Tarra, Crete

Tarra or Tarrha (Greek: Τάρρα) was an ancient city-state of western Crete, near the Samaria Gorge, at the village of Agia Roumeli. It is situated near the sea, on the hill.


Tarra was probably established in the Classical period and was a very important religious centre. The city flourished in the Greco-Roman period. The city was home to the cult of Apollo Tarraios, where parts of his temple have been found. Tarra is frequently cited in the ancient sources.

Tarra is one of the cities that signed an agreement with Eumenes B’ in 170 BC.

In the Middle Ages, Tarra was known for its glassworks workshops.

In 1415, Buondelmonti detected in the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, an inscription in Greek which said: “Peel your shoes, cover your head and come in.” A similar inscription was found at the Temple at Matala. The custom of entering the temple without shoes is ancient. Apollo, after murdering Python, went to Tarra to be cleansed through purgatorial rituals ministered by the temple priest, Karmanoras.


Although it was just a town, Tarra minted its own coins. The coins have the head of a Cretan wild goat, an arrow, and a bee. Tarra had monetary union with Elyros, Yrtakina, and Lissos. The coins belong to the 3rd and 2nd century BC, when Tarra became a member of the Republic of Cretans. The city had established a colony of the same name in the Caucasus. It is also believed that Tarra of south Italy was another colony of the city. It probably founded Lampa, also found on Crete, as well.

It was the birthplace of the author Lucillus of Tarrha (or Loukillos). He commented on the Argonauts of Apollonius of Rhodes. Chrysothemis, a lyre player and the son of Demeter and Carmanor, was from Tarra as well. He was a champion at the Pythian festival.

Robert Pashley was the first modern archaeologist to find the location of the city and investigate it. The area held scattered stone stele which are inscribed with a double axe symbol. One is exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Chania.


Coordinates: 35°14′19.18″N 23°57′53.08″E / 35.2386611°N 23.9647444°E / 35.2386611; 23.9647444

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