Ancient Polirinia, Chania

Polirinia: An ancient city-state of great power, in a location offering excellent view to two seas of Crete

was an ancient city-state, famous all over Crete in its time, which dominated in the region of the west coast of Crete.

Today, near the remnants of the ancient city of Polirinia lays the homonymous Polirinia village, as a reminder of its great past

Polirinia – a city built to last

Ancient Polirinia was built on top of a high hill – more than 400 metres high. The location of the city offers excellent view to all the surrounding area.

The city was heavily fortified – many historians believe it was the most fortified city in Crete. Part of the strong fortification of Polirinia is still visible today.

The name “Polirinia” comes from the ancient Greek words “poly”, which means many and “renea”, which means sheep. The name implies that the main occupation of the residents of Polirinia was stock farming. It might be in the beginning, but, historically, the city and its people were very warlike. The warriors of Polirinia were very skilled – we could say that Polirinia was the Sparta of Crete.

Apart from their warrior abilities, the residents of ancient Polirinia were good merchants, too. There is historical evidence that one of the main occupations of the locals was the construction and the trade of weapons, which, among others, brought wealth to the city. Ancient Polirinia was so wealthy that it issued its own coin, which on one of its sides featured the head of a bull, which was the symbol of the city.

Regarding religion, in Polirinia two goddesses were worshipped: Artemis and Athena. During the excavations, a temple dedicated to Artemis was found in the acropolis of Polirinia. Also, ancient coins of Polirinia were found, which featured goddess Athena as a warrior, with a helmet and a spear in hand.

The turbulent history of ancient Polirinia

Polirinia was an ancient city-state with great power. But the same was true for its neighbouring city-state to the east, Kydonia, which was based near Chania city. In fact, Kydonia was more powerful than Polirinia.

During ancient times, many times ancient Kydonia and ancient Polirinia encountered each other in battle. Generally, in ancient Crete, battles between city-states were common and frequent, its main reasons being territorial claims and competition for natural resources.

Polirinia was founded in the archaic period from Achaeans. The city flourished during the ancient Greek period, although fights were frequent, especially with Kydonia city. According to some sources, during that period, Agamemnon, when returning from Troy, stopped with his fleet in Polirinia in order to make a sacrifice.

When the Romans came to Crete, Polirinia moved fast and strategically and made an alliance with them. This gave them an advantage over their neighbouring Kydonia city. During the Roman period, the two ports of the city, Falasarna and Kissamos also flourished. Gradually, the center of activity moved from Polirinia to Kissamos.

Polirinia was also a prominent city in the Byzantine years, but it was during that historical period that the city of Polirinia was gradually abandoned. However, the fortifications of Polirinia were still in use for many centuries. The walls of Polirinia were used and improved by the Venetians. Another noteworthy fact is that many of the remnants of ancients Polirinia were used as construction material for the building of the present village of Polirinia.

Polirinia was a famous city-state of the ancient Greek world, which managed to flourish for more than a thousand years, mainly because of the warrior abilities of its people. Although the remnants of the ancient city are not as impressive as other ancient cities in Crete, a visit to Polirinia is recommended, for the rich history of the city, but also for the breathtaking view to the northwest part of the island.


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