The rocky coastal headland at Rethymno in northern Crete has been occupied since prehistory.

In classical times it is likely that the area was site of an acropolis and temple to Artemis whilst the civil settlement occupied the ground covered by the modern town. Little is known of the town during the early Byzantine (325 - 824) and Arabic (824 -961) periods.

During the second Byzantine period (961 - 1204) a defensive wall with round tower enclosing a roughly triangular area was built next to the small harbour. This was taken over by the Venetians, following the fall of Constantinople to Frankish and Venetian forces in 1204 but it was not until the disaster of 1571 when a Turkish raid resulted in the destruction of a newly constructed city wall and the Byzantine Fortress that thoughts turned to refortifying what was known to the Venetians as the palaeo kastro or 'old castle'.

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Author: Stephen Wass

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