Ancient Tarra

An ancient town which used to stand on the site of the current settlement of Agia Roumeli, on the eastern bank of the stream that flows through Samaria gorge. It was probably quite important, given the fact that it was mentioned by numerous ancient writers. Its name derives from the root tal-tar-taur, which means river gorge, and some scholars believe that the ancient town of Taranto, in Southern Italy, was a colony of Tarra.

Tradition has it that the god Apollo resorted to Tarra after killing Python; there, he and the nymph Akakallida had two children, Phylakidis and Philandros.  

Tàrra became a great centre for the worship of Apollo. A temple with mosaic floors, in the courtyard of which a church of the Dormition of the Virgin (Kimisi tis Theotokou) exists today, was probably dedicated to the God of Music.

Tàrra had important glassware workshops.A stele with an inscribed double axe, which indicates the Minoan origin of the town, is counted among the most notable archaeological finds of the area.

The author Lucillus and the kithara player and singer Chrysothemis originated from Tarra. 

Tàrra reached its peak during the Roman and the First Byzantine period, since it was used as a station on the busy sea route from the East and Egypt to Rome and Constantinople. Large ships which carried wheat to Rome used to moor here, to shelter from storms.

With the increase of piracy in the Mediterranean (mainly the Corsairs), the trade of grain on the sea route of Southern Crete declined.

Perhaps the residents of Tarra were engaged in piracy themselves, from the First Byzantine period and on. In the 7th century AD the town was abandoned, for unknown reasons. 

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Additional Info

  • location Agia Roumeli, Sfakia, Chania
  • type Ancient City/Town
  • time period Geometric/Greek Period, Archaic/Greek Period, Classical/Greek Period, Hellenistic Period, Roman Period, First Byzantine Period
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