Excavations carried out in Chania’s Old Town have revealed it to be the site of ancient Kydonia, one of the cities of Minoan Crete. Following the collapse of Minoan culture, it grew into a politically powerful city-state and remained so through the Classical Greek period. After initial resistance to Roman invasion, it succumbed in 69 BC but, ironically, the city flourished under Roman rule, which lasted until 324.
Chania was the seat of a bishop during the early Christian era and remained a significant settlement and military fort under the protection of the Byzantine Empire. However, as the influence of Byzantium waned, Crete came under control of the Venetians, who colonised Chania in 1252 and undertook to strengthen the city’s defences. During their occupation, which lasted nearly 400 years, they built two sets of city walls, portions of which are still intact.
Despite this, the city was captured by the Ottomans in 1645 and remained under their rule until 1898. Both the Venetian and Turkish occupations left their mark on the architecture of Chania.
For the next nine years, Crete was under control the Great Powers who installed Prince George of Greece as the governor of the Autonomous Cretan State. Unification with Greece came on December 1, 1913.
In May of 1941, German forces began an intense air bombardment of Chania, destroying a large portion of the old town. While they won the Battle of Crete, Hitler’s elite commando parachute forces were decimated. The anniversary of the battle is commemorated each year with ceremonies in Chania as well as in the surrounding towns which also played a major role in the battle.