This article is about the ancient city of Kydonia. For the previous province of Kydonia, see Kydonia Province. For other uses, see Cydonia.
Early Minoan bird-shaped vessel (3000-2300 BC). Archaeological Museum of Chania (Kydonia)

Cydonia or Kydonia (Ancient Greek: Κῠδωνία)(Latin: Cydonia) was an ancient city-state on the northwest coast of the island of Crete. It is at the site of the modern-day Greek city of Chania. In legend Cydonia was founded by King Cydon (Ancient Greek: Κύδων), a son of Hermes[1] or Apollo[2] and of Akakallis, the daughter of King Minos. According to Pausanias[3] he was son of king Tegeates. The name Cydon may derive from the word κῦδος(=glory) or from the verb κυδάνω(=to boast). Diodorus Siculus[4] mentions that the city was founded by King Minos.

Prehistoric period

The name of the city is first mentioned in Linear B tablets from Knossos (ku-do-ni-ja). At Kastelli hill, which is the citadel of Chania’s harbor, archaeological excavations have discovered ceramic sherds, which date back to Neolithic era. Scarce finds such as walls and ground floors confirm that the systematic habitation of the hill began during EM II period. A Minoan House (House I) with the characteristic hall was also unearthed. It was destroyed by fire during LMIB period. The houses from LMIIIA phase belonged to a palatial settlement, which ceased to exist in LMIII. The city extended beyond Kastelli hill as the excavations in Daskalogiannis Street revealed, where a LMI sanctuary or “lustral basin’’ came to light. The discovery of a corpus of Linear A and Linear B tablets points out the presence of an archive. Moreover, the archaeologists have identified the existence of a local pottery workshop, which was active in LMIII.[5][6]

Geometric & Archaic periods

It is peculiar that Homer in the Odyssey mentions Kydones (tribe) not Kydonians. They dwell the two sides of Iardanos river.[7] Herodotus considers that the city was founded by Samians in ca. 520 BC, who later on were defeated and enslaved by a coalition of Aeginetans and Cretans.[8] Aegina also sent colonists to the Cretan city.[9] Due to this relationship, the city at an early phase minted coins which resemble those of the aforementioned island.[10] Archaeological evidence from these periods is limited.

Classical & Hellenistic periods

In 429 B.C.E during the Peloponnesian War Kydonia was attacked by the Athenians after the accusations of Nikias from Gortyna for pro-Spartan policy.[11] In 343 B.C.E the city was besieged by Phalaikos and his army of mercenaries after his failed attempt to capture Lyttus. He was killed from a thunder strike that burnt his siege engines.[12] In Hellenistic period times Kydonia took part in the struggle for domination among the cities of Crete.[13] At the end of the 3rd c. B.C.E a peace treaty with Aptera was made. In 220/219 B.C.E both cities joined the alliance of Oreioi (in which Polyrrhenia was a member) and canceled the one with Knossos. Aggressive policy led to the capture of Phalasarna (184 B.C.E) and 14 years later that of Apollonia, an action criticized by Polybius since they were allies.[14] In 69 B.C.E the Romans under Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus, after the failed attempt of Marcus Antonius, invaded Crete. The Cretan general Lasthenes confronted them in the battle of Kydonia, where he lost and retreated. This outcome forced Cretan general Panares to capitulate to the Romans and deliver them the city without resistance.[15] The coins of the city-state depict Kydon either as an infant suckling a female Cretan hound or as an archer stringing his bow, accompanied by his dog.[16] The remaining base from the Hellenistic wall can be seen below the Byzantine wall of Kastelli hill. Rescue excavations have discovered Hellenistic facilities below buildings of the modern city.[17]

