God Zeus - the mighty Greek god is the most popular and known god of Greek antiquity. A sky and thunder God, king of the gods, god of justice, ruthless ruler, unfaithful husband, seducer, the mighty and powerful one.
While most of Zeus ruling was done from the mount Olympus in mainland Greece, Crete plays more than central role in life of Zeus as right here is Crete, god Zeus was born and raised; right here in Crete the myth of Europe was created when Zeus kidnapped the beautiful princess Europe, brought her on the shore and forced her into union; and right here in Crete is the Zeus final resting place.
Here are 5 must-visit legendary sites that follow the footsteps of mighty god Zeus.
According to Greek mythology, Zeus was born by the Cronus and Rhea. Cronus was notorious for being a very jealous and greedy. Out of the fear one of his children could take his throne, Cronus swallowed every child Rhea was giving birth to. However, when Rhea gave birth to her last child - Zeus, she managed to trick Cronus by giving her husband a rock in swaddling clothes to swallow, as a substitution to her child. Special daemons named "Curetes" made noise by hitting their shields, so that Cronus would to not hear the cries of the baby. Zeus was raised secretly by the Nymphs in Dikteon cave and was fed with honey and milk from the goat nurse Amaltheia with the help of her broken-off horn.
Excavations at Dikteon cave have revealed that it was one of the most important pilgrimage sites across the ancient world. Dikteon Cave was one of the most important and famous cult places of Minoan Crete. The excavations discovered the foundations of a built altar and the remains of offerings placed in rock crevices. Pilgrims made offerings at the site, including olive oil, honey, wine, wheat and animal sacrifices, which were placed on the altar and burnt. The numerous artifacts discovered at the cave are on display at the Heraklion Museum in Heraklion.
The other contestant for Zeus birthplace is Ideon Cave, located in the highest mountain in Crete, Mount Ida or Psiloritis. It sits at 1540 metres above sea level. The cave is slippery and wet, with a very large cavern to explore. It is takes some time to reach it following the winding mountain road. The Ideon Cave is one of the greatest cave sanctuaries in Crete, as important as the major Greek temples. It flourished in antiquity (4000 BC to the 1st century AD). The cave was discovered in 1884 by a shepherd. The excavations brought to light important findings including an altar to Zeus 100 m outside the cave. Archaelogical findings include bronze statuettes, bronze shields and other offerings to the father of all gods.
Legend says that Europas was the daughter of the King Agenor, somewhere where modern-day Lebanon is. One day together with her friends and companions she went off gathering flowers by the sea. Zeus noticed this charming group, particularly Europa, who was the prettiest of all. Zeus appeared to the group in the form of a white bull, one that was more beautiful than any other; a bull that smelled of flowers and lowed beautifully; a bull so obviously gentle that all the girls rushed to stroke and pet it. The bull laid down in front of Europa and she slid onto its back. Instantly, the bull charged off, plunging into the sea, and began to swim rapidly from the shore. Europa realized that the bull must be a god and she pleaded to pity her. But Zeus spoke to her his love and took her to Crete and brought on shore in Matala.
Right here on the sandy shore of Matala beach, according to the myth, Zeus brought princess Europe on shore before they went to Gortyna. Right here - on Matala beach, across the African coast, emerged from deep blue Libyan sea, princess Europe's footsteps touched the place where the myth of Europe was born and where the geographical continent of Europe starts. Nowadays Matala is a lively and colourful fishermen's village and centre of Crete's hippy community.
Following their arrival on Matala beach, the legend states, God Zeus brought princess Europe under a deep-shaded plane tree on the banks of the Lethaios River and forced her into union or saying more diplomatically - married. According to the myth it took place right under the plane tree in a place what was later named Gortyn. From this union, the three kings of Crete were born - Minos, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon. Indeed, it is no coincidence that at Gortyn, several coins were found depicting Europe and Minos (or Zeus). Later, the oldest Agora of the city of Gortyn, the Ekklesisterion (Congress hall), and the Roman Odeum were founded on this site. It became a major Roman city and the seat of the first Christian bishop of Crete. The plane tree was blessed and has remained ever green since that time. Nowadays Gortyn is the archeological site.
