Ideon Andron is a cave in Rethymno prefecture that lies on the eastern slope of Mount at an altitude of 1.530 meters, 23 km after and 74 km far from the city of Rethymno.
One of the oldest caves in Crete, the Ideon Andron is considered of the same value along with the most important Panhellenic ancient sanctuaries, since it was a religious center from Minoan to Late-Roman period. During the pre-palatial period, a young Minoan god, featuring vegetation, was worshiped here. At the end of Minoan era he was replaced by Zeus Kritagenis (=born in Crete). The legend says that the Father and the God of all Gods was born and raised here (birthplace of Zeus is also claimed by the Dikteon Andron in Eastern Crete). According to the oracle, the son of Cronus and Rhea would take his father’s place and Cronus, in order to protect himself, devoured all his children. Rhea tricked her husband into swallowing a swaddled stone instead of the newborn Zeus and hid her son deep in a cave, where he was raised my nymph Melissa and a goat Amalthea. The baby’s cries were every time covered by the mythical Curetes, who would bang their drums and their shields, while they were dancing. When Zeus became of suitable age, he overthrew his father Cronus, just as the oracle predicted.
The Ideon Andron, also called Arsenio or Spiliara of the Shepherdess, since according to the local tradition, the wife of Charidimos, the lord of Gortina in Vitsenzos Kornaros’ Erotokritos, was buried here, is divided internally into three chambers and the sanctuary.
Entering the cave, there is the main hall, 40 meters in length and 50 meters in width, with three impressive stalactites, which came to light after excavations made by the Italian archaeologist Federico Halbherr in 1885 and by Giannis Sakellarakis in 1982. The archaeological findings include bronze statuettes, bottles, bronze shields, ivory objects and gold jewelry, which are now displayed in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklio. 70 meters far from the Ideon Andron, an altar carved in a rock is preserved.
Feasts were held every year in this cave. Initially, in honor of the God of vegetation, who died and then was reborn as the seasons changed. Later, all the feasts honored Zeus. During the ceremony, the pilgrims were hanging votive offerings on the branches of a polar in front of the entrance, as is mentioned by Theophrastos. Even Minoas, the legendary king of Knossos, used to come as a pilgrim to this sanctuary every 9 years to receive renewed laws from his father, Zeus.
Pythagoras, a sage from Samos, was one of the pilgrims to the Ideon Andron who had taken part in the ceremonies and had even been initiated into the mysteries in honor of Zeus. There is no much information about these mysteries, as the initiates were obliged not to talk about them in public.
At present, the Ideon Andron is a major attraction, especially during summer season.