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Remember how we talked about the fact that the Venetians lived off of the sea, and how they set up controlling ports throughout the Mediterranean? Well, Iraklion was one of those harbors. Heraklion, as it is known in Crete, was originally Chandax, taken from an Arab name that meant "moat," because the Saracen settlers actually dug a moat around what became their city. Saracens occupied the site from 824 to 961 A.D. Iraklion was a fortress, changing hands, religions, and nationalities, and was finally taken by the Venetians as early as 1204. Its defenses were reinforced for the Venetians against local uprisings in the 14th century, and for protection against the Turks in the 15th century. There was additional harbor construction in the early 16th century. Some have described Iraklion under Venetian rule as a 'shining light that kept Hellenic thought alive amid dark times.' The Turks finally took over in 1639.

The Venetian Governor Morozini built the Fountain of the Lions, situated in the heart of Iraklion, the Town Square, in 1628. So we're looking at more than four hundred years of Venetian "influence." The arcaded buildings seen in the background are Venetian, their style so typical of the Veneto, the area stretching westward out of Venice across Italy towards Milan. In fact, this would be a good moment to bring up the subject of colonists creating in the image of their mother country. It is often suggested that explorers, colonists, and the like, recreate the work of their home country because of:

1. Pride of national origin

2. Homesickness

While this sounds erudite, I would suggest this question: What else could they do? It's all they knew. Think of yourself moving to another place, devoid of construction. You need to build something - shelter certainly, religious, governmental, shops, schools, etc. You are not going to invent a new form of structure or create a new style. Granted you will have to work with the materials at hand, but in ways in which you are familiar. Sometimes basic common sense has to take over from unrealistic pedantic chatter.

Research is a way to knowledge, and I'd like to throw out another small mystery for you to look up: the fact that on the north coast of Crete, 7 km. Northeast of Chanea (Hania) (4.3 miles), is a small town called Akrotiri. Sound familiar? It's the main archaeological dig on the island of Santorini. Questions would be: What does "Akrotiri" mean, and why was it the name of communities on two separate islands? Well, thanks to a novel I've just read, and verified through research, there is a third 'Akrotiri;" this one on Cyprus. So our question becomes more meaningful.

© Architecture Past Present & Future - Edward D. Levinson, 2009

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