the rock, is located to the south of the "Agora". A Doric stoa with a step on three of its sides was built to the west. 

3) The Prytaneion. A monumental complex, reminiscent of an ancient theatre, lies in the north: seven tiers are divided by narrow staircases into three wings, seating almost eighty persons. It was probably used for public discussions or for watching spectacles, but at the same time the steps led to the upper terrace, where, through a peristyle court and a narrow doorway, one could enter the actual "Prytaneion". Two high retaining towers, built of large blocks, surrounded the building and supported the one lying at a higher level. In the central room of the Prytaneion there was an "eschara" (hearth) burning day and night, surrounded by two-stepped benches, each seating eight persons. This was the place where the "kosmioi", the notables of the city dined and held their meetings. Two rooms to the north housed the archives of the city. 

4) The Temple. To the south of the "Agora", on a terrace supported by a retaining wall, are preserved the ruins of the city's large temple (measuring 10 x 16 m.), which comprises a square sekos (cella) - where the base of the deity's cult statue was found in situ, with an illegible inscription - and a rectangular prodomos (antechamber). An altar with two steps lies in front of the temple. 

5) To the east of the temple, at a lower level, there was a "theatral area" with steps partly built and partly cut in the rock, with a seating capacity of 350 persons. Beside it lies an exedra, while another platform formed the skene (stage), with an altar to the west.
Lato was one of the most important Doric city-states in Crete, although it must have existed before the "Coming of the Dorians". It is built on a saddle between two hills, at a site protected by possible attacks but also with a splendid view over a large area of the Mirambello Bay. It is possibly mentioned in the Linear B tablets as RA-TO. It was named after Leto (Lato is the Doric type), mother of Apollo and Artemis, although the main goddess worshipped in the city was Eileithyia, who was also depicted on the coins cut by the city. Lato was the birth-place of Nearchos, the admiral of Alexander the Great. Before the end of the 3rd century B.C., the inhabitants of Lato participated in the League of the Cretan cities and shared the same laws. Lato made many alliances with Rhodes, Teos, and king Eumenes of Pergamon. However, it was in continuous conflict with the neighbouring city of Olous, for the arrangement of the borders between them. The harbour of the city was Lato pros Kamara (modern Aghios Nikolaos), which was so flourishing by the middle of the 2nd century A.D. that the administrative centre was transferred there and Lato was subsequently abandoned.
Vili Apostolakou, archaeologist 

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