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HIERAPYTNA, later Hierapetra (Ierapetra) Greece.

City on the S coast of Crete, on the S side of the narrow isthmus which forms the shortest and easiest route across the island from the Gulf of Mirabello on the N coast. There is little evidence of prehistoric habitation. The city was a Doric Greek foundation, with probably a considerable Eteocretan element. Almost nothing is known of its early history. It was supposedly founded by Kyrbas; the name indicates a Rhodian link, as do two of its early names, Kyrba and Kamiros (Steph. Byz.). It struck coins from the 4th c. on. Much of our knowledge of its history is derived from inscriptions, mainly treaties showing its growing influence in the 3d c., and its pro-Macedonian policy at the end of the century. In the war of certain Cretan cities supported by Macedon against Rhodes and her allies (204-201), the powerful Hierapytnian fleet, which was probably active in piracy, attacked Kos and Kalymnos. After the war the city changed sides and made a treaty with Rhodes (201-200), indicating that Rhodes needed her support in suppressing piracy.

Between 145 and 140 Hierapytna expanded to the E, destroying the neighboring city of Praisos, and occupied its territory, including the Temple of Dictaean Zeus (at Palaikastro on the E coast). There followed a long boundary dispute and hostilities against Itanos; despite Roman mediation these were not settled until 112-111. During Metellus' conquest of Crete (68-67) Hierapytna was the last city to surrender (Dio 36.19. 1ff). That the town prospered in the Imperial period is clear from the remains which once existed, the continuing inscriptions, and Servius remark (on Aen. 3.106) that only Hierapytna and Knossos, of the 100 cities of Crete, survived in his day. The latest inscription is a copy of Diocletian's price edict (301). The city was later a bishop's see; it was destroyed by the Saracens in 824 and probably rebuilt by them.

The main deities were Zeus, Hera, Athena (Polias and Oleria) and Apollo; Egyptian cults also flourished.

Travelers in the 15th- 19th c. saw considerable remains: a 16th c. visitor reported two theaters, an amphitheater, baths, and an aqueduct. Today there are only a few remains of one theater and the amphitheater on the E side of the town, and a few scattered traces of other buildings. A number of tombs have been found in the necropoleis E and W of the city, but the city site has not been excavated. The harbor was an impressive construction, with an inner and an outer basin; the inner one is now marsh and the outer basin is mostly under the modern town. The final form of the harbor, particularly the outer basin with two curving moles of rubble and concrete, must date from the Imperial period. The harbor gave the city importance, but the site was low-lying and difficult to defend.

Larisa, Oleros, and Chryse island (now Gaidharonisi) were in the territory of Hierapytna. The site of Larisa is not certain, but it lay inland to the N; the likeliest candidates are Kedri, just N-NE, which has LM remains, and Kalamafka to the NW, with remains of MM to Byzantine date. The people of Larisa were transferred to Hierapytna in a synoecism. Oleros, probably to the N at Meseleri, E of Kalamafka, had a temple of Athena Oleria. By the Hellenistic period it belonged to Hierapytna, but it had once been independent, and perhaps had controlled the latter as its port.

On the coast to the W, near the modern Myrtos, are remains, including a Roman bath building, of a Graeco-Roman harbor town whose ancient name is not known. It seems to have been within the territory of Hierapytna in the Hellenistic period (see Myrtos).


T.A.B. Spratt, Travels and Researches in Crete I (1865) 253-88I; L. Mariani, MonAnt 6 (1895) 319-21; Bürchner, “Hierapytna,” RE VIII (1913) 1405-7; K. Lehmann-Hartleben, “Die antiken Hafenlagen des Mittelmeeres,” Klio Beih. 14 (1923) 201-2P; M. Guarducci, ICr III (1942) 18-74, 131-33; E. Kirsten, “Oleros,” RE XVII, 2 (1937) 2451-53; H. van Effenterre, La Crète et le monde grec de Platon à Polybe (1948); R. F. Willetts, Aristocratic Society in Ancient Crete (1955); id., Cretan Cults and Festivals (1962); S. Spanakis, Crete: A Guide I (n.d.) 269-70, 363-67M; S. Spyridakis, Ptolemaic Itanos and Hellenistic Crete (1970).


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