The ancient city of Aptera
The ancient city of Aptera was founded on the hill of "Paleokastro", in a place of rare beauty, surrounded by the beautiful gulf of Souda on the north and by the imposing mountain chain of "leuka ori" on the south. The strategic position of the city with the two ports, the port "Minoa" (today called "Marathi") and the port of Kissamos (near today's village "Kalyves") at the entrance of the natural gulf, provided the opportunity to control the industrial and commercial movement in the region, and therefore played a central role for the upgrading of the city. For this reason, it was characterized by the historian G. Svoronos as the most commercial city of Crete, and one of the most powerful, in times of glory. The area covered a large amount of land, mostly fertile fields in the lowland, crossed by the river "Pytktos" (today called "Koiliaris") from the north and the east. The oldest reference of the name "Aptera" is found on Linear B inscriptions (14th-13th century B.C). According to archeological findings and the testimonies of ancient historians and geographers, the hill of "Paleokastro" is first inhabited in the 8th century BC and continues to be inhabited during the 7th century BC, when it was finally deserted due to strong earthquakes and pirate intrusions. There are many theories for the origin of the name "Aptera". The most dominant theory attributes the name to an epithet of Goddess Artemis (Diana): "Artemis Aptera". According to another theory, the name was given by the famous hero of Delphi, "Pteras" or "Apteras". Finally, according to the myth recorded by Stefanis Byzantios (6th century AD) the name comes from the mythical battle between the muses and the sirens, during which the sirens were defeated, they lost their wings (in Greek "Ptera" means "wings", "aptera" means without wings, in this case), they became white and fell into the sea.
The time when the city of "Aptera" flourished as an independent city-state begins in the 4th century BC, when it is distinguished as the most commercial city of Crete. The city created numerous commercial and political agreements and arrangements with Egypt, Libya, the Kingdoms of Pergamos and Vithynia, as well as with other part sof Greece such as Peloponnesus, the islands of the Aegean, Asia Minor, ect.
The earthquake of 364/5 AD marked the end of this powerful city, and the next strong earthquake of the 7th century AD resulted in its permanent abandonment. The small monastery of St. John Theologos (before 1182), which was the property of the Monastery of Patmos until 1960, was built on a central area of the ancient city. The Turks built the castle located on the northeast part of the region in 1866. Shortly after the mid-4th century BC, the city was fortified with a strong wall, 3.480m long, which surrounds the whole hill. In 1942 a small Doric temple was excavated by the Germans, dating back to the 5th century BC. In the same area, a part of a large temple has been discovered, which was used for many centuries and was probably one of the central temples of the city. Another small Doric temple has been discovered by the excavator Stylianos Alexiou , dedicated to the Goddesses Dimitra and Persefoni, dating back to the 1st century AD. The city's theatre is constructed in a natural hole on the south. The most impressive monuments, because of their size and excellent preservation, are the Roman water tanks, which gathered rainwater from the roofs of the buildings and from other smaller tanks through a network of water pipes. These water tanks provided water to the two large public baths, which were later turned into laboratories. There were two cemeteries in Aptera: one on the southeast with arched tombs and one in the west, where excavations continue to take place. Near the gate many funeral monuments and inscriptions dating back to the 1st- 2nd century AD have been revealed. In the rest cemetery area that expands under the old settlement, there are many different types of tombs from different periods (from the 8th and 7th century BC to the 3rd century AD). Many representative findings from these different periods from the city and the cemetery (vases, coins, idols, inscriptions, sculptures and other objects) are exhibited in the Archeological Museum of Chania.