Crete island, the largest in Greece, separates the Aegean from the Libyan sea and marks the boundary between Europe and Africa. Its fertile soil and towering peaks witnessed the development of one of the most important civilizations on earth, the Minoan civilization (2800-1150 B.C.). This was an impressive culture that developed a number of Greek firsts, including the first Greek government, religion and art. The Minoans also produced a number of impressive palaces such as Knossos, Phaestos, Malia etc. Around 1400 B.C. the Minoans were overwhelmed by a disaster, which may have been the eruption at Santorini and/or a Mycenaean invasion. After the catastrophe, the Minoan Culture hung on for several centuries longer, as refugees brought it to the mainland.
Crete underwent the occupation by various forces.
First were the Mycenae from the mainland (1400-1100 B.C.) then came the Dorians (1100-67 B.C.). In 67 B.C. the Romans took over; in 27 BC Gortyn (present-day Gortyna) became the capital and most powerful city of Crete. When Rome's power declined at the end of the 4th century AD, Crete became part of the Byzantine Empire and was ruled from Constantinople (Istanbul). The Arabs conquered Crete in around 824; the Byzantines reclaimed it in 960 and sold it to the Venetians in 1204; it fell to the Turks in 1669 and became part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1898 the Turks were removed from Crete, which was then ruled by an international administration. Greece and, in particular, the world powers of the time resisted Crete's desire to be unified with Greece until 1913.