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The Hadrianic Temple of Diktynna in West Crete

On the eastern tip of the Rodopou Peninsula in West Crete are the scanty remains of a temple dedicated to the Cretan goddess Diktynna (Diktynnaion).

Diktynna was the virgin goddess of hunting and she was worshipped fervently in western Crete as the patroness of hunters and fishermen.

Diktynna’s name may be connected with Mount Dikte but the Greek historian Strabo tells us that it derives from the word diktyon, meaning ‘net’ (Strab. 10.4.12). Legend has it that when the lustful king Minos attempted to seduce her, she fled his advances and threw herself into the sea. She was caught in the nets of fishermen (diktyon) and carried to the safety of the island of Aegina. The fisherman Andromedes attempted to seduce her as well. She fled into the forests of the island and disappeared in the sanctuary of Artemis who made her a goddess (Paus. 2.30.3).

Diktynna was also known as Britomartis (“Sweet Maiden” from the ancient Greek words britos and martis) and was closely identified with the goddess Artemis. However, on Crete itself, Artemis, Britomartis and Diktynna maintained separate identities in cultic contexts. Diktynna had a temple on Mount Tityrus near Cydonia (Strab. 10.4.12). On the island of Aegina, she received the surname Aphaea where her temple can still be seen. Like Artemis, Diktynna was a huntress and the deity of nature, the wild countryside and mountains.

Diktynna was portrayed on Cretan coins of the cities Kydonia, Polyrrhenia, and Phalasarna. Coins of Imperial times represented her as a mountain mother, connected with Mount Dikte, where, according one version of the myth, Zeus was born. Towards the end of Trajan’s reign in 115-117 AD, silver coinage minted by the Cretan Koinon had Diktynna on the reverse as kourotrophos (child nourishing) of Zeus.

To visit the Diktynnaion is a small adventure. The peninsula where the sanctuary is located in remote and difficult to access. An arduous dirt road of almost 20 km leading from the north of the village of Rodopos runs to the Menies Bay with the last few kilometers to the cape only practicable with a 4×4 vehicle (I left the car along the way and I walked the last 7 kilometers). The bay is apparently also reachable by sea from Kolymbari.

We offer a boat trip to Menies Beach  if you wish to visit the temple and this amazing and isolated beach of Crete.

Source : Following Hadrian

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