© Σταρράς Γεώργιος

History

The history of Melidoni is connected to its cave, Gerondospilio.

The excavations of the cave have revealed that it was inhabited by prehistoric people. It was also used as a shrine dedicated to the giant guardian of Crete, Talos, and later to Hermes Talaios as shown on the inscription on the entrance of the cave.

The area around the cave was inhabited by shepherds. Legend has it that one day a shepherd lost a goat and found it drinking water from a little spring. The residents of the village dug the "royal well" in the spot where the village square is today. Every family used to have a garden well. There are still 103 wells today.

The village is located near the sea and the city of Rethymno.

The name Melidoni comes from the byzantine family Melidonis and can still be found in our village and other places in Crete.

In the past 195 families (almost 780 people) lived here. There were 172 houses with 359 rooms. More than one family lived together in a house where they kept their animals and had storage area. The lodging tax was heavy and depended on the number of internal and external doors.

The residents of Melidoni cultivated olive trees and carob trees which were major food sources for both people and animals. There were 689 trees at the time, 3.5 trees for each family. Wheat was the basic income source.

Despite the negative circumstances, Melidoni became one of the most important villages in the area of Mylopotamos. The Episcopal see of Parthenios Bishop of Avlopotamos, who possessed great skills in astronomy and painting, was here.

The Melidonis brothers Giorgis, Antonis and Ilias participated in the war of Greek Independence in 1821.

Giorgis travelled to a lot of countries, studied medicine and was a supporter of the Enlightenment. When he came back home he brought the smallpox vaccine. He taught Cretan people how to get vaccinated and, as a result, he saved them from the smallpox epidemic. He was a consultant to the first Governor of Crete, Michalis Komninos Afentoulis.

Antonis fought for Crete with great courage and determination. He was honoured by Afentoulis but was murdered by his fellow soldier Roussos Vourdoumbas in the village of Monastiraki on March 2, 1822.

Ilias fought for independence with the Greek hero Georgios Karaiskakis and was killed during the battle in Faliro in 1827.

Failing to defeat the Greek forces during the 1821 War of Independence, the Turks asked help from Mehmet Ali of Egypt who wanted to incorporate the island of Crete into Egypt.

Hassan Pasha disembarked in Souda on May 28, 1822 and moved to the east. The civilians hid in the cave and were saved. At the beginning of October 1823 the Ottoman and Egyptian forces arrive in Melidoni under the leadership of Hussein Bey. The residents of Melidoni, 370 women and children and 30 warriors hide again in the cave. Hussein finds it out and prevents access to the cave, asking from the residents of Melidoni to surrender. The answer is: "Death, no surrender". After three months of merciless assaults and attacks on the occupants in the cave, on January, 24 1824, Hussein blocks up the entrance to the cave with materials such as hay and oil and starts a fire. 400 people die a horrible death. A few days later the Egyptians get into the cave and desecrate the corpses.

Melidoni participated in the 19th century revolutions in Crete and in Greece.

After the war, Em. Vivilakis organised the first schools starting from Melidoni.

Melidoni was seat of the municipality and the "General Assembly of Cretans" from 13 to 17 October 1897 when Crete was declared an autonomous state.

A great number of soldiers from Melidoni fought in the Macedonian Struggle, in Asia Minor and in the Battle of Crete and took part in the Cretan Resistance.

Many of the people who were born in Melidoni excelled at letters, arts and politics.

Today Melidoni is a lively high cultural heritage village.

The cave is very famous for both its historical and speleological interest and attracts lots of visitors every year.

MELIDONI

Historical capital of the Municapality og Geropotamos