CRETE, or CANDIA (called in the most ancient times IDEA, from Mount Ida, afterward CrETA, whence the Turkish name Kim), one of the most important islands of the kingdom of Greece; situated in the Mediterranean, 81 miles from the southern extremity of the Morea, and 230 from the African coast; is 160 miles long, 7 to 35 broad, and contains 3,326 square miles. A high chain of mountains covered with forests runs through the whole length of the island, in two ranges. On the northern side it declines moderately to a fertile coast, provided with good harbors; on the south side, steeply to a rocky shore, with few roadsteads, and reaches its greatest height in the lofty Psiloriti (the ancient Ida), 8,060 feet high, and always cov ered with snow. Numerous springs give fer tility to most of the valleys, in which, and on the declivities of the mountains, is seen a luxurious vegetation. The air is mild; the summer is cooled by the north winds; the win ter is distinguished only by showers of rain. Earthquakes, however, are not infrequent. Agri culture is at a very low stage, and education and the amenities of civilized life are almost entirely absent. The principal products of the island are olive oil, wheat, oranges, lemons, silk, grapes, wine, valonia, carobs and honey. The inhabitants (estimated at 1,200,000 in ancient times, or 900,000 in the time of the Venetians) are now 344,000, of whom about a third are Mohammedans. Soap is extensively manufactured, and the exports comprise olive oil, soap, wool, carobs, cheese, fruits, valonia, acorns, etc. Most of the harbors are silted up. The capital is Candia or Megalokastron; Canea is the most important place of trade.
Greek mythology made Crete the scene of many of the adventures of the gods and heroes. Here Saturn is said to have reigned and after ward Minos.
Archxological exploration and excavation in modern times have revealed that a Neolithic period of evolution from about 10,000 to 3315 s.c. was followed by the Minoan or fEgean period of civilization, which existed contem poraneously with the first dynasty of Egypt, from 3315 to 1450 a.c., and reached its culmi nating point in Crete. Minoan towns and palaces have been uncovered in different parts of the island, which recall the skill attributed to Dada us (q.v.). They exhibit architecture and engineering of a high order, unsurpassed for domestic conveniences in modern times. At Cnossus in the ruined palace of Minos (q.v., whence Minoan), the thalassocratic king of the eastern Mediterranean, in the Hagia Triada and its shrine near Phxstus, in the palace at Phxstus, in the uncovered ruined towns at Palaikastro, Gourni and Zakro, in the shrine and Dictxan cavern, the legendary birthplace of the Cretan Zeus, near Psychro, and in the ruins on the neighboring islets of Pseira and Mochlos, the finds include archives of clay tablets in great quantities inscribed with the early forms of Minoan pictographic and linear script, polychrome decorated pottery, lifelike ivory and clay figures, mural paintings reveal ing the customs of the period, enormous deco rated storehouse jars, stone and bronze votive figures and objects of cult, sarcophagi, etc.
While at Cnossus, also, have been unearthed the foundations of what are acknowledged to be the traditional labyrinthine prison of the Minotaur (q.v.) or bull of Minos, the incestu ous monster for whose gratification Athens was compelled to send an annual tribute of seven noble maidens and seven boys until Theseus (q.v.) killed the beast, probably during an in vasion of the island which consummated the catastrophe that overwhelmed this early Cretan culture.
The island figures little in Greek history, and took no part in the wars with the Persians. It possessed a number of independent towns often at war with each other, but ready to combine against a stranger. Crete was conquered by the Romans 67 B.C. In the year 823 it passed from the Roman emperors of the East to the Sara cens,who built the capital, Candia, on the ruins of Heraclea, but were expelled again in 961 by the Greeks. The Byzantine sovereign sold the island to the Venetians in 1204, who forti fied most of the cities, won the good will of their new subjects by a mild government, and repelled all the assaults of the Genoese and Turks till the middle of the 17th century. About this time the attacks of the Turks became more determined. They landed a large force in 1645, which soon took Canea and Retimo, and be sieged the capital with vigor. The siege, the longest in modern history, lasted over 20 years: To assist the Venetians volunteers from all parts of Europe poured in. The Christians, after having exhausted all means of defense, were compelled to surrender to the Turks 27 Sept. 1669. At the time of the capitulation the garrison consisted of only 2,500 soldiers; 30,985 Christians and 118,754 Turks were killed or wounded during the siege. Having obtained pos session of the capital, the Turks now .endeav ored to expel the Venetians from the strong holds which remained to them on the island, and before the expiration of the 17th century they had been successful in their efforts.