Roman, Late Roman & Byzantine periods

After the battle of Actium (31 B.C.E) Augustus set Kydonia free for its assistance to him.[18] Cydonians are mentioned in book 12 of the Aeneid, where their excellent bow skills are used in an extended Virgilian simile describing the Fury's descent to Juturna. In 365 the city must have been affected by the earthquake that devastated many cities of Crete. The Episcopate of Kydonia is referred in many ecclesiastical documents. The earlier is in 381 when Kydonius the bishop of Kydonia takes part in the First council of Constantinople.[19] The first Byzantine period of Kydonia ends with the Arab conquest of 828. After the Byzantine reconquest of 961 the Episcopate was transferred outside the city near the village of Agya.[20] The prosperity of the city during Late Roman times is illustrated by the mosaics of houses found near Agora Square. Roman workshops have been found in some parts of the modern city.[21][22] Material from the urban architecture of the ancient city was used for the construction of Kastelli hill’s Byzantine wall.[23]

Change of name and preservation

It is uncertain when the toponym Kydonia ceased to be used. The scholars suggest that the name was changed by Arabs (Saracens), who named the city Al-hanim (hostel), which could also derive from a suburb of Kydonia called Alchania komi, where the god Velchanos was worshiped.[24] Another theory projects the toponym Lachanias as a derivative of the modern name. At the beginning of the Venetian rule (1212) Kydonia is mentioned as Canea. The name is preserved in the Holy Metropolis of Kydonia and Apocoronos, which was established in 1962.[25] Today's archaeological recoveries from the ancient city of Kydonia are largely stored in the Chania Archaeological Museum in present-day Chania.[26]

Location of Kydonia

Ancient authors indicate the position of Kydonia in the western part of Crete, facing Peloponnese.[27][28] Strabo had calculated its distance from other cities of Crete.[29] The exact location of Kydonia was not understood until Robert Pashley worked it out[30] based solely on ancient historical literature, without any archaeological recovery;[31] Jοhn Pendlebury also identified Chania with ancient Kydonia.[32]

The Necropolis Kydonia

Since Kydonia was inhabited for centuries, the necropolis of the city is quite extended and includes graveyards from all periods. It lies below the modern city of Chania. Burial types that have been found are: chamber tombs, cist graves and loculus tombs.[33]


See also


  1. Apol. Rhod. 4.1492
  2. Steph. Byz. Kydonia
  3. Paus. 8.53
  4. Diod. Sic. 5.78
  5. The Greek-Swedish excavations at the Agia Aikaterini square, Kastelli, Khania, 1970-1987 and 2001 vol. 1,2,3 ed. by Erik Hallager and Birgitta P. Hallager.(2003)
  6. Maria Andreadaki-Vlazaki, The county of Khania through its monuments (1997)
  7. Od. 3.276
  8. Hdt 3.44 & 3.59
  9. Strabo. 8.6
  11. Thuc. 2.85
  12. Diod. Sic 16.63
  13. Angelos Chaniotis, Die Verträge zwischen kretischen Poleis in der hellenistischen Zeit (1996)
  14. Polyb. 28.14
  15. Appian sic 6
  17. Maria Andreadaki-Vlazaki, Khania (Kydonia) : a tour to sites of ancient memory (2009)
  18. Dio Cassius 51.2
  20. Michalis Andrianakis & Maria Andreadaki-Vlazaki, The Old City of Hania Historical Review, Monuments, Archaeological Museum (1997)
  21. Maria Andreadaki-Vlazaki, Khania (Kydonia) : a tour to sites of ancient memory (2009)
  22. Michalis Andrianakis & Maria Andreadaki-Vlazaki, The Old City of Hania Historical Review, Monuments, Archaeological Museum (1997)
  23. Michalis Andrianakis & Maria Andreadaki-Vlazaki, The Old City of Hania Historical Review, Monuments, Archaeological Museum (1997)
  24. Nikolaos Platon, Kretika Chronika 1(1947)
  27. Diod. Sic. 5.17
  28. Strabo 10.4
  29. Strabo 10.4.13
  30. Pashley, 1837
  31. Hogan, 2008
  32. J.D.S Pendlebury, The Archaeology of Crete: An introduction (1939)
  33. Maria Andreadaki-Vlazaki, Khania (Kydonia) : a tour to sites of ancient memory (2009)


Coordinates: 35°31′02″N 24°01′11″E / 35.5173°N 24.0196°E / 35.5173; 24.0196

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