Eleftherna (Greek: Ελεύθερνα), also called Apollonia, was an ancient city-state in Crete, which lay 25 km southeast of Rethymno. Archaeologists excavated the site, located on a narrow northern spur of Mount Ida, the highest mountain in Crete.
The site is about 1 km south of todays Eleftherna, in the current municipality of Rethymno. It flourished from the Dark Ages of Greece’s early history until Byzantine times. The city was founded by the Dorians in the 9th century BC. Current archaeological evidence shows that Eleftherna was one of Crete’s most important ancient cities, a capital city of the Geometric and Archaic periods – that is, the periods when the Homeric poems were disseminated and recorded in writing. According to tradition, the city was named after Eleutheras, one of the Kouretes, who protected the infant Zeus by beating upon their bronze shields thus preventing his father Cronus from hearing his cries and devouring him.
Since 1985 The University of Crete makes systematic excavations each summer and the findings so far are many and impressive. The discovery of a double tomb over 2,700 years old which hid more than 3,000 sheets of gold and the first depiction of the bee as a goddess is one of the most important excavations.
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