Coordiantes: 35°38.6′N 23°34.6′E
Gramvousa, or Akra, Cavo Buso, Cavo Bouza, Garabusa and Grabusa, are names used for two small uninhabited islands off the coast of north-western Crete in the prefecture of Chania. They are administered from the municipality of Kissamos in Chania Prefecture.
Imeri Gramvousa, which translates to ‘Tame Gramvousa’, hosts the remains of a Venetian fort and the remains of buildings left behind by Cretan insurgents, who were compelled to live as pirates, during the Greek War of Independence. Today, Imeri Gramvousa is a popular tourist attraction.
Agria Gramvousa, which translates to ‘Wild Gramvousa’, is much less hospitable and is located due north of Imeri Gramvousa.
The fort at Imeri Gramvousa was built in 1579 during Venetian rule over Crete to defend the island from the Ottoman Turks. The fort remained in Venetian hands throughout the prolonged Cretan War, and in the treaty of 16 September 1669, which surrendered Crete to the Ottomans, Gramvousa, along with the fortresses of Souda and Spinalonga, was retained by Venice. These three forts defended Venetian trade routes and were also strategic bases in the event of a new Ottoman-Venetian war for Crete.
On 6 December 1691, during the Morean War (another Ottoman–Venetian war), the Neapolitan Captain de la Giocca betrayed the Venetians by surrendering Gramvousa to the Ottoman Turks for a generous bribe. He lived the rest of his life in Constantinople and was well known by the nickname “Captain Grambousas”. Not long after the start of Turkish rule, Cretan insurgents used to gather at the three coastal forts which included Gramvousa.
With the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence, the fort fell to the insurgents’ hands. In 1823, Emmanouil Tombazis, the Greek provisional government’s commissioner for Crete, failed to strengthen the defences at Gramvousa when he had the opportunity, soon after his arrival on the island.
Towards the summer of 1825, a body of three to four hundred Cretans, who had fought with other Greeks in the Peloponnese, journeyed to Crete. On 9 August 1825, led by Dimitrios Kallergis and Emmanouil Antoniadis, this group of Cretans, disguised as Turks, captured the fort at Gramvousa, which became their base. These and subsequent actions revitalized the Cretan insurgency, ushering the so-called “Gramvousa period”.
Although the Ottomans did not manage to retake the fort, they were successful in blocking the spread of the insurgency to the islands’ western provinces. The insurgents were besieged in Gramvousa for more than two years and they had to resort to piracy to survive. Gramvousa became a hive of piratical activity that greatly affected Turkish-Egyptian and European shipping in the region. During that period the population of Gramvousa became organised and they built a school and a church. The church was called Panagia i Kleftrina and was dedicated to the wives of the klephts, namely the pirates.