(Limani Khersonesou) Pediada District, N Crete.
On the W side of the Bay of
Mallia 26 km E of Herakleion. The ancient site derives
its name from the prominent peninsula, Kastri, which
shelters the harbor from the N. It served as out-port of
the city of Lyttos, 15 km inland (Strab. 10.4.14
in the 4th-3d c. issued its own coinage, an indication
of autonomy. Its harbor was the best on the N coast of
Crete between Herakleion and Olous, and in the Roman
and first Byzantine periods it became much more important than Lyttos.
Plutarch (De mul. vir
. 247D) narrates its foundation
legend; the colonists arrived with a statue of Artemis.
) mentions the temple of Britomartis, one
of the chief Cretan deities, and the site of the temple is
indicated by the find of an inscription to her of the late
2d c. B.C. on a small headland ca. 1 km E of Chersonesos, where a church of Hag. Nikolnos stands on the
ruins of a Roman building with a mosaic; remains of
another building lie nearby, submerged in shallow water.
Britomartis is depicted on many coins of Chersonesos.
In a 3d c. inscription Chersonesos appears as a subordinate ally of Knossos; in 183 B.C. it was one of the
Cretan cities which made an alliance with Eumenes II
of Pergamum. In the 2d and 1st c. B.C. it seems again
to have been more closely linked with Lyttos, being described in inscriptions as “Lyttos on the sea”; but this
may indicate not subordination to Lyttos but the transfer of real power to the coastal city. Bishops of Chersonesos are mentioned in the 5th to 8th c.
The peninsula N of the harbor has traces of Minoan
settlement: sherds appear in the NE cliff face at the
bottom of a deep occupation deposit. The peninsula was
probably the city's acropolis in the Classical period; it
was surrounded with defense walls in Late Roman or
Byzantine times, and a fine Christian basilica was built
on top in the 5th or 6th c. On the NE side of the peninsula a row of three fish-tanks, now totally submerged,
was cut into the E end of a rock shelf in the Roman
The remains of the Roman city cover an extensive area
S and W of the peninsula. The theater, of the Roman
period, is now almost completely destroyed, but was still
well preserved in 1583 (as was an amphitheater), and
was visible until 1897.
The most significant ancient remains are those of the
Roman harbor works, showing the city's importance and
prosperity as a seaport. The harbor was protected on the
E and S by massive breakwaters of large boulders, along
the inner side of which run concrete moles which served
as quays. These alone provided 330 m of berthing space,
and there was a shoreline quay at least in the SW corner
of the harbor. The stumps of stone bollards survive in
the surface of the E mole and SW quay. On the W shore
of the harbor remains are visible of house walls of the
Roman period. Just inland is a fountain-house with
Inland near Potamies have been found stretches of the
aqueduct which brought water to the site from Lasithi.
T.A.B. Spratt, Travels and Researches
I (1865) 104-7; L. Mariani, MonAnt
238-43; Bürchner, “Chersonesos (4),” RE
2251; S. Xanthoudides, Deltion
4 (1918) Parartima I,
30-32; S. Marinatos, Deltion
9 (1924-25) 79-84; M.
I (1935) 33-34; E. Kirsten, “Chersonesos,” RE
Suppl. 7 (1940) 84-90MP
; A. Orlandos, Ergon
(1956) 118-23; J. Leatham & S. Hood, BSA
53-54 (1958-59) 266-73IP
; Hag. Nikolnos mosaic: Marinatos ICr
35 no. 4.
D. J. BLACKMAN