Ancient Axos

Ancient Axos is an archaeological site in the present-day village of Axos in Rethymno prefecture, 45 kilometers far from Rethymnon. Built at the roots of mount Psiloritis on different successive levels with well-fortified citadel and the port of Astalis (cove in today’s Bali), which helped  to strengthen trade, Ancient Axos was one of the hundred city-states of ancient Crete and experienced its flourishing from the Late Minoan and Geometric to the Roman era. The prosperity continued during the Byzantine period, when it became headquarters of the Episcopacy.

Ancient Axos was named after Oaxos, son of Apollo and Akakallida daughter or granddaughter of Minoas. The importance of the city came to light after the excavations of the Italian Archaeological School in 1899 which revealed remains of the wall of the acropolis of ancient Axos, of the temple of Afrodite Astarte, of the Prytaneion and the tombs. Beyond the architectural remnants, various findings such as Minoan shells, stone vases, inscriptions and many figurines depicting naked female figures, probably referred to a fertility goddess were also found in the area. Later Byzantine churches were built upon the remains of the classical era buildings in the area.

Ancient Axos was so rich and powerful that minted its own coins with images of Apollo or goddess Artemis, while generally there were recognized approximately 40 kinds of coins. Indeed, in present-day Livada, 2 km northeast of Axos, remains of an archaic settlement have come to light, suggesting the extent of the ancient city.

To the east of Axos, on the road to Heraklion, ruins of the walls were found, 8 meters tall, alleged to be a part of the aqueduct that brought water from the spring of Skafidia in the tank of the today’s settlement. Engraved excerpts from stone writings were found nearby, probably laws of that era.

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