The Melidoni Cave

Ancient Sanctuary of Zeus

'Το σπήλαιο Μελιδονίου' - The Melidóni Cave - is situated about 2 kilometres northwest of the Melidóni village. From Exantis and Villa Talea there is a road going straight to Melidóni which is only 4 kilometres away.

Location

Perhaps this cave was the very place where the bronze giant Talos, which our holiday house has been named after, had his home. According to Greek mythology he was the protector of Crete but the mythical figure probably evolved out of an an even older Cretan sun god. And there is evidence that the cave has been a sanctuary for thousands of years.

Among the gods worshipped here were 'Zeus the Tallaios'. (Talos/Tallaios probably means something like 'sun' or 'of the sun' in the ancient now extinct Cretan language). The archaeological finds from the cave from the early Neolithic to the Roman Period are to be seen in the Archaeological Museum in Rethymnon.

When first entering the cave it may look a little disappointing. However, a little further inside you arrive in the central chamber with its gigantic stalactites and stalagmites shaped by calcium deposits into huge curtain like forms.

One of the many atrocities that happened during the struggle for Cretan independence from Ottoman rule took place here at the Melidóni Cave. In 1824 some 370 inhabitants from nearby Melidóni Village took refuge in the cave in the face of an advancing Turkish army.

They had done so before, but this time the Turkish commander for some reason decided that he wanted them out of the cave. The villagers, however, refused. And when they killed the two Turkish messengers that had been sent into the cave to offer them safe conduct, the Turkish commander tried to force them out by blocking the entrance and thus cut off their air supply.

This went on for days, but the villagers opened new air passages during the night. Finally, the soldiers then set fire to a lot of combustible material that they had piled up at the entrance and everybody inside the cave were choked to death. There is a shrine in the cave to commemorate the victims.