The Byzantine and Arab Periods (395-1204 AD)

  During the First Byzantine period (395-824), Rethymnon continued to exist as a small village as part of the Eastern Roman Empire.  Axos and Eleftherna became the religious centres of the area as Christianity expanded across the island.  There is little information about Rethymnon during this time, however some tombstones from the period have been discovered and are on display in the Rethymnon Archaeological Museum.

Arabs conquered the island in 824 and ruled until 961.  There is little historical evidence about the impact of the Arab rule on the region, however, some Arab coins have been found in the area of the village of Giannoudi (4 km South-East of Rethymnon).  It is also believed that it was during this period that the ancient sites of Sybritos and Lappa were destroyed.

Crete was liberated from the Arabs by Nikoforos Foka in 961.  Liberation was followed by Crete's reintegration into the Byzantine Empire.  It is during the Second Byzantine Period (961-1204) that a settlement by the harbour was first established.  By the time the Venetians first arrived in 1204 this settlement had been fortified, evidence for this comes from the description of Byzantine fortifications in a Venetian document of 1229.  However, no physical evidence of the original Byzantine fortifications remains.