Museum Of Ancient Eleutherna In Rethimno Crete

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Ancient Eleutherna and Museum of Ancient Eleftherna the heart of Crete is located on the northwest foot of Psiloritis, approximately thirty kilometers south of Rethimno and 380 meters above sea level.

  • Small Group
  • 1-4 Hours
  • History & Culture
  • Cretan Villages

A must visit during your stay in lovely Crete.

The Museum 

The new Museum of the Eleutherna- Homer in Crete is the first archaeological site museum in Crete, although smaller in size, is similar to those of Olympia, Delphi, and Vergina. The museum was created to house the results of the excavations carried out for thirty years in the ancient city of Eleutherna.

The originality of this museum is that the objects of the permanent exhibition will be updated periodically with new and older finds so that the public's interest is continuous and relates to the discoveries and expansion of the excavation work on the site.

The exhibition will be accompanied by original and modern audiovisual exhibits.

The project entitled "Building Complex of Eleftherna archaeological site museum - Travelogue" was implemented under the Operational Programme "Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship 2007-2013" (NSRF) of the University of Crete and the Ministry of Culture and Sport, who are the actor's operation. In the southern wing of the building housed the Study Centre with its offices.

The effort was supported by private initiatives (Aristindin members of the Mediterranean Archaeological Society/ MAE), Organizations, Institutions, and individuals).

The Story

Ancient Eleutherna, the birthplace of the poet Linos, of the philosopher Diogenes, of the tragic poet Ametor, and of the sculptor Timochares.

The city was allegedly named after Eleuthereas, one of the Kouretes, or after Demeter Eleuthous. The city's excavated remains belong to various periods. A thriving Hellenistic settlement has been identified on the Nisi hill, which was one of the city's nuclei, together with the Pyrgi hill. 

Eleutherna fought against Rhodes and its ally Knossos in the third century BC but sided with Knossos against other Cretan cities in 220 BC. It was besieged and conquered, however, and forced out of its alliance. Thanks to its naturally fortified location, the city successfully resisted Quintus Caecilius Metellus's attack in 68 BC, until betrayal led to its conquest. 

Humphrey Payne of the British School at Athens excavated at Eleutherna in 1929. Systematic excavations by the University of Crete began in 1985, revealing important archaeological remains dating from the Geometric until the Early Byzantine period and evidence for continuous occupation from the Early Minoan period until recent times.

Ancient Eleutherna, is protected as an archaeological site but also as a natural woodland by law. The excavation teams that have worked at the site have planted rows of trees to delineate pathways, while the site of the museum that will one day house all the finds is just a short walk away, on the other side of the hill.

One of the most impressive observations about the site is the care taken by the archaeologists to preserve the natural environment, allowing visitors to take a mental leap back in time and imagine the location as it was when it was first settled – nestled in the protective embrace of the woodland.

“We are interested in Eleutherna becoming a paradigm of how we can showcase ancient sites. You can’t hear passing cars, and, other than the shelter, all of our interventions are discreet, retaining the purity of the landscape. We used large rocks rather than cement to divert the flow of a stream, the electricity cables are all below ground, thanks to the Public Power Corporation, and all the steps are made of rock and earth. Almost everything here is made by hand, and the best part is that we – the archaeologists and the workers on the dig, which is funded by the University of Crete – did it ourselves,” says Stampolidis (a professor of history and archaeology at the University of Crete).

The excavation’s chief archaeologist also explains how the university managed to appropriate the land under which Eleutherna was buried.

“I find funding myself by approaching people who love the place but want to remain anonymous. It is thanks to them that we could buy up all the land that comprised the woods in which the site is located,” he explains, adding that the project has also received the full support of the local community.

“I think that they have all realized that Eleutherna will never have all the annoyances, say, of Knossos, where there are souvlaki joints and souvenir shops next to the archaeological site. They love the excavation, they protect it and they have supported our work in every possible way,” Stampolidis adds.

Good to know 

The archaeological site of Eleutherna is a blessed place in the heart of Crete. Southwest of Eleutherna, a few kilometers away, is the Arkadi Monastery, and some 5 km to the east is the Venetian village of Margarites, with a long tradition in pottery manufacture and impressive remains of traditional pottery workshops. Because Eleutherna is located almost halfway between Chania and Herakleion, the island’s two principal cities with airports and harbors, visitors can easily plan a day or half-day excursion to a place of natural beauty and great archaeological interest, a place that is magical and unspoiled, away from the bustle of the cities and the island’s over-developed north coast. 

At the same time, those residing between Rethymnon and Panormos can combine Eleutherna with other destinations, such as Arkadi, this unique monastery of freedom, and the Venetian potters’ village of Margarites, in the morning or afternoon, without sacrificing their swim or evening outing, since Eleutherna is only a breath away from the region’s large hotels  (approx. 10 km).

Professor Stampolidis believes that, if properly exploited, the museum can boost the development of Rethymnon and Crete in general: “Like Herakleion which has its museum and Knossos, Rethymnon now has its own museum and Eleutherna. This museum will provide education for future generations. It is for our children and grandchildren, but also for our visitors, an endless source of learning, life, and culture. Naturally, excavations at Eleutherna will continue, since excavations are the oxygen for archaeological research and a school for students, including those from the University of Crete and others from Greek and foreign universities. The museum will host conferences and serve a form of ‘conference tourism’, which is a major tool in Crete’s economic development. As long as it is done without excess or mistakes, and as long as the area remains protected, clean, and with a sense of proportion.”

Contact Details 

Eleutherna Mylopotamou
Rethymno Crete 74052
Tel: 28340-92501

Via Odysseys and News Network Archaeology


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