The beginning of the habitation of the city of Heraklion can be found in Minoan times. Strabo states that in the location of the current city, there was a small port, the port of Knossos until the Roman period of Crete around 330 AD. From 330 to 824 AD the first period of the Byzantine Empire lasts, and the city continues to be an important port, receiving repeated attacks and destruction from the pirates who infest the coasts of the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean islands. In 824 the city falls into the hands of the Arabs, who fortify it with new walls and open a large moat for greater security. The city is called Rabdh el Khandaq (Ditch) because of the moat that exists around the walls, i.e. fortress of the Moat. During the period of the Arab occupation from 824-961 AD.
In 961 AD with the campaign of the later emperor Nikephoros Phokas, Crete is liberated and after the siege the city passes into the hands of the Byzantines. During the siege the city suffered many damages and the old walls were almost completely demolished.
Byzantine settlers settle in the city, the walls are rebuilt for the safety of the new settlers and at the same time a large program of reconstruction of the city begins with public buildings and reorganization of the port. During this period the city takes the name Megalo Kastro.
In 1204 the city was temporarily occupied by the Genoese pirate Eric Pescatore and in 1210, it passed into the hands of the Venetians along with all of Crete. The Duke settles in the city and it becomes the capital of the Kingdom of Crete. With the occupation of Crete by the Venetians, the city was renamed Candia and became the most important political, economic, social, commercial and spiritual center of the island.
The city acquires remarkable public buildings and infrastructure, brightens up with churches, fountains and monuments and at the same time enjoys a spiritual life with high-level creations in the fields of painting, poetry, theater and architecture.
The appearance of the Turkish danger was accompanied by Venice's decision to fortify the city and one of the largest fortification projects in the Eastern Mediterranean was implemented from 1462 until the middle of the 16th century. A wall with a total length of three (3) kilometers with four gates and seven bastions was built which is preserved in its entirety until today.
In 1648, the siege of the city begins after the occupation of the entire island by the Turks. The siege lasted twenty-one (21) years, which is not only considered one of the longest in world history, but decisively influenced the Ottomans' ambitions for the conquest of Europe. With the occupation of the city by the Turks, it was renamed Kandiye and its social and spiritual development was stopped. The Turkish rule begins, which will last for about 250 years and during it the city will experience disasters and massacres, culminating in the massacre of 1897 when 500 Christians were massacred, including 17 English soldiers. This fact was decisive, because the following year, with the help of the British army, Crete was liberated from the Turks and became an autonomous state until 1913 when it was united with Greece.
Since then, Heraklion has acquired a leading role for Crete. It is turning into a modern industrial and mainly commercial city which unfortunately suffered great damage from the German bombings during the Battle of Crete in 1941.
After the liberation from the Germans the city receives a large wave of internal immigrants who come to meet the needs a constantly growing economy.
This intense development combined with the lack of strategic planning has resulted in the creation of a relatively unorganized city architecturally, but in which the memories of the past are diffused together with a modern way of life where the cosmopolitan feeling coexists with the hidden charm of the traditional expressions of of life.
Source: HERAKLEION ADMINISTRATION