Excavations indicate that there were neolithic settlements around Sitia and an important Minoan settlement at nearby Petras. In the Graeco-Roman era, there was a town called Iteia in or around modern Sitia, although its exact site has not yet been located. In Byzantine times, Sitia became a bishopric, which was then eliminated by the Saracens in the 9th century. Under the Venetians, Sitia became the most important port in eastern Crete and their name for the port, La Sitia, is said to have given the Lasithi area its name.
Sitia was hit by a disastrous earthquake in 1508 – a blow from which it never really recovered. The Turkish blockade of Sitia in 1648 marked its death knell. The remaining inhabitants fled and the town languished until the Turks made Sitia an administrative centre in the late 19th century.
Crete’s most famous poet, Vitsentzos Kornaros, writer of the epic love poem ‘Erotokritos’, was born in Sitia in 1614.