The archaeological site of Phaistos

Phaistos or Festos was one of the most important centres of the Minoan civilization, and the most wealthy and powerful city in southern Crete.

It was inhabited from the Neolithic period until the foundation and development of the Minoan palaces in the 15th century B.C.

Phaistos SitePhaistosRoyal ApartmentsStorage Vases

Its dominion, at its peak, stretched from Lithinon to Psychion and included the Paximadia islands.

The city participated to the Trojan War and later became one of the most important cities-states of the Dorian period.

Phaistos continued to flourish during Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic times.

It was destroyed by the Gortynians during the 3rd century B.C. In spite of that, Phaistos continued to exist during the Roman period.

Phaistos had two ports, Matala and Kommos.

The exact location of Phaistos was first determined in the middle of the 19th century, while the archaeological investigation of the palace started in 1884.

Built on a hill, at an altitude of 100 m from sea level, it is located in the fertile valley of Messara, some 62 km south of Heraklion.

Its location, carefully chosen, so as not only to absolutely control the valley of Messara, but to also offer a panoramic view of the surrounding area with the scattered villages, just like today, at the foot of the mountains Psiloritis and Asterousia.

Phaistos VaseKamares VaseKamares Ware JarKanta

The palace dominated and controlled the Messara valley and it was the centre of the city.

It was the administrational and economical centre of the area. Goods not only for consumption but mainly for trade were kept in its huge storerooms.

The palace was surrounded by luxurious mansions and crowded urban communities.

Along with the surrounding settlements covered an area of 18.000 sq. meters.

A paved road leads to the ruins of the Royal Minoan villa of Agia Triada, 3 km west of Phaistos.

Although many inscriptions were found by the archaeologists, they are all in Linear A code which is still not deciphered, and everything known about the site, even its name are based on the ancient writers and findings from Knossos.

According to mythology, Phaistos was the seat of king Radamanthis, brother of king Minos.

It was also the city that gave birth to the great wise man and soothsayer Epimenidis, one of the seven wise men of the ancient world.

The disc of Phaistos is the most important example of hieroglyphic inscription from Crete and was discovered in 1903 in a small room near the depositories of the "archive chamber", in the north - east apartments of the palace, together with a Linear A tablet and pottery dated to the beginning of the Neo-palatial period (1700-1600 BC).

Phaistos Disk

Both surfaces of this clay disc are covered with hieroglyphs arranged in a spiral zone, impressed on the clay when it was damp.

The signs make up groups divided from each other by vertical lines, and each of these groups should represent a word.

Forty five different types of signs have been distinguished, of which a few can be identified with the hieroglyphs in use in the Proto- palatial period.

Some hieroglyphic sequences recur like refrains, suggesting a religious hymn, and Pernier regards the content of the text as ritual. Others have suggested that the text is a list of soldiers, and lately Davis has interpreted it as a document in the Hittic language in which a king discusses the erection of the Palace of Phaistos.

("MINOAN CIVILIZATION- Minoan Writing" by Prof. Stylianos Alexiou V.Kouvidis - V.Manouras publishers)

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From Heraklion take the road to Moires and Tymbaki

Archaeological Site of Phaistos

Opening Hours:
Daily 08:00 - 18:00

Admission: 4 €
Special ticketing package for the Archaeological Sites of Phaistos and Agia Triada: € 6 (reduced: € 3)