The ancient town of Aptera

On a rocky plateau over 1000 m long and about 200 m high near Chania, people lived for 2000 years in the ancient town of Aptera. They settled here as early as 1300 BC, and in the 4th century BC they minted their own coins.

In the 7th century AD, the settlement fell into disrepair during the Arab invasions. Monks from the island of Patmos then founded a monastery among the ancient ruins in 1181, which was also inhabited in Venetian and Ottoman times and was only abandoned in 1964. Finally, the Ottomans built a small fortress here on the edge of the rocky plateau in 1866-1869, which is also clearly visible from the national road.

Systematic excavations have only taken place in this millennium and have brought to light, among other things, a particularly beautiful ancient theatre. Equally impressive are two huge cisterns from Roman times. The courtyard of the old monastery is a great place to sit, draw and paint, sunbathe and picnic.

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Immediately after the entrance, to the right below the path, lie the foundation walls of a small double temple from the 5th century BC, which German archaeologists uncovered as early as 1942, i.e. during the Second World War. It is not known which gods were worshipped here. Shortly afterwards you enter the inner courtyard of the monastery. A small gate leads into the excavation area opposite. You come to the 'vaulted cisterns', a monumental cistern from the 2nd century. You can walk a little way into the high vaults of this huge water reservoir.

The circular route then takes you through the most beautiful nature to the walls of a thermal bath, i.e. a bathhouse from Roman times, which have been preserved at an impressive height. This is where the townspeople enjoyed themselves in their free time. Afterwards, you will return to the entrance through the monastery courtyard. If you walk a few steps along the fence on the far right, you will gain a good insight into another monumental Roman cistern, which is roofless today. It has the shape of the Greek letter gamma.

To the left of the ticket booth begins a wide path, about 150 m long, that leads you into the ancient theatre of the city. It was originally laid out in the 3rd century BC, but then modified in the second half of the 1st century and again in the 3rd century. Its upper tiers and the surrounding meadows are covered with thousands of red blossoms of corn poppies in April. The tiers and stage buildings were built of local limestone.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a kiln was built in the orchestra, i.e. the round 'stage', and lime was burnt from the ancient seats and wall blocks. In our millennium, archaeologists reconstructed many of the former rows of seats from the same stone, using tools similar to those available in antiquity. Thus, the theatre makes a relatively intact impression again today. The reconstruction was financed with support from the EU.


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