Chania is built on the ruins of the ancient Kydonia, an important city for its size and strength. According to the tradition, the ancient Kydonia was founded in prehistoric era by Kydonas, son of Hermes- according to other sources son of Apollo, – and by the nymph Akakalida, daughter of Minos. Homer’s Odyssey mentions the Kydonians as one of the five Cretan tribes, while Strabo places Kydonia as the third largest city on the island.
The story begins right from the Early Minoan period (3650 B.C.), when the first residents created a settlement on the hill of Kastelli, which has been dominating so far the old harbor. From the archaeological investigations in the square of St. Catherine, at Kanevaro Street have been uncovered numerous ceramics and architectural buildings of this period. Spacious homes with well built rooms and crafted floors, ceramic products of exceptional quality prove that the city was an important Early Minoan center.
The settlement gradually began to grow and became an important palatial center during the Middle Minoan period (2200-1580 B.C.). The economy is still agricultural, but also strengthens the residents’ involvement in trade and shipping. They produce and also import ceramic from the rest of Crete.
During the Late Minoan period (1580-1070 B.C.), Kydonia experienced a major economic boom thanks to the development of crafts and trade. It develops its own ceramic workshop, “the workshop of Kydonia” and markets its products within and outside Crete, as in Patras, Cyprus and Sardinia. At the same time, imports from Mycenae, Cyprus, Syrofiniki, Italy and Egypt, while expanding its cemetery extensively around the settlement.
Particularly in the period 1550-1450 B.C. the city is at its peak. Minted its own currency and forms an organized urban plan in blocks with wealthy residences with skylights, particularly thoughtful facades and a sewer system. In 1450 B.C. Kastelli was destroyed by fire, but it was rebuilt. In this period there are 100 tablets in Linear A, clay seals and tablets indicate the possible existence of a palace with evolved administrative organization. Then dates back the famous” Bishop seal” a clay seal depicting a multi-storey complex in coastal and rocky scenery, with a male figure on top.
Around 1300 BC the installation in Kastelli is destroyed by a new fire, thanks to which the first clay tablets of Linear B were saved. In 1200 BC. new buildings are erected, while 50 years later, when the Minoan civilization reaches its end, the traces of life of the ancient Cydons suddenly disappear.