|Location:||1 km south of Amnissos. From the road Herakleion to Agios Nikolaos, right before Amnissos turn right on road towards Episkopi|
|Open:||Closed by gate. Request key in nearby village.|
|Light:||none, bring electric torch.|
|Dimension:||L=60 m, W=12 m.|
Anna Kofou (1990):
Kreta - Sämtliche Museen und archäologischen Stätten,
Herder-Verlag, Freiburg im Breisgau 1990, S. 170f.
With a detailed cave description, photographs and survey.
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|1886||re-discovered by Chatzidakis.|
|1929||excavations by Marinatos.|
The Cave of Ilithia was the main place of worship of Ilithia, the goddess of childbirth and midwifery. A cave is mentioned by Homer, as the place where the goddess was reputedly born, actually there is no detailed location information, but the contents of the cave, the archaeological discoveries made here, were very convincing. The original name of the godess is Eleuthia>Εἰλείθυια (Eileithyia) but she is also mentioned as Eleuthia in a Linear B fragment from nearby Knossos. Ilithyia is the Latin spelling. A theory connecting the goddess with caves where an entrance section resembles the birth canal sound good but are far from beeing prooven.
In the centre of the cave is a remarkable rectangular altar surrounded by two cylindrical stalagmites which have human shape. As excavations indicate, the cave served as a place of worship from the Neolithic Period to the 5th century BC. The excavations uncovered idols of women in the act of giving birth, nursing or praying, figures of animals, Neolithic shells and tools.
The cave was forgotten many centuries, and re-discovered in the late 19th century. The locals call it Neraidospilios (the cave of the Nereides/fairies).
This is a real show cave, with parking lot and paths inside, but it seems there were too few visitors. There are no regular open hours any more, but the cave may be visited by requesting the key in the nearby village.