History of Elafonisi


Elafonisi is located in western Crete about 75 km southwest of Chania. It has an area of 0.435 km (Wikipedia) and a maximum altitude of 30 meters. We would say that it is an island but also a peninsula, depending on the years tide, you can walk to it.

The name

The story of Elafonisi goes back in the depths of centuries, since there was a shrine dedicated to the Apollo Mussagore. Musaeget means leader of the Muses, a nickname given by Pindar to Apollo. It refers to the Muses who sang around the Hippocrine spring. The 9 Muses,  mocked the sea deities with their music.

At the nearby village Inachorio there was a sanctuary of Ina, where ceremonies were held to consecrate the seas. Ina was cursed by Hera (Zeu’s wife) to lose her brain, because she helped Zeus keep a secret about loving another woman.

As a result Ina suicided after she and her husband killed her own son after saw a hallucination of him as a deer (=elafi in greek). Then her body and her son’s body lost into the sea near the island which is named elafonisi. 

Thats in among others one version of the story.

1824: The massacre of civilians in Elafonisi

Moving through time, we reach the revolution of 1824. On February 17, the governor of the island Tombazis leaves to seek help, while the Turks carry out clearing operations, scattering destruction and death. About 850 female children and elders flee to Kissamos to be rescued and eventually hide in Elafonisi, hoping that the Turks will not find the deep passage leading to the Island. It was April 24, Easter day when the Turks found them. The battle was uneven but fierce. The men were slaughtered. Women and children were sold into slavery in Egypt. The legent says that the sand was colored red by the blood of the innocent. There is stone monument erected on the small island in memory of all those who lost their lives in Elafonisi in Easter 1824.






1907: The shipwreck of ” Imperatrix ”

A large wooden cross commemorates a wreck that took place on February 22, 1907. The Austrian steamer ship Imperatrix sank in Elafonissi (in other sources it is referred to as Imperatrice). It was built in 1888 and operated the Trieste-Calcutta route.

His crew consisted of 144 men, carrying 38 passengers including a Greek named Augustine. Bad weather combined with human error has led to the shipwreck. Fifty people aboard the ship fell into the sea. Of those, 12 were saved and 38 were drowned, but only 17 of them were found and buried in Elafonisi.