The ancient Minoan settlement of Kydhonia was here-according to legend, named for Kydhon, a grandson of King Minos. (Interestingly, kydhonia in modern Greeks, means 'quinces' and is also a type of shellfish). Not much of the ancient city has been found, since modern Hania sits atop ancient, and no palace, though many believe that one exists. In ancient times and up until the Classical Greek era, this was one of Crete's most important cities; and was mentioned in Homer's Odyssey.
It fell to the Romans in 69BC after a fierce struggle but thrived afterward. Kastelli-the hillside area-was the site of the acropolis. Roman mosaics have been found under the modern marketplace in the city below, which was a the seat of a bishop during Byzantine times. The Genoese took the city from the Venetians during the 13th century and later the Venetians took it back, renamed it La Canea, and fortified it with strong western walls during the 14th and 16th centuries (the second time against pirate attack). The city fell to the Turks after a two-month siege in 1645, despite the Cretans having inflicted terrific losses on the Turks (to the tune of 40,000 dead), and became the Turkish capital of Crete and seat of the pasha. It was the first important Cretan center to surrender to Ottoman rule. Christian churches were converted to mosques (as they were everywhere in Greece after the Turkish conquest).
In 1897, during the late years of the War of Independence, Cretans raised the Greek flag, to be bombarded by the Great Powers (see section on Akrotiri). Though central Greece and some islands became a nation in 1830, only nine years after the Greek War of Independence began in the the Peloponnese, Crete was under the Ottoman empire until 1912 (along with Macedonia and Ipirus), not becoming part of Greece until 1913. During World War II most of the German landings and fighting was on the coast west of Hania and all but the old harbor area was wiped out by heavy bombardments compounded by a fire and the last six months of German occupation centered on Hania. The city was rebuilt after the war, and has, like all of Greeks cities, expanded in size and population since, to its present population of around 50,000 inhabitants, though it didn't become a tourist destination until the 1980s.