from 12/12/2018 until 30/04/2019

Crete. Emerging cities: Aptera – Εleutherna – Knossos

Three ancient cities revived

 12/12/2018 until 30/04/2019


The Museum of Cycladic Art, the Regional Services of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports (Ephorates of Antiquities of Chania, Rethymno, and Herakleion) and the Region of Crete are co-organizing the exhibition entitled “Crete. Emerging cities: Aptera ― Eleutherna ― Knossos. Three ancient cities revived” from 12 December 2018 to 30 April 2019. This is a multi-faceted exhibition with rich audio-visual aids, including screens, maps, and innovative technologies.

The exhibition focuses on three of Crete’s one-hundred cities, according to Homer (hekatompolis), and their common characteristics: their establishment, acme, decline, destruction, abandonment, and demise. Cities with centuries-long history, cities that were abandoned and forgotten, but are also tangible examples of archaeological investigation using similar or different approaches.

The exhibition comprises approximately 500 artefacts dating from the Neolithic (7th-6th millennium BC) to the Byzantine period (8th century AD), some newly discovered, others from old excavations, most of them never presented to the public before: statues, reliefs, figurines, inscriptions, vases, weapons, jewellery, coins, and other artefacts of various materials—limestone, marble, clay, metal (bronze, iron, silver, and gold), faience, glass, ivory, and semi-precious stones. This is the first time that so many artefacts leave the storerooms of the Antiquities Ephorates and display cases of the museums of Crete for a temporary exhibition in Athens.

Guided Tours {GR}

every Saturday at 12:30
and Sunday at 12:30 & 15.00

Easter Opening Hours

22/4 H. Monday 10:00 – 17:00
23/4 H. Tuesday: closed
24/4 H. Wednesday 10:00 – 20:00
25/4 H. Thursday 10:00 – 20:00
26/4 H. Friday 12:00 – 17:00
27/4 H. Saturday 10:00 – 15:00
28/4 Easter Sunday: closed

29/4 Easter Monday: closed
30/4 Tuesday 10:00 – 17:00
{last day of the exhibition}

Curator's Talk

Antiquities from each one of the three cities speak of its territory, public and private life, religious beliefs, sanctuaries, and cemeteries, fragments of its historical continuum. A special place is given to artefacts relating to each city’s founding myths and also to personal stories: Soterios from Eleutherna who live and died at Aptera, the young man of Eleutherna who died before knowing love, and the child buried with their toys at Knossos.

The exhibition also showcases Renaissance books and maps, including the Vincenzo Maria Coronelli’s map of Crete (1707) with its famous fruit garland inscribed with the names of the 100 Cretan cities mentioned by Homer, including the three presented here.

The present exhibition is organised in collaboration with the Archaeological Museum of Herakleion, the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno, the University of Crete – Museum of Ancient Eleutherna Research Centre, the British School at Athens – Knossos Stratigraphic Museum, and FABA – Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte (lender of Picasso’s bull’s head), with the participation of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens – Gennadius Library, the Sylvia Ioannou Foundation, and the Benaki Museum, who contributed Renaissance maps and books.

The exhibition is realized with the support of the Region of Crete.


The earliest of the three, Knossos, has a long history of exploration, well known and well recorded since Minos Kalokairinos and Arthur Evans to the present day. With its reconstructed palace and millions of visitors, Knossos is now the second most popular archaeological site in Greece after the Athenian Acropolis. The present exhibition, however, focuses not on the famous palace but on the city that lay beyond it both spatially and temporally. It showcases the copious and continuous efforts of archaeologists in the Archaeological Service and the British School at Athens, and of all those who contribute in one way or another to provide as full a picture as possible of this great Cretan city. The present exhibition demonstrates that Knossos was not just a palace but an entire city that stretched beyond it, a city whose history began long before the palace was built, in the Neolithic period, and lasted long after it was destroyed; a city with a vast territory, served by its harbours and cemeteries not only during the Old and New Palace periods but also later, in the Geometric, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods, a city that was Christianised in the Early Byzantine period, as its Early Christian basilicas and other finds testify.


