The province of Rethymnon is one of the four provinces of Crete. It stretches from the White Mountains until Mount Psiloritis, bordered by the provinces of Chania and Heraklion. It covers an area of 1.496 km2 and has a population of 81,157 inhabitants. The largest mountain ranges of the White Mountains, Psiloritis and Kouloukounas and the secondary ones of Kedros, Asiderotas and Vrisinas form a network of valleys, the main one of which is Milopotamos and the two valleys of Amari.
The few flat areas are found near the north and south coasts, while the plateau of Nida stretches over the mountainous mass of Psiloritis. The city of Rethymnon with its 23,126 inhabitants is the capital of the province. Smaller population centres are Anogia, Spili, Perama and Episkopi. The villages of the province have a small and constantly dwindling number of inhabitants, which average about 180 persons. The main transport routes in the province are the new national highway which runs parallel with the north coast, the old national highway, which is situated slightly south of the new road, and the Rethymnon - Spili - Agia Galini - Sfakia road which runs north to south.
According to archaeological discoveries, man first arrived in the area in the later Neolithic years (3500-2800 BC). Until now, 13 instances of human presence in this period have been found, 5 of which are in caves. The most well-known is the Gerani cave which was periodically a fishermen's settlement.
During the Minoan period (2800- 1100 BC) human activity spread throughout the whole province. Settlements and large building complexes (Elenes, Monastiraki, Apodoulou) appeared which were later flattened by earthquakes culminating in their final destruction in the earthquake of 1450 BC. This destruction was taken advantage of by the Mykenes who invaded and settled in Crete.
During the Geometric Period (710-270 BC) there is evidence of civilisation in the area of Eleftherna and its eastern areas including at least IS cities founded between 710 and 470 BC, the majority of which are small towns. Of these, Axos enjoyed particular prosperity.
During the classical years (470-323 BC) Sivritos boomed as did Rithymna, the predecessor of today's Rethymnon.
During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, Lappa appears as the most important city. The 5th, 6th and first half of the 7th centuries AD were peaceful under the jurisdiction of the Byzantine Empire. Since the second half of the 7th century continuous Arab invasions disrupted Crete until it was finally conquered in 827 or 828. The successive attempts of the Byzantine resulted in its re conquest only one and a half century later (961 AD).
In 1204 Crete came under Venetian rule, a period of domination which lasted until 1669, the last centuries of which are characterised as the "Kingdom of Crete" and left a legacy of many important monuments on the island.
The Turkish occupation brought with it a dark period for Rethymnon. The economy became agricultural, education ceased for a few centuries and oppression became unbearable. The Revolution at Sfakia in 1770 prepared for the uprising of 1821, which in turn reignited in 1866. It was in this revolution that the Arkadi Monastery near Rethymnon became world famous after the martyrdom of its defenders.
Crete was eventually unified with the rest of Greece in 1913 and since then it has followed the nation's history. In May 1941, during the Battle of Crete, Rethymnon was one of the German Parachutists' three fronts. The memorable resistance of the local people led to the execution of hundreds of inhabitants and the levelling of whole villages.
The development of tourism in the last 20 years has given employment opportunities to the people of Rethymnon and has stemmed the emigration to urban centres which had devastated the settlements of the province.
THE MONUMENTS OF RETHYMNON
The Fortetza Fortress
Built after 1573 to protect the city's population. It comprises four bastions and three entrances while to the north, its design is typical of the period with three look-out posts (salients).
Ibrahim Han mosque
The most significant of the surviving buildings, built by the Venetians as a cathedral.
The Venetian harbour
From 1300, Rethymno's harbour was constantly being changed and re-built to make it safer and hold more boats. Due to the prevailing currents along the coast, this was never entirely successful. It retains its picturesque character even today.
The most characteristic Renaissance monument of Rethymnon and the most important architectural reminder of the Venetian occupation.
The Rimondi Fountain
Rebuilt in 1626 on the foundation of the earlier one, the new fountain is architecturally and sculptural ornate.
Saint Franciscus Church
The catholic monastery of the Franciscan order. It sports a single sloped wooden roofed basilica with an impressively decorated entrance.
The Neratzies, the Kara Mousa, the Great Door, and the Veli Pasa mosque.
The five surviving mosques are a reminder of the years of the Turkish occupation. Of these, the first is the only one that can be visited, which is used today as a music conservatory.
The Prefecture Building (Nomarchia)
Built after 1869 is a commemorative building in neo-classic design.
The Old Town
Has been preserved in good condition with the public and private monuments of the Venetian, Turkish and later periods.