The Minoans were clever people. Above the vast Messara plain, which was then as now the granary of Crete, they built their central sanctuary and the palace of their ruler on a hill overlooking everything.
A first palace city was built around 1900 BC. After its destruction, a new palace was built, as in Knossos. The myth names Rhadamanthys, a brother of Minos, as the first ruler of Festos. The first traces of settlement date back to the 4th millennium BC. People continued to live in Festos until the 2nd century, before the settlement was finally destroyed by warriors from the up-and-coming neighbouring city-state of Gortys.
Once you have purchased your ticket, it is best to walk down to the west courtyard first. On its north side, a wide stepped tribune functioned as a spectator platform for participants in cultic festivities. Circular shafts may have served to hold offerings. On the east side, masonry from the New and Old Palace Periods is easily distinguishable: The quarry stone masonry is the older, the façade parts made of well hewn stone blocks belong to the younger period.
Before you climb the stairs to the central courtyard, take a look at the corridor to the south of the stairs. Here you can still see some large Minoan storage vessels, so-called 'pithoi'.
The central courtyard itself is then relatively uninteresting. From its northeast corner, walk about 15 m to the now-gridded wall fragments, about knee-high, of a Minoan metal smelting furnace in which archaeologists still found slag remains. From the centre of the north side of the central courtyard, you can then proceed to the 'royal quarters', protected from wind and weather by a modern roof. The entrance at the central courtyard emphasised the special significance of the rooms behind it by two wooden half-columns on still preserved stone bases and by two wall niches decorated with frescoes, where guards may have stood. Landings clearly indicate that there was once an upper floor.
Your sightseeing tour is almost over. You can now choose to continue to Matala or Gortys. Both destinations are worth a visit.
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