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Information about the place (4)
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites
Barely mentioned by ancient authors except geographers, who refer
to it as the westernmost city of Crete and mention its enclosed harbor ([Scylax]
47; Dion. Call. 119ff). The city served also as one port of Polyrrhenia, 60 stades
inland across a range of hills, but it was never dependent on Polyrrhenia.
The city is mentioned only once by a historical source (Polyb. 22.55),
when Appius Claudius made Kydonia restore its independence (184 B.C.). Very little
can be gleaned from inscriptions. With Spartan mediation, the city made a treaty
with Polyrrhenia in the early 3d c., when Spartan influence was strong in W Crete.
It reached the zenith of its prosperity in that century, the period when the city
walls were probably constructed. There is evidence of good relations with Egypt
later in the century. The city is not mentioned after the 2d c., when Kydonia
became the predominant power in the area; it may well have been a pirate base
in the 2d-1st c. It is not listed in the Notitiae Dignitatum and by the later
Roman period the site may have been uninhabited. It seems to have had a temple
of Diktynna (Dion. Call. loc. cit.), and perhaps one of Apollo by the harbor (Stad.
336). Coins were struck in the 4th-3d c., showing a trident or dolphin and female
head (Diktynna, Aphrodite, or the eponymous nymph Phalasarne).
The earliest remains found so far are 6th c., the latest are Roman;
they were first fully described by Pashley. The city lies on a high, rocky cape
projecting W, and settlement later extended onto the isthmus (some 500 m wide)
below to the E. The acropolis falls away sheer into the sea on the N and W sides,
and slopes steeply on the landward (E) side, up which runs one difficult path.
The top, some 100 m high, is divided into a smaller N and larger S knoll by a
deep cleft and saddle, where Spratt thought he could see a temple. On top there
are remains of towers and other poorly preserved buildings; some walls appear
to belong to temples. There is no spring on the acropolis but several cisterns
on its slopes. On the E slope are retaining walls of terraces with house foundations,
some rock-cut. At the foot of this slope the city wall ran across the isthmus,
with projecting rectangular towers and perhaps a second wall line 5 m inside to
the W. The wall also ran round the harbor and SE to the coast; SW of the harbor
it is poorly preserved.
Spratt first made comprehensible the ruins of the lower city, by establishing
that this part of the coast has been uplifted 6-7 m since the Classical period
(and herein may lie the cause of the city's decline or abandonment in the later
Roman period, perhaps the 4th and/or 6th c.). Thus he first identified the enclosed
harbor (now some 100 m inland from the S side of the isthmus), which with its
entrance channel and the bare rock on either side lies now well above sea level,
with a solution notch clearly visible across the rocks marking the ancient shoreline.
(For the same reason the city wall at its N end stops well short of the modern
coastline.) The harbor basin, established in the shelter of the acropolis, is
now filled in; it formed an irregular hexagon (ca. 60 x 70 m) with its entrance
on the SW side, and was surrounded by walls with towers projecting inwards and
outwards. The rock-cut entrance channel is an enlarged natural fissure, irregular
in course and 10 m wide, now filled with earth and stones. West of this and just
above the ancient shoreline is a rock cutting, perhaps a small dock or water channel.
The bays on either side of the isthmus are too exposed to be good harbors.
Other remains of the city E of the wall are still poorly understood
(much less is visible now than when Spratt visited the site). No temple sites
can be clearly identified. The most striking features are the large rectangular
chambers cut in the sandstone, probably used as basements of houses or storerooms
after quarrying. Southeast of the city, behind the coastal dunes, lies a necropolis
with rock-cut and cist graves; most have been looted, but some produced 4th c.
and Hellenistic pottery. Three rock-cut thrones are also visible, perhaps intended
for the dead. East of the city another necropolis has recently been found, with
pithos burials (early 6th to early 5th c.) and Early Hellenistic cist graves.
In the plain S of the city Roman cisterns, walls, and graves have been found.
D. J. Blackman, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites,
Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from
Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
- Phalasarna: Perseus Lookup Tool, text search
Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)
ta Phalasarna : Eth. Phalasarnios. A town of Crete, situated on the
NW. side of the island, a little S. of the promontory Cimarus or Corycus, described
by Dicaearchus as having a closed--up port and a temple of Artemis called Dictynna.
Strabo says that Phalasarna was 60 stadia from Polyrrhenia, of which it was the
port-town; and Scylax observes that it is a day's sail across from Lacedaemon
to the promontory of Crete, on which is Phalasarna, being the first city to the
west of the island. (Strab. x. ; Scylax; Dicaearch. Descrip. Graec. 119; Steph.
B. s. v.; Plin. iv. 12. s. 20.) The Cydonians had at one time taken possession
of Phalasarna, but were compelled by the Romans to give it up. (Polyb. xxiii.
There are considerable remains of the walls of Phalasarna. They exist
in a greater or less degree of preservation, from its northern side, where it
seems to have reached the sea, to its south-western point, cutting off the acropolis
and the city along with it as a small promontory. There are other remains, the
most curious of which is an enormous chair on the SW. side of the city, cut out
of the solid rock; the height of the arms above the seat is 2 feet 11 inches,
and its other dimensions are in proportion. It was no doubt dedicated to some
deity, probably to Artemis. Near this chair there are a number of tombs, hewn
in the solid rock, nearly 30 in number.
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited May 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD)