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Ancient Elyros – on the way to Sougia
Archaeological Sites . Museums . Cultural MonumentsChania area

Ancient Elyros – on the way to Sougia


I do not know to what extent ancient Elyros is known outside Greece. Perhaps some one of you arrived on Anek Lines’ ship “Elyros” at the port of Chania … yes to be honest, the ship’s name is a term for me and had aroused my curiosity

Ancient Elyros - on the way to SougiaWeekend trip to the south coast of Chania to Sougia. Why not also visit ancient Elyros that is right on the way?

At the main intersection in front of the village Rodovani, we find our way to the ancient site thanks to our 1:100,000 map, our desire for adventure and the help of the locals.

There are no signs to ancient Elyros, and as we learned only here ancient Elyros is still poorly excavated by archaeology. On our first attempt we meet the very nice red haired and -bearded, very narrative joyful priest, who actually discourages us from our adventure: “there is little to see, and right now in spring? The few remains of which can be seen, are now all overgrown …. “he says. We still ride the bumpy path up the hill (ancient sites are almost always on hilltops) to the church, and then by foot.

Nothing to see far and wide, except the lush grasses, olive trees and as far as the eye can see white poppies.

A clattering pick-up appears in front of us, the very helpful driver then takes us through the fields through up to a wire fence, “there’s a door in the fence, open it and run up to the dead almond tree (he points to a gnarled tree in the distance) then turn right you will see the ancient amphitheater. ” Wonderful, and thank you very much.

We wander into and over fences, through flowering fields, with great caution, to a high stone wall, which certainly belonged to the ancient site and possibly represented the framing of the amphitheater. That’s it.

Ancient Elyros – on the way to Sougia
The Roman Cisterns in ancient Elyros

However …. the view over the area of Rodovani at north and Sougia to south is fantastic, and the sight of so many poppies and wild orchids was worth the ordeal!

Ancient Elyros – on the way to Sougia
The view from Elyros


Further down, we discover later the cistern from the Roman period located in the olive groves (the driver’s tip) of ancient Elyros.

In mid-summer, when there is due to aridity no longer grass, one certainly has more luck with finding some ancient stones.

Whoever wants to visit ancient Elyros, follow the directions below:

  • Coming from Chania, at the intersection at Rodovani turn left direction Sougia. After 20m turn right into a dirt road that branches immediately again. To the right leads a very well extended dirt road to the school, left a less good dirt road going up to the church, take the left one. Whoever does not want to strain his vehicle, best park it down here and walk up to the church (60m), otherwise park at the church.
  • Left past the church after 30m turn right through the fields towards west, if you find after further 50-70m the door in the fence, you are on the right way. Open it, pass it and of course, close it gain. Then after 150m (and after climbing through a quite big hole of another fence) you should see some stone walls. Somewhere here (according to the priest) there are also remains of a mosaic pavement.
  • Right past the church, a path leads through the olive groves, after 50m you see left hand the cisterns.
  • Also on the attached Google map you will find instructions with photos.


The “Philosopher of Elyros”

Ancient Elyros is built on the hill “Kefala”, 500 m southwest of the village Rodovani.
It is considered the most important ancient city in the southwest of Crete in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and even had its own currency.
In Elyros the god Apollo and the heroes Fylakidi and Filandros, the latter son of Apollo and the nymph Akakallidas, were worshiped. Witness thereof a bronze gift to Delphi, which shows a goat lactating the 2 heroes.

 Ancient Elyros – on the way to Sougia
The Philosopher from ancient Elyros Crete

Robert Pashley was the first who showed the exact location of ancient Elyros under instructions from the competent authorities and inscriptions. This information was later confirmed by Thenon, who discovered the inscription in the ruins:

“Έδοξε τη πόλει των Ελυρίων” = “Blessed be the city of the Elyrians”
Elyros kept his flourishing life up in Byzantine times and was even the seat of the diocese. The city was destroyed by the Saracens.
In today’s coastal village Soughia (in ancient times called Syia) was the former harbor of Elyros.

The until now most impressing finding from Elyros-hill stands proudly on a wall of the Archaeological Museum of Chania and is known as the Philosopher of Elyros.

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