Archaeologists have unearthed a fabulous Roman-era odeon at Lissos on Crete. The Greek Ministry of Tourism and Sport announced the new find near the famous temple of Asclepius near the quiet seaside village of Sougia in Chania Prefecture.
According to the ministry, the new discovery at these remote ruins so close to the Asclepius temple broadens the scope of understanding of the historical importance of the area. The Odeon of Lissos site can only be reached by boat or via a 90-minute hike for maintenance and has not seen an archaeological discovery like this in over six decades.
Dr. Katerina Tzanakaki, the Deputy Director of the Department of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and Museums at the Ephorate of Antiquities of Chania, led the excavation that led to the discovery. She told reporters about the use of odeons, which she said, “were used for lectures, literary and musical contests or theatrical performances.” These structures were smaller than ancient amphitheaters and often covered by roofs to improve acoustics.
Greece’s Ministry of Culture and Sports started this project as part of a plan to repair and preserve Lissos’ other ruins, which were uncovered in the 1950s. Lissos has already yielded an impressive collection of discoveries. Earlier digs in the area uncovered a temple to the Greek god Asclepius, a Greco-Roman cemetery with Byzantine temples, Roman baths, Christian churches, and much more.
Lissos was a key stopover along an important Mediterranean trade route. Like other ancient sites in the far west of Crete, it was devastated by the monumental July 365 AD earthquake that lifted the entire western portion of Crete as much as nine meters out of the sea. Nearly every town in Crete was destroyed by the event.
The Odeon was likely built in the 1st century AD. The excavations have revealed part of the stage, fourteen rows of seats, as well as a corridor on each side of the theater with a vaulted roof, and fourteen rows of seats.
Lissos was one of the harbors of ancient Elyrus, The port’s distant past is unknown, but it was highly developed from the Classical Period (500 to 350 BCE), and flourished until Late Antiquity. Amazing finds from the area are now housed in the new Archaeological Museum of Chania.