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History of Ancient and Nea (New) Alikarnassos

Ancient Alikarnassos:

The ancient city of Alikarnassos was a well fortified large city arranged in amphitheatre form around its natural harbour. A celebrated city of Asia Minor stood in the south western part of Caria, opposite to the island of Cos. The isthmus on which it was situated was called Zephyrium, whence the city at first bore the name of Zephyria and it was extended gradually between Ceramian and Iasic golfs. Today, on its remnants stands the Turkish town Bodrum.

The rocky region of Zephyria, just under the castle of the Knights of St. John, is accepted today as being the region of the first Hellenic settlement. Roman testimonies place the foundation of Alikarnassos in the year 1175 BC however historians trace its foundation few years after 1000BC. The first settlers of the region, according to historical records, were the Dorians. They were followed by successive waves of colonizers from mainland Greece while the first inhabitants of Caria moved inland.

From the 6th century BC onwards, with the development of commerce, all the Greek settlements which were located on the shoreline of Asia Minor become powerful cities. During that period an impressive economic and cultural progress is noted especially in the areas of education, science and the arts. It is during that period that Alikarnassos participates along with the main Greek colonies of Asia Minor and the Aegean islands in the foundation of Nafkratis town in Egypt.

Nea Alikarnassos

1922 is the year that marks the passage from Ancient to Nea Alikarnassos. It is the year of Asia Minor destruction. It is the year that, an influx of refugees from various parts of Asia Minor, comes to Greece.

The Treaty of Lausanne (1922) which ended the Greek-Turkish war imposed the unjust and mandatory exchange of populations. The Greek refugees of Asia Minor, without being consulted had to give up their ancestral homes to the Turks, after almost 4,000 years of glorious and productive history.

But the persecution of minority populations by the Turks had started much earlier. The first refugees from Asia Minor arrive in Crete by 1914. Between the years of 1915 to 1919 Heraklion hosted 1500 refugee families. In 1918-1919 few refugees from Alikarnassos return to their homeland. By 1921 most refugees living in Heraklion come from Alikarnassos and Aidini.

According to official state records in 1923 12,070 refugees settled in Heraklion; 324 of those were from Alikarnassos.

To commemorate their home land, the refugees from Alikarnassos, named their new home Nea-Alikarnassos. The area that was granted by the Greek state for the foundation of the refugee settlement extended to 6000 hectares and was located at a distance of 2,5 kilometres from today''s city of Heraklion. Its location was chosen due to the fact that on the one hand it resembled Alikarnassos, and on the other hand it offered many prospects for job development.

Nea Alikarnassos refuge settlement bordered from the north the Cretan Sea, from the east and south the province of Pediada and from the west the Silamiano river. Its geographical position provided for the division of the area in three zones, the agricultural, the urban and the sea zone. These zones where distributed to the people in accordance with their skills and previous occupations; fishermen occupied the sea zone on the north, farmers were given the agricultural region on the south while the urban zone was inhabited by traders, builders, craftsmen and labourers.

The urban plan of Nea Alikarnassos began in 1924. The population of the settlement at that time numbered 350 families from Alikarnassos and the surrounding areas. 300 houses were built while there was provision for the creation of streets, and free recreational spaces.

The financial and social evolution of Nea Alikarnassos was a difficult challenge for the refugees. A challenge that, they have accepted with stubbornness and determination, although deep down in their heart they believed that they soon would return to their own homeland. However with hard work and relentless determination they undertook to rebuilt their lost town. The comparison with their old town led them to continuous sacrifices in order to build a home as good as the one that they lost. 

The continuous increase of the population is an indication of their progress. With 2127 inhabitants in 1940 census, they grow to 2912 by 1951, 5132 in 1961 while in the census of 2001 the population of Nea Alikarnassos amounts 12542.

Nea Alikarnassos municipality was founded in 1986 and was enlarged to include the communities of Kallithea, Prassa and Kartero. 

Nea Alikarnassos municipality thrives today. The geographical position of the municipality, the rich cultural heritage, the youth of its population, the intense developmental prospects mainly in the secondary and third sector as well as the active character of its residents, are its strongest advantages.

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