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KISAMOS (Kastelli Kisamou) Kisamos district, Crete.

Harbor town on the rich alluvial plain (Nonnus 13.237) at the head of the Gulf of Kisamos (ancient Myrtilos). The port of Polyrrhenia, 5.6 km inland to the S, Kisamos probably became an independent city only in the 3d c. A.D., when it gradually superseded Polyrrhenia (not mentioned thereafter). The town probably benefited most from proximity to the flourishing Diktynnaion sanctuary, from exploiting the rich plain, and from continuing trade. It was the only see in the area: bishops are attested from 342-43 to the 9th c.

The town is not mentioned before Pliny (HN 4.12.59) and is referred to only in geographical sources (e.g. Stad. 339: a city on the gulf, with harbor and water), Hierokles (650.13), records of Ecumenical Councils and the Notitiae Dignitatum. No coins are known (those once attributed to Kisamos belong to Tenos); a number of inscriptions have been found, mostly Christian epitaphs of the 3d-6th c.

Ancient remains, almost entirely of the Roman period, have been found under the modern settlement or reused in its walls or in the castle. A number of wall remains, mainly of brick and rubble and mortar, architectural members, and mosaic floors were seen by 19th c. travelers S and W of the castle and village; part of the aqueduct was just visible above the ground. Buondelmonti (1422) reported seeing the city walls (now disappeared), a stone bridge, a fountain, and remains of a “huge palace with columns and marble slabs.” Onorio Belli (1586) reported ruined remains of a theater and amphitheater, and more remains of one of these seem to have been found in 1862. Recent excavations have revealed parts of a fine bath complex with marble floors and revetments; part of the aqueduct (coming from Krya Vrysi 2 km SW of the town) and of the main city drain; part of the theater complex; a house of the later 3d c. with 15 rooms, including two with mosaic floors of a quality hardly paralleled in Crete, and evidence of reoccupation in the 4th-5th c.; another house with mosaics and a similar history.

West of the town on a small bay (Mavros Mobs) lies the ancient harbor, protected by a short rubble breakwater on the E and a longer one with a right-angle turn on the W and N. Because of coastal uplift (of just over 5 m since antiquity) much of the harbor is now dry land; and because of this uplift and the resulting coastal accretion, the shoreline to the E is well N of the ancient site. West of the harbor, Pococke (1745) saw foundations of large buildings, possibly warehouses.

Remains of the archaic to Hellenistic periods are scanty, and it has been suggested that the main settlement (apart from the actual port) was then some distance to the W at Selli above Cape Nisi where Theophanidis found an LM III shrine and where a house of the Classical period and walls are visible. The site at Selli has also been identified as Korykos, Elaea, and Agneion.


R. Pashley, Travels in Crete (1837; repr. 1970) 1.54-55, II.43-44; T.A.B. Spratt, Travels and Researches in Crete II (1865) 216-19; L. Savignoni, MonAnt 11 (1901) 304-14; Bürchner, “Kisamos (1),” RE XI (1922) 516; M. Guarducci, ICr II (1939) 94-101; V. D. Theophanidis, ArchEph 81-83 (1942-44) Chronika 1-17; E. Kirsten, “Polyrrhenia,”RE XXI (1952) 2535-38, 2544-45; P. Faure,KretChron 13 (1959) 182, 184n, 201, 212; 17 (1963) 25; K. Davaras,Deltion 22 (1967) Chronika 2, 498-99; J. Tzedakis,Deltion 23 (1968) Chronika 2, 416-17; 24 (1969)Chronika 2, 431-32; 25 (1970)Chronika 2, 471P; S. G. Spanakis,Kriti II (n.d.) 209-14 (in Greek)M.


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