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1st Byzantine period in Crete

Coin of the Byzantine Era Coin of the Byzantine Era Coin of the Byzantine Era

During the first half of the 5th century A.D. the political and cultural situation in Crete changed very little. However, large scale natural disasters hit the island. References to earthquakes hitting Crete are the only historical mentions of the island during this period. During the reign of Theodosius the 1st, a strong earthquake destroyed all the cities of the island. The emperor helped repair part of the damages. Also, during the reign of Leo the 1st (467-468) Crete suffered significant damages as well. This devastation in conjunction with the spread of Christianity, gave rise to a great building spree during which several basilicas were built all over the island.

Apart from these natural disasters, the developments in the Balkans during the 6th century did not significantly affect Crete. The Cretans were enjoying a long period of peace that fostered economic development. Indeed, during the first Byzantine period in the 6th and 7th century, Crete reached its peak in terms of economic development as the various archaeological findings show us. No written information about this period is preserved.

However, after the 7th century a rapid de-urbanization can be observed. Cities fell out of favour, and thus the area dwindled. During that period, several small agricultural communities were created.