Phalasarna was mentioned by the ancient historians and geographers Scylax, Strabo, Polybius, Livy, Pliny, Dionysius Kalliphontis, and the anonymous geographer known as Stadiasmus. The ancient geographers took note of the artificial closed port carved out of a lagoon and ringed with fortification walls and towers. Phalasarna was a maritime power; the harbor was the reason for the city's existence, the source of its wealth, and led to its recognition. A city-state with its own laws and minting its own coins, Phalasarna provided military advisers and thousands of mercenaries for a war under the Macedonian king Perseus against the Romans (Livy).
Phalasarna was involved in two major wars with neighboring city-states during the Hellenistic period. The first was with Polyrrhenia, probably triggered by land disputes. It started in the late fourth century and ended around 290 BC, following mediation by Cleonymus of Sparta. The peace treaty was inscribed on a stone tablet which is today in the museum of Kissamos. A second war was fought with Cydonia around 184 BC and the disputes were finally resolved through Roman intervention (Polybius).
The city-state prospered with its maritime affairs, evidenced by the remains of monumental buildings and artwork. The treaty with Polyrrhenia gives evidence that in the third century BC the inhabitants of Phalasarna were engaged in piracy, a common practice of the Cretan city-states. In 69-67 BC the Romans sent forces to eliminate piracy from the eastern Mediterranean, stormed Phalasarna, blocked its harbor with massive masonry, and destroyed the whole city, probably killing its citizens. No ancient sources testify directly to these events, but evidence of burning and the harbor blockage itself suggest the tentative conclusions of the excavators.
The location of the city was then forgotten, and Phalasarna appears in Venetian records only as a lost city. The site was rediscovered in the 19th century by British explorers Robert Pashley and Captain T. A. B. Spratt. Spratt, of the Royal Navy, noted in 1859 that the former harbor of the deserted site was now 100 yards from the sea, and that the ancient sea coast must have risen at least twenty four feet. Modern excavation has confirmed this judgment, and also has shown that the harbor rapidly silted up after the Roman attack. Radiocarbon dating of fossil algae along the ancient sea level mark on the cliffs around Phalasarna estimates the sudden sea level change at some time more than sixteen centuries ago. A probable event was the great earthquake and tsunami of 21 July A.D. 365, which wreaked catastrophic damage on all the coasts of the eastern Mediterranean and was recorded by Ammianus Marcellinus and others. An ancient fish basin with two flights of steps carved into the coastal rocks near the harbor entrance has been cracked in half, probably during the same earthquake.
Rescue excavations at Phalasarna began in 1966 directed by the Ephor of the Department of Classical Antiquities in Chania, Dr. Yannis Tzedakis, and continued under Vanna Niniou-Kindeli. Over 70 graves were uncovered, some of them pithos burials, and others cist graves. The early excavations were important, proving the site to have been inhabited in the 6th century BC. Since then, only a small part more of the cemetery has been excavated, and many beautiful artifacts have been recovered, among them a 4th-century pelike showing Eros chasing a Maenad. In the area of the necropolis there stands a two-meter high throne carved from stone, probably dedicated to the Phoenician goddess Astarte.Source: wikipedia.org
Research excavations began in 1986 under Elpida Hadjidaki of the Greek Archaeological Service, and Frank Frost, of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Major items excavated to date include two towers, a fortified gate, long sections of harbor quays with bollards in situ, a secondary basin, an industrial area, a public road, warehouses, an altar, and a water tank.