The name of the largest city of Crete comes from Ideos Hercules, one of the Kourites soldiers that protected the entrance of the cave “Ideon Andron”, where Zeus was raised.
According to archeological findings the settlement of Heraklion was formed at approximately the 9th century B.C. at the top of the hill where the contemporary city centre lies today. The region was the natural sea port of Knossos to the north.
Between the 4th and 9th century the town Heraklion is named under Kastro (fortress), suggesting a fortification. Crete was a province of Byzantium. The only information about the 7th and 8th centuries is about natural disasters and pirate attacks. Following the crisis in Byzantium the island was conquered around 824 A.D. by Arabs who were expelled from Spain.
The town became the base of the Arab pirates, entrenched by a big ditch, from where \ the name Khandaq (Candia in Latin) derives. After many attempts to free the island, it was finally liberated by Nikiforos Fokas in 961 A.D.
The crusaders conquered Konstantinoupolis in 1204 and Crete was sold to the Venetians, who dominated the island until 1669. This new domain was named Regno di Candia (kingdom of Candia), with the town Candia (Khandaq or Heraklion) serving as its capital. During the first two centuries, the locals incited revolutions against the Venetians and in 1363, an effort known as “Movement of Saint Titus”, was violently suppressed.
During the last period of the Venetian sovereignty (after 14th century) the locals were given the freedom to develop their trade, culture and religion. The Cretan Renaissance is a fine example of this era (16th century).
Ottoman Years (1669-1898)
In 1645 the fifth war between the Turks and the Venetians began. The Turkish army conquered the entire island except for Candia which fell after 22 years of siege (1647-1669). The town was finally named Heraklion in the beginning of the 19th century and it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1856, Heraklion was then reconstructed under the pattern of a typical Turkish town.
In 1913 the Island of Crete officially became part of Greece. After the Asia Minor Catastrophe in 1922, the population of the city increased, due to the refugees from the former Greek cities. During the Second World War the city suffered from continuous and exhausting air bombing. Its resistance against the Germans was remarkable.