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PHAISTOS Kainourgiou, Crete.

Classical and Hellenistic city situated 5 km W of Mires. The site is best known for its Minoan palace and underlying pre-palatial village. There was, however, a flourishing Geometric settlement there, and occupation continued in the archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods. The extensive city of the last period was eventually destroyed by the neighboring city of Gortyn in the middle of the 2d c. B.C.

Remains of the Geometric settlement are most impressively preserved on the slopes at the SE foot of the acropolis hill. Here several well-constructed houses are served by a cobbled road which has been traced up the S slope of the hill toward the old W court of the Minoan palace. Traces of a Geometric defense wall around the acropolis have also been noted in excavation. Of the archaic period, the only building to survive in recognizable form is an oblong structure at the SW corner of the palace, which is usually identified as a temple, probably dedicated to Rhea. Archaic deposits have been found elsewhere on both the hill and the lower slopes, however.

Hellenistic remains are the most widespread and best preserved at Phaistos. They are known to cover an area extending from immediately W of the palace, down the slopes W of (and originally probably over) the W Court, and thence farther down the slopes either side of a Hellenistic successor to the Geometric roadway, to the area of the earlier Geometric settlement. On the SE slopes of the hill, Hellenistic houses were found to belong to two phases, the earlier destroyed by earthquake and the latter, presumably, by the Gortynians. A fine series of Hellenistic houses, terraced into the steep hillside, have been excavated on the S and SW slopes of the hill, but these were removed in order to facilitate the excavation of Minoan levels. The best-preserved Hellenistic houses are therefore those standing on a platform above the W Court. Most of the remains here belong to a single house with a small open courtyard around which were grouped the main domestic rooms.

Although the city was destroyed in the mid 2d c. B.C., it is clear that there was some sporadic Roman occupation of the site. Early excavations found Roman deposits above the palace, and more recently an extensive though shabbily built late Roman farmhouse has been discovered overlying the destroyed Hellenistic buildings on the SE slopes.

The city's water supply probably came from the river Hieropotamos, which runs around the base of the hill, and from a series of deep wells, of which a Hellenistic example has been excavated on the SW slopes. Matala, 9 km to the SW, served as the principal port for Phaistos, although Komo is thought to have continued to operate as its port after the close of the Bronze Age. Finds from the site are mainly in the Herakleion Archaeological Museum, although some of the pottery material is in the Stratigraphic Museum at Phaistos itself.


Hom. Od. 2.293; L. Pernier, “Scavi della Missione Italiana a Phaestos 1900-01,” MonAnt 12 (1902) 21; L. Savignoni, “Scavi e Scoperte nella Necropoli di Phaestos 1902-3,” MonAnt 14 (1904) 350; M. Guarducci, ICr I (1935) 272; L. Pernier & L. Banti, Guida degli, “Scavi Italiani in Creta” (1947) 39-66; D. Levi, “Gli Scavi a Festos negli Anni 1958-60,” Annuario NS 23-24 (1963) 377-504IP; “La Conclusione degli Scavi a Festos,” ibid., 27-28 (1967) 313-99IP.


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