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Gortys

The archaeological site of Gortys is lying in the fertile plateau of Messara. The town of Gortys was inhabited from the Neolithic era, but it was only after the fall of Knossos that it became the most prominent city of Crete.

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Later on it became the Province's capital during the Roman era, that also comprised Cyrenaica (today’s Libya) on the North African coast.

Seaports to Gortys were Matala and Levin (Lentas of today).

Upon entering the site of Gortys you meet the Basilica of St. Titus, an early Christian Architecture church, dating back to the 7th century AD with frescoe traces still visible on the side chapels.

Beyond the church lies the Roman Agora and the Roman Odeum, a roofed theatre for musical performances, rebuilt by emperor Trajan around 100 AD. Incorporated in its walls is the famous law of Gortyn.

Inscribed sometime at the beginning of the 5th century BC, if one judges by the letters and the "boustrophedon" writing (one line goes from left to right and the second from right to left etc) the Gortyn law, gives us a very important glimpse into the early Greek Crete and the Dorian customs, while they are the earliest law code and the first European one. Under that law the serfs and their wives had real social and legal status. A serf could marry and divorce. The woman serf changed master when she married. If she divorced she would have to go back to the old master. Status of children born from a mixed marriage between a free person and a serf, depended on whether the marriage was matrilocal or not. No name of lawgiver is mentioned. Apparently, it represents a collective custom, changing from "primitive" to "mature" law.

Today, although the entire site is not excavated, one can also visit the remains of the theatre on the hillside, the Acropolis with the temple of Pythian Apollo and that of the Egyptian divinities of Isis and Serapes, who became popular in Crete following the Roman conquest. The roman governor's house (Praetorium), a building of 2nd century AD, and an early Christian Basilica are also worth visiting on the way to the village of Metropolis.

The information on this page is taken from books published by D&I Mathioulakis, Athens, Greece. Check the list of books published on Greece by the same company. You can order them on line, and claim your free map of Crete.



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