The Palace of Phaistos

Very ancient and famous Cretan town, second only in significance to Knossos. It is well known that Festos together with Knossos and Kydonia were three of the main towns that King Minos founded in Crete. Festos was located mainly by getting information from the historian Strabon, who defined its position in connection with the neighbouring Gortis, Matala, and the sea.

This area has become very important due to the accidental discovery of early minoan burial artifacts near the little church of St. Onoufrios to the north of Festos, and also due to the discovery of the famous Cave of Kamares. This cave is in the side of Psiloritis, a mountain opposite Festos.

As we can see from the minoan houses, that were discovered near the little church of St. Fotini in the north, the town of Festos spread itself around the palace on the sides of the hill Probably the town stretched in a southerly direction up to the village of St. Ioannis. To the southwest of Festos in the direction of Kamilari, a great vaulted tomb containing valuable artifacts was discovered. When constructed, this tomb would have been within the town of Festos. At Kalybia many rich tombs of the early Mycenean period were found. Pieces of vessels, stone axes, signs of zodiac and little statues made of clay and are some of the things that were discovered.

The first palace was built soon after 2000 B.C. This part is a little lower than the western yard, which leads to a higher level. The old palace was destroyed three times in an interval of three centuries. There were no old palace buildings left, following the last destruction, which took place in 1700 B.C. The whole palace was subsequently completely rebuilt. The facade and the building in general changed, and new floors were formed higher than the original ones.

A magnificent entrance led from the central yard to the King’s apartments, where the arcades and the verandas faced the top of Psiloritis. There where separate rooms for the princes, but smaller and less luxurious than the rooms of the King’s apartments.

In the north part of the palace the famous Plate of Festos with the hieroglyphic writing was discovered.

The workshops were grouped together around one yard at the east of the palace. In the centre of this yard a building in the shape of a horseshoe was discovered, which was an early type of blast-furnace for melting copper.

In about 150 B.C. life in Festos came to an abrupt end as the town was completely defeated and destroyed by the neighbouring and more powerful town of Gortis.