The Pursuit of Diktynna

Falasarna Beach

Falasarna Beach

After Polyrriniá, we headed to the west coast to the ruins of Falasarna.  I saw these ruins once before on New Year’s Eve, however, later while back home reading about the site online, I found that I had missed a few things, in particular, the ruins of the temple of Diktynna.  During my trip here last spring, a group of us went to the Bay of Diktynna, out on the tip of the Rodopou Peninsula.  Above the bay, on a high hill, were the ruins of another of Diktynna’s temples.  I didn’t think much of it at the time, but after finding that she had a temple at Falasarna as well, I decided to see just who she was…

Falasarna Beach

The Temple of Diktynna

The Temple of Diktynna

Diktynna, according to most legends (there are quite a few versions), was a nymph, the daughter of Zeus and Karme.  She was a pure, virginal, chaste maiden and intended to stay that way.  However, being a nymph, she was of course beautiful and men lusted after her, including the Minoan king.  King Minos spent 9 months traversing  the island of Crete, desperately trying to find and seduce Diktynna, while she desperately hid from him.  Eventually, the maiden, despaired of escaping, raced across the island and flung herself off a mountain into the sea where she landed in some fishermen’s nets.  She was transported safely to the island of Aegina, but once there, Andromedes attempted to seduce her as well.  She fled into the forests of the island, where she was discovered by the goddess Artemis (goddess of hunting) who changed her into a goddess.

Diktynna is one of the more popular gods in western Crete, with numerous temples devoted to her.  To the ancients, she was the goddess of fishing and nets (diktya means net), and later was connected with Artemis and seen as a goddess of hunting as well.  As the goddess of fishing and nets, most of her temples are on the tops of hills, looking out over the Mediterranean.  She is also the goddess of Mount Dikte, birthplace of Zeus.  I love the ancient cultures and the stories, my favorite has always been the ancient Egyptians, but the Greeks are a close second.  So, after learning about Diktynna and the role she played for the coastal, fishing dependent cities of ancient Crete, I knew I had to see this other temple of hers at Falasarna, even though it too is in complete ruins.  I need to do some research and find if there are any more of her temples still around…

Falasarna Beach

Pink Sand at Falasarna Beach

Pink Sand at Falasarna Beach

The Throne of Falasarna

The Throne of Falasarna

By the time we arrived at Falasarna the sun was getting ready to set.  I set off, climbing the steep, rocky hill that her temple was on, desperate to find it in time and be able to take pictures of it.  While this was a hill, it was a hell of a hill, very steep, very, very high up.  I did find it in time, thankfully, but when I reached it I just stood there, trying to catch my breath!  There is not much left of the temple, but to me, that is not important.  I love just being able to stand there, surveying the area, the view from the temple, what the ancients would have seen…  There were other ruins on another little crest of the hill, but I didn’t have time to see those.

All of the pictures, aside from the Temple of Diktynna, were taken on my first visit to Falasarna on New Year’s Eve.  When we first arrived to the town of Falasarna, we stopped at the beach, which was packed with hotels, restaurants, and huge touristy signs for the beach, a total tourist trap, the worst I’ve seen yet in Crete.  However, this is the winter season, so it was dead, there was only one other couple on the beach.  The sun was shining, the water was such a beautiful aqua/turquoise color, and warm enough to wade in, it was absolutely beautiful there.  We eventually packed back in the car and went in search of the ruins.  

The Moorings in Falasarna's Harbor

The Moorings in Falasarna’s Harbor

The Ruins of Falasarna

The Ruins of Falasarna

There are signs for Ancient Falasarna from the main road, and throughout the town, but eventually the road dead ends at a gravel parking area.  Directly across this area, is a gravel road, follow this, and trust me, the parking area is rougher than the actual road.  A little ways down the road you’ll find the “Throne of Falasarna” on your left, right on the side of the road, you can’t possibly miss it.  They believe this may have been a podium for public speaking.  Not as noticeable as the throne, however, is the ancient sarcophagus, which is on the opposite site of the road, slightly behind you.  I only saw the one, there should be more somewhere, the websites I was reading all stated “graves” as in more than one…

The Ruins of Falasarna

The Ruins of Falasarna

Slightly further down the road is the excavated site of the old harbor.  Both times this was closed (common during the winter in Crete), gated and fenced off, however that is a little gate…  The harbor walls along where the water edge used to be were the neatest part in my opinion, there are still stone moorings along the wall, stones with large, round holes in them.  I haven’t seen any other ruins like this here.  Falasarna was a unique city in its day, its harbor was dug out, inland, with a 50 meter dug out channel connecting it to the sea.  However, Falasarna was a refuge for pirates, so to stop them, in 69 BC the Romans dumped a bunch of large stones into the channel blocking access for all, but the smallest boats.  The city’s prosperity greatly diminished, but it continued to exist until it was hit with an earthquake in 365 AD, which raised the land 6-9 meters, rendering the harbor completely useless.

The Coastline at Falasarna

The Coastline at Falasarna

If you continue down the gravel road, you’ll notice along the big hill that is immediately to the site’s North (where the temple and city acropolis were located), are various stone wall sections.  Continue on the road, around the corner, and you’ll find another little parking area with an amazing view of rocky coastline and the sea.

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