The history of Zoniana

(by Mr. Dimitris Parassiris, retired teacher)



The history of the village is lost in the depths of time since according to the legend its formation and name are closely related to Zeus. It also coincides with the history of Axos since the province of the village was part of its realm as well as the area of Anogeia.

In 1577 Barozzi cites it as a separate settlement with the name So. Since then the separate history of the village begins for which, however, we do not have any written documents until 1821. Nevertheless, both the recent past and the present of Zoniana manifest its farther past. One thing is beyond the shadow of doubt: that it was never inhabited by Saracen, Venetian or Turkish conquerors, that its population has always been purely Greek and that it always took part whenever Greece called for help. 

In more detail, the inhabitants of Zoniana participated in the Revolution of 1770 in every way they could and also took care of persecuted Sfakians.

In 1821 M. Melitakas from “Zou Lakko (Zoniana) Mylopotamou (it is written in one paint of him at Historical Museum of Heraklio, Crete )”, chieftain of Milopotamos province, fought against the Turks throughout Crete. He got injured in a battle in Brachimio and died because of that wound later. His name is reported at the Book of V. Psilakis “Istoria tis Kritis” page 320.   

In 1866 twenty inhabitants of Zoniana with Parassirogiorgis decided to leave the safety that the mountains offered them and go to Arcadi, where seventeen of them were killed.

Six months later, on May 8 1867, the inhabitants of Zoniana along with those from Milopotamos stroke Omer Pasha Latas in Pera Chalepa. The Turks beat a hasty retreat and the inhabitants of Zoniana took a portable canon as loot, carried it to Zoniana and hid it. Today this canon is in the Maritime Museum of Crete in Chania. On the next day, May 9, the numerous Turkish army wore down the resistance of the inhabitants of Zoniana and entered the village. They interrogated the old and the sick who could not leave the place in order to find the canon. Since no one confessed, they slaughtered everyone and set the village in fire. Along with it the forest of the gorge was also burnt.

In November of the same year Kumandar Redic Pasha tried to build a Tower in Kafkaloudi (Amigdalokefalo) like in all the other villages. He did not succeed to do so because the inhabitants of Zoniana did not leave him at ease. Day and night they attacked him and then left (klephtopolemos) and they decimated his soldiers and builders. In turn, he burnt everything that the inhabitants of Zoniana had managed to rebuild and departed. This clearly demonstrates that the village of Zoniana was set on fire twice within six months (both in May and November). According to a song of that period the village had been burnt yet another time: “That’s the third time that the village is burnt but even if it is burnt three hundred times we will not obey the Aghas.”

The years went by but the inhabitants of Zoniana did not cease to fight the Turks. They went to Gazi and Servili and along with the inhabitants of Milopotamos and Malevizio they trapped the Turks in Heraclion. There is still today in Gazi a location called “Michanes” which took its name from the conduits that the inhabitants of Zoniana dug and then blew up as the Turks were getting closer.  

During a battle in which the rebels beat a hasty retreat, they left the flag behind. The inhabitant of Zoniana Michalis Kavvalos or Kaprakis got back and in a cloud of bullets he took it and left. For that reason he was awarded a prize by the Cretan community as the saver of the flag. That is the place where Michalis Nikiforos was killed.

During the Balkan Wars thirteen inhabitants of Zoniana sacrificed their lives. 

During World War II (Northern Epirus – the Battle of Crete – the Greek Occupation) nineteen inhabitants of Zoniana were sacrificed in the name of Greece.

Last but not least, during the Greek Civil War another four people lost their lives. Maybe those were the only lives lost in vain however they obeyed to the calls of the Greek government.

This is briefly the history of Zoniana, a history without traitors and collaborationists and in general without black pages, which is summarized in the following verses:

“The inhabitants of Zoniana had an assembly once again in Hades.

They were invited by the seventeen who died in Arcadi.

Those invited the other inhabitants of Zoniana from Thessaly,

Thrace, the Peloponnese and Macedonia,

Epirus, Crete, the islands and Minor Asia

All those who sacrificed their lives for our country

Because there is not one square metre in Greece

Which has not been steeped in blood by the inhabitants of Zoniana.

All this so we can live freely today

And honour them eternally”