Venice purchased Crete in 1204 and like every foreign ruler before them, the Venetians coveted Crete as a base that offered protection for their navy and from which they could control the Mediterranean trade routes. As one of their most important colonies, Regno di Candia (Kingdom of Kandia) with its capital at Kandia, the island also provided valuable agricultural resources which could be traded. Venetian authority was heavily contested in the first century of Venetian rule by the Cretan population due to heavy taxes, land confiscations and other measures including the prohibition of the Greek Orthodox Church and its hierarchy on the island. In spite of these hostilities, however, Venice encouraged its citizens to colonize its various outposts around the Mediterranean, especially Crete. Approximately one-sixth of the Venetian State’s population, or 10,000 people, migrated to Crete during the first sixty years of Venetian occupation.

By the 16th century, the three main cities of Heraklion, Rethymnon (Retimo) and Hania (La Canea) were flourishing, the island’s population swelling as a result of an influx of new immigrants and its economy thriving due to trade and trans-shipment business. Crete produced and exported Malvazia wine, grain, olives and olive oil, cheese, cotton, silk, acorns used for tanning, honey, wax, citrus fruits, timber and salt. Venetian domination of the island continued for 465 years until the Ottoman Turkish invasion of Crete that began with the two month siege of Hania in August 1645, and ended with the conquest of Heraklion in 1669 after a twenty-two year siege, the longest siege in European history.

Photos 1, 2
Source: public domain

Venetian map of Hania, 1627

Venetian map of Crete

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