Axos is a village in the province of Mylopotamos on the northern
slopes of Mt. Psiloritis with a population of around 727
inhabitants. It is located on the road from Rethymno to Anogeia
at a distance of around 44km from Rethymno. The name of the
village comes from the original ancient city of Axos which was
built close to the present day village. Ancient Axos was one of
the most well fortified city states in western Crete during the
Classic Period. The port of ancient Axos was Astale, which was
built on the north coast where Bali exists today.
According to mythology, the founder of the city was the legendary hero, Oaxos, who was the grandson of Minoas and Passiphae.
Indeed, archaeological findings have shown that Axos has a long history. One theory is that Axos was established in the Mesoanactoric Period by the old inhabitants of Crete who were forced to take refuge in the mountains when the Dorians invaded Crete. Another theory is that it was founded in the Geometrical Period. Regardless which theory is correct, it was an independent, powerful and rich city which owned the whole area of Epano Oaxos. The city continued to be inhabited during Roman Times, whilst in the Byzantine Period its development further flourished as evidenced by the 46 Byzantine churches that were built, of which 9 still remain.
Its demise came about probably during the first years of the Venetian occupation when many of its inhabitants took refuge in the eastern area of the Psiloritis Mountain, where they built the city of Anogeia.
Places of interest to see in and around Axos include the site of the ancient city; Minoan slabs of clay which the ancient inhabitants used to mark during voting; the ruins of Cyclopean walls; the Byzantine church of Agia Irini which was built in the first years of the Venetian occupation. Visit also the museum of wooden sculptures of Axos