Ancient Lefki

This island, known as Lefki in Antiquity, played a very important role in the Hellenistic and the Roman history of Eastern Crete. Its residents worked fishing, and at the processing and trade of purple dye from Murex shells (porphyra), which apparently brought great wealth to the island during the Hellenistic and the Roman period.

Considering the heaps of already processed Murex shells that were also found in Minoan settlement areas, this art must have been known since the prehistoric years.

During an excavation conducted after 1975 by the archaeologist Nikos Papadakis, a theatre of the Roman period was unearthed, which had a capacity of 1.000; it featured a semi-circular orchestra and arched pàrodoi (= passageways through which actors entered and exited the orchestra). Another remarkable structure excavated was a public baths building dating from the 1st century AD. Several houses were also discovered in the settlement of ancient Léfki, near the theatre; they had home workshops, which were necessary for the processing of purple dye. A villa unearthed had numerous rooms, mosaic floors and walls decorated with multi-coloured mortar. 

The finds from the excavations, various fragments of statues and architectural elements, as well as numerous vessels and other artefacts made of stone, metal and other materials, are kept today in the Archaeological Museum of Sitia.

On top of a hill, approximately 2 kilometres from the ancient settlement, the ruins of a temple with a crepidoma were discovered; there, two fragments of a colossal marble statue depicting a figure seated on a throne can be seen today.

The settlement was supplied with water through a system of three rows of built pipes which began high on a hill, where a small spring was to be found. 

It was destroyed, however, in a violent manner, in the end of the 4th century AD, by raiders who also plundered the theatre, before they put it to the torch. The island has not been occupied again since, at least not on a permanent basis. Only a few passing sailors left their mark inside the small caves of the western beach, carving representations of saints and inscribing 17th century dates on the rock.

The whole of the island today is an extensive archaeological site.


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Additional Info

  • location Koufonissi, Sitia, Lasithi
  • type Ancient City/Town
  • time period Minoan Era, Geometric/Greek Period, Archaic/Greek Period, Classical/Greek Period, Hellenistic Period, Roman Period
  • site condition/facilities Open-Scattered Monuments
  • relevant routes & paths


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Visiting hours/info

Tel. number: (+30)2841022462, (+30)2841025115

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