Ierapetra was founded by Kirbas, who belonged in a tribe of Rhodes, the Telchines. The city was originally named after its founder, while during the course of history, it was renamed to Camiros, then to Pytna and finally to Ierapetra. Ierapetra, due to its stratigraphical position and the unique characteristics of the surrounding area, played a big part in the history of the island and still continues to be one of Crete’s most important cities.
As early as the 1st century BC, Ierapetra was trading with cities and countries of the south and east Mediterranean Sea. It grew significantly and its residents became highly prosperous. Its growth, however, was envied by the neighboring cities and they started showing hostility towards Ierapetra. Pressos, Vianos and Malla acted with hostility, but that didn’t turn out well for them, since the residents of Ierapetra, with the help of the Arabs, annihilated them. Ierapetra dominated in the area and grew even more.
In 66 BC, it was conquered, after putting up quite a fight, by the Romans. The Romans realized the importance of the city’s location and reconstructed it, giving it the push it needed to flourish and reach its peak, financially and culturally. Buildings of unique architecture were built: public baths, theaters, statues, aqueducts and the quite unique “Navmachia”, an impressive artificial construct on the sea, where naval combats were enacted for entertainment values.
Christianity was brought to the area by the Bishop Titos in the 1st century AD. During the period of the Byzantine Empire, Ierapetra continued being a flourishing city. The city’s decline began after its destruction by the Arabs in the 9th century AD. It was destroyed two more times, by the Venetians in the 13th century and by the Turks in the 17th century.
During World War 2, in the villages of Ierapetra took place horrible slaughters and pillaging, as retaliation by the Germans for the kidnapping of General Kreipe by the Cretan soldiers.
Today, Ierapetra is a living city, with rich touristic interest, while it is famed for its massive production of vegetables from its greenhouses.