Eleutherna is a different story. Here, systematic excavation began recently, and the site’s conservation, restoration, and promotion were approached differently thanks to the lessons learned at Knossos. Eleutherna was all but forgotten after the ancient and medieval city’s forced abandonment. It was either incorrectly marked (usually east or south of its actual location), or confused with Apollonia to the northwest of Herakleion, or omitted altogether on many Cretan maps of the 15th to 17th centuries. There are occasional references to the site during this period, either by travellers who visited it, who reported from hearsay, or who compiled information provided by others. This was remedied in the 18th and, especially, 19th centuries, when the site’s correct location was given on maps and references to the site became more specific. Rivalries between foreign archaeological schools (particularly the British and Italian Schools) over who would excavate Eleutherna delayed the site’s exploration. It wasn’t until the Cretan State developed an interest in promoting Crete’s Greek identity that Eleftherios Venizelos asked educator Efstathios Petroulakis to restore the Hellenistic bridge, which a flood had destroyed in 1898, as part of a programme to modernise the island’s road network in 1908. In the same year, Petroulakis became the first to investigate part of the acropolis there. Humfry Payne conducted a short-lived archaeological excavation in 1929, but systematic investigations did not begin until the University of Crete surveyed the site in 1984 and initiated the on-going excavations the following year.


Aptera, a city that commands Souda Bay and the far reaches of the Apokoronas plain, was investigated in a similar manner to Eleutherna, although 15th-century maps gave a more accurate location. Robert Pashley identified the city in 1834, and the French Archaeological School conducted the first excavations in 1862 and 1864. Ioannis Svoronos and Stefanos Xanthoudidis referred to Aptera in their written works in the late 19th century, and Margherita Guarducci published inscriptions from Aptera in the 1940s. In 1942, V. Theofanidis supervised the German occupation forces excavation of a two-roomed temple. Rescue excavations by the Greek Archaeological Service began in 1958. In 1984, when the University of Crete expressed an interest in excavating at either Aptera or Eleutherna, the Hellenic Ministry of Culture decided on the latter. The Archaeological Service (former 25th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, current Ephorate of Antiquities of Chania) conducts the current systematic excavations at Aptera.


Exhibition concept
Professor Nikolaos C. Stampolidis
Director, Museum of Cycladic Art

Coordination – implementation
Professor Nikolaos C. Stampolidis
Director, Museum of Cycladic Art

Eleni Papadopoulou, PhD
Director, Antiquities Ephorate of Chania

Dimitrios Michelogiannis
Executive Development Advisor of the Region of Crete

Head curators
Professor Nikolaos C. Stampolidis – Eleni Papadopoulou, PhD

Co-curators, Museological – Museographical study
Ioulia G. Lourentzatou
Head of Antiquities Register, Museum of Cycladic Art

Ioannis D. Fappas, PhD
Curator of Antiquities, Museum of Cycladic Art

Exhibit supports
Christos Stefanidis
Vasiliki Tsiropoulou

Exhibition-related construction
Manos Lignos

GR405 architects, Aris Zambikos

Financial management
Athanasios Masouras
Financial Director, Museum of Cycladic Art

Argyro Felesaki
Chief Accountant, Antiquities Ephorate of Chania

Chrysoula Daskalaki
Region of Crete

Othonas Charapampakis

Evgenia Christodoulakou
Director of Communication and Development, Museum of Cycladic Art

Lida Karanikolou, Stella Tsagkaraki, Christina Koratzani

Dionysios Achtipis
Chief of Administrative – Financial Departement, Antiquities Ephorate of Chania

Ira Voutsala
Region of Crete

Educational programmes
Marina Plati
Director of Educational Programmes, Museum of Cycladic Art

Eleni Markou
Museum of Cycladic Art

Maria Xanthopoulou, PhD

Dimitris Logothetis
Archaeology student, University of Crete

Visual identity

Bezerianos, B., & Co. O.E.
Haidemenos S.A.

Tasos Kostis

Antiquities transport
Orphée Beinoglou


Entry fee: 7€
Reduced entry fee:
Groups of 15 or more:
€5 (per person)
General entry fee on Mondays:
€ 3.5

Entry is free for the Friends of the Museum of Cycladic Art

Visiting hours: 
Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: 10:00-17:00
Thursday: 10:00-20:00
Sunday: 11:00-17:00
Tuesday: Closed.


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