History

The rich history of Crete has left many traces in this region.

Byzantine chapel in Agia Roumeli

There are several theories concerning the name of our village. Most probably it is traceable to the Arabic words aia = water and rumeli = Greek. So Agia Roumeli would mean Greek water.

An archaeological site, Tarra, or Tarrha is located on the eastern side of the river. Tarra was a small but independent city that minted its own money. The coins were in use during the 3rd and 2nd Century B.C. and featured the Cretan wild goat with an arrow on the one side, and a bee on the other side. At this time, Tara was a part of the Cretan Republic and established colonies in the South of Italy and the Caucasus. Several interesting finds from the many excavations in this area can be viewed in the archaeological museum of Chania.

Ruins by the seaside in Agia Roumeli

Close to the new village there is a Byzantine church, "tis Panagias" (the Holy Mother). This church was built on top of the ruins of a temple dedicated to Apollo and Vritomartis (Artemis).

Agia Roumeli was an important area for timber export 4000 years ago. It was also a firmly established shipyard during antiquity, the Venetian and the Turkish periods. The village was ideally located for this function; there was plenty of wood close to the shore and the river could provide energy for sawmills.

In the past, the location of Agia Roumeli was privileged, having a connection with the north of the island through the path of the Samaria Gorge. Furthermore, the mountains functioned as a fortress, providing extra protection during the times of occupation and unrest.

Today people still make a living from goat-and sheep-raising as well as beekeeping. The influx of tourism, brought on by the popularity of the Samaria gorge, has also become an important source of income.

Much has changed in Agia  Roumeli over the last half century and the residents have had to adapt to a much more modern way of life. But under the immediate surface the past still lingers, and history feels very close.

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