Roman Period of Crete

Roman Period (67 BC 330 AD)

The Romans were well aware of the strategic importance of Crete and its final conquest, after much resistance, and subsequent long rule opened up the way for further expansion to the east. Once pacified, the people of Crete settled into Roman rule with little opposition and a period of relative calm followed with the island becoming a quiet cultural backwater province of the eastern Roman (or Byzantium) Empire. At first it was organized jointly with the province of Cyrenaica on the coast of Africa, but was separated into a province of its own in around 298 AD. The capital for much of the Byzantium era was Gortys and this city flourished under their rule. This prosperity saw the construction of luxurious Roman buildings such as stadiums, temples and baths. The population rose to around 300,000 inhabitants.

Other large cities included Knossos, Aptena, Lerapetra, Phaestos, Littos, Eleftherna and Kydonia, (present day Chania). This latter city was where the conquest of Crete by the Romans began and it was the first city to resist. However, under Roman rule it thrived and excavations have revealed the remains of luxurious private and public buildings as well as numerous sculptures and mosaic floors in various parts of the city.

It is thought that the original construction of the Byzantine wall around the acropolis of Kastelli was built around this time and the necropolis was extended around it. Its ancient theatre was preserved until 1583 when it was demolished by the Venetians who used the stone and marble from this and other buildings to construct the new city walls. Apart from raids by Goths in around 269 AD, Crete continued to remain both a peaceful and prosperous province for much of the Roman rule. It continued as part of the Roman and Byzantine empires until the 13th century AD although the 9th century saw some interruption by Arab conquests. The presence of the Romans, however, did not have a large influence on the daily habits and culture of Cretan people. They kept their own language and continued their worshipping customs. .