Cave of Milatos
Tips: Comfortable shoes. In case if you want to explore the cave you’d better have a flashlight with you as it’s very dark in the cave. Daylight comes through only into the main chamber. The admission is free.
Directions: Cave of Milatos is open to public only during daylight hours. The cave is situated 3 km to the north-east of the settlement of Milatos. It’s a 300-meter walk from the parking lot along the organized public footpath with beautiful views.
One of the tourist destinations of Prefecture of Lasithi is Cave of Milatos which is really easy to get at. It’s situated 3 km to the north-east of the settlement of Milatos at 155-meter height. There are 8 entrances into the cave. The central entrance is 9 meters wide and 2 meters high.
The cave interior is a kind of several chambers divided by column-like stalagnates. Elevation changes inside the cave can come to 12 meters taking into account that the total length of the cave is slightly more than 70 meters.
The cave has been connected with the tragic historical events of February 1823. In winter 1822-23 during the Turkish seizure the fierce troops of Hassan Pasha ruined and ravaged the settlements within the plateau of Lassíthi. The plateau became deserted. The villagers – Christians - found the refuge in the caves. The inhabitants of Vrahassi village hid in the cave of Peristeras not far from Síssi village, and the other inhabitants from Neapoli, Latsída, Voulismeni and Mílatos found the refuge in Milatos cave. However, there was a traitor – a Turk from Voulismeni - Tersalis and he leaked the information about the refuge to Hassan Pasha. Pasha immediately sent his commandant Hussein Bei along with 5,000 soldiers to seize the Christians. Despite the actions of Cretan rebels in order to divert the Ottoman troops Hussein Bei managed to besiege and block up all accesses to the cave. Different sources states that from 2,000 to 3,700 women, old people and children as well as 150-300 armed rebels sought refuge in the cave. However, historians are rather inclined to think that about 1,000 people could hide in the cave taking into account the size of the cave and the number of population of Prefecture of Lasithi at the time. The siege began on February 3rd and lasted till February 15th. The besieged began to suffer thirst and hunger; smell of dirty bodies and dead old people became unbearable. Also they say that about 40 children were born in Milatos cave during the siege. Finally the Turks brought the cannon artillery and began to fire on the cave entrances. The besieged barricaded the entrances by blankets and mattresses. 2,500 armed Greeks tried to break a blockade but failed as the Ottomans troops occupied strategic positions and outnumbered the Greeks.
The Ottomans offered the besieged to capitulate promising not to take their lives. The Greeks, sadder but wiser, refused. On February 15, 1823 Hussein Bei ordered to put the fires in front of the cave entrances. Smoke dislodged the besieged from a hiding-place. Men were the first who left the cave and about 30 rebels were massacred by the Turks at once. Women and children were roped and chained and brought to Neapoli. Old people were sent to the settlement of Grabelles and were killed there. All infants were slaughtered; women and children were sold as slaves to Egypt. There were also 18 priests among the besieged in Milatos cave and they faced the death fearlessly: they were either slaughtered or burned alive.
The memorial sign has been set up by the entrance into the cave in commemoration of those tragic events. A chamber inside Milatos cave harbours a small chapel of Agios Thomas. Every year the inhabitants of the plateau of Lassíthi come to the Cave of Milatos to pay the tribute to the memory of the massacred Cretans.