The mandolin first appeared on Crete in Venetian times. It was widely played in the inter-war years, at which time it was the main accompaniment to the lyra and the fiddle in the Prefecture of Heraklion.

To this day the mandolin remains popular as a solo instrument, particularly at small social gatherings in homes, coffee houses and elsewhere. Traditionally it was the only instrument ever played by Cretan women.

Various versions of the instrument exist, such as the large mandola - a flat type, with no curvature at the back of the sound box, and the most usual kind, with a pear-shaped sound box, which is commonly known as the kouroupoto (pitcher style) mandolin.

Traditional mandolins
The mandolin accompanied by the viololyra (Nelly's, Benaki Museum, Athens)
Large type of mandolin known as the mandola
Modern kouroupoto or pitcher-style mandolin
Mandolin player at the turn of the 20th century (Ioannis M. Tzanis Collection, Moni, Malevizi)