The sacred Mount Yuchtas is the final resting place of the greatest God of Greek Antiquity. Whilst the claim of Crete to be the birthplace of Zeus has been widely accepted, the myth that the god also died and was buried in the island is unique to Crete. According to the legend, the shape of Mount Yuchtas when viewed from the west, reveals the profile of a bearded head reclining as in sleep or in death and represent the face of Zeus; right here, according to the myth, in the mountain lies his tomb. Following his death, God Zeus, legend states, was reborn annually in a springtime. There is evidence of a shrine on the peak of Mount Yuchtas that has been identified as the earliest temple of Minoan Crete. According to the excavations, the bull sacrifice was a part of the rituals enacted in the building as well as unequivocal evidence has been found for the ritual of human sacrifice (!!!)
The five sites - two caves, mountain, beach and the site of Gortyn located in Central and East Crete are open to visitors. Within the total distance of 232 km that requires roughly 5 hours of driving time in total can be reached by car.
Having traveled for over 30 years, since 6 years now, I have found the whole world in one of the most fascinating and unique places on earth – Crete. It is a diverse, rich and inspiring island which even after so many years does not stop surprising me - its rich history and unique traditions, its people, the delicacies of Cretan cuisine, its landspace and its stunning nature. Here I reveal some of its secrets.
I see Crete through turquoise - pink glasses.
Skip the group tours, leave your rental car at your hotel and ask Joseph to accompany you on a private tour to these great spots on Crete. We did "Mystic & Rustic Crete" and "Birth of Europe". If you are a first-time visitor he will suggest an itinerary and if you have special requests he will include those. Without Joseph we would not have known about the local culture or the history of the area nor would we have met and chatted with the local people... Read more
"A great tour and experience"We spent a full day with Joseph visiting Chania, Rethymnon and an olive oil farm and we had a great time. Crete is huge so you have to make choices unless you spend a week there. We arranged this tour with Joseph discussing our options and time. Joseph was very flexible with the itinerary allowing us to customize our tour and experience the highlights of some very nice towns. Joseph was very knowledgeable and answered every question. We would definitely use Joseph again to visit the other parts of Crete that we could not get to in this visit.
"Crete showed by Joseph is unique"The experience with Joseph showing us around Crete was absolutely unique. He is Greek and speak very good Hebrew. I don't think we would had seen and experienced half of what we did with him if we'd be on our own. He told us a lot of interesting stories about the Lassithi plateau and the area. His effortless ability to chat up with locals and involve us into conversation (with some translation, of course) was amazing. Funny enough these encounters led to further invitations (for a coffee and local drink - raki). Later on, he took us to an absolutely authentic tavern in a mountain village...
"The secrets never die" Das erste Mal haben wir Joseph Batis mit einer kleinen Gruppe in Chania in einer Fischtaverne kennengelernt. Er sprach Deutsch, Hebräisch, Englisch, Griechisch und soweit ich es richtig vernommen habe auch Spanisch. Ich habe die Gelegenheit genutzt ihn über unsere Ausflugsziele zu befragen. Seine Hinweise und seine Kenntnis haben uns in die Welt von Kreta innerhalb kurzer Zeit eingewiesen. Wir haben Joseph für einen Tag engagieren können um uns zu begleiten. Joseph hat über 30 Jahre in Deutschland gelebt. Seit Jahren führt er private Reisetouren auf Kreta...
יוסי מסיורים בכרתים ויוון, הוא מדריך.... מקצוען, בעל יידע נרחב איש לבבי וסימפטי, טיילנו בשנה שעברה... היה פשוט מדהים כיף... כיף... כיף... ממליץ בחום למי שמגיע לכרתים ויוון להשתמש בשרותיו המעולים. תודה יוסי על הסיורים ,האוכל, הטברנות, היה תענוג גדול ! ! ! מאתנו: אורי אילש, אלי גנט, יגאל גרינשטיין, נטלי גרינשטיין, אור גרינשטיין
כל מי שעתיד לנסוע לכרתים או ליוון, אני חייב להמליץ על חבר יקר, מדריך מעולה, אדם חביב ונעים הליכות שידריך אתכם בכרתים בעברית, אנגלית וגרמנית, מה שתבחרו.... ל- Joseph Batis אתר בו תוכלו להציץ במה שיש לו להציע לכם כולל תכנון הטיול ומלונות וכו' הציון שנתנו לו 10+ שווה מאוד... ביקרנו במקומות שבחיים לא הגענו אליהם בכרתים ! לחצו על השם וכנסו לאתר ! בהצלחה.