Recent archaeological research and cross-examination of older excavation data have begun to shed light on the historical period between late antiquity and the 9th c. that was once called “the Dark Ages of Byzantium”. Crete, which up to the 9th c. remained free of enemy invasions, offers a unique opportunity for the study of urban development during the pre-medieval period. Until recently this field remained unexploited due to the dominant perception that the island was a remote area of the Byzantine Empire, rather cut off by developments, an argument now overturned by the evidence of the recent archeological investigation. Ongoing excavations in the ancient cities of Central Crete, such as Gortys, Leben, Matala, Knossos, Heraklion, Chersonesos and Inatos, prove the continuity of habitation and the flourishing of those cities, at least until the end of the 8th c. Even before the Arab invasion, the decline of trade due to raids, plague, famine and the devastation by the earthquake of 795 led to the abandonment of the ancient cities and to people seeking refuge into the small fortresses built on the nearby hills or reconstructed Hellenistic acropoleis. Only the major ports of Heraklion, Kydonia and Ierapetra survived, well protected by their large city walls. When the Arabs landed on the south coast in 823 or 826, they faced small fortified installations based on agriculture for their survival. They settled in the fortified cities of Heraklion and Kydonia, were they engaged in piracy and trade, paying no interest to the agricultural hinterland except for taxation.