A few decades of peace and prosperity
Venice fully intended to recover Crete if possible, and remained at least a potential threat until 1715, when its three small island bases off the northern coast were lost for good. With this threat ended, the island became economically productive again, as it had generally done throughout its history after the dust of each successive conquest had settled.
Olive oil, possibly from Crete
The wine trade was now overshadowed by the growth of the trade in olive oil. Crete continued to export wheat, raisins, wool, and beeswax as well. France, eager to compete with Venice in the eastern Mediterranean trade, pursued close ties with the Turks, but the Venetians also continued trading in the ports of Turkish-occupied Crete—apparently at every moment when they were not actively at war with the Ottoman Empire. Travelers speak of Cretan markets as good places to acquire luxury fabrics, and these were almost certainly manufactured in Venice.
Cretan olives ripening on the branch
Even during the long siege of Candia, Canea—the first Cretan city to fall—became active as a trading port under its new Ottoman masters. Unlike Candia, which was devastated to such an extent that it had to be entirely repopulated with new and generally Muslim citizens, Canea retained much of its Catholic and Orthodox population, and perhaps for this reason became the favorite trading port for Europeans. It’s true that Canea was closer to the center of the area where most olive oil was being produced at that time, but it’s also probable that merchants from the European side of the western Mediterranean felt more at home there. Although Canea became the leading port for trade with the Christian West, Candia, once it had recovered from the war, continued to be the main center for trade with the Muslim East.
Cretan olive oil soap
Tempting as it might be to blame the relative decline of wine production on the Islamic faith of Crete’s new rulers, it’s more likely that changes in culinary fashion were responsible. Well before the end of Venetian rule, the islanders had begun planting more olive trees, to the point that the authorities worried, just as they had about grapevines, that Crete’s capacity to satisfy Venice’s need for wheat might be affected. The taste of England, Holland, and northern France for olive oil was growing, and the trade was profitable for Crete. In the 18th century a Cretan soap manufacturing industry sprang up, also based on olive oil.
Cretan wine grapes ready for pressing
Not that the wine trade disappeared. Molly Greene studied the court records of Canea and found nary a mention of wine, although many cases involve “goods” of an unspecified nature, and the names of the merchants involved in such cases are usually Christian. The Turkish authorities were willing to tolerate (and certainly to tax) the production and sale of wine, but—as one Turkish document quoted by Greene declares—making and selling the stuff was the business of infidels. The wine trade brought in profits for vintners and merchants and revenue for the state, but tolerating it was apparently too delicate a matter to let wine be explicitly included in the business of an Islamic law court.
Barrels full of Cretan wine
Note: Alert surfers have probably noticed that all the illustrations on this page are from the present day, not the 17th or 18th century. Even on the Internet, it’s impossible to find good pictures of 300-year-old olives or grapes. Fortunately, however, olive oil and wine are still important to the Cretan economy, and soap too is still exported, though on a rather small scale. I found these pictures to liven the page a bit, and verified as well as the Web would allow that most of the articles shown here were genuinely photographed in Crete. The picture of olive oil is an exception, however. That picture is all over the Web, appearing on many pages in various languages, and for all I know this bottle of oil may be claimed by dozens of countries. But it looks like Cretan olive oil (as well as everyone else’s).