The city is situated on
the Gulf of Mirabello in E Crete. It was bounded to the
N by the Oxa mountain chain, marking the frontier with
Olonte, to the W by the foothills of the Lasithi mountains
and to the S by the territories of Arkades, Malla, and
Hierapytna. Lato had a port, Lato pros Kamara (mod.
Haghios Nikolaos) and a number of inland plains suitable for agriculture, the largest of which however is no
more than a few km square.
The name appears on several Mycenaean tablets at
Knossos. But up to the present time only a few objects
and sherds of Late Minoan III have been found on the
site, and then always at the surface. The earliest structures to be excavated date from the 7th c.
Excavations in 1899-1900 yielded an abundance of
terracottas showing oriental influence: female figures,
sphinxes, Daidalian heads. Digging carried out in 1968
near the great temple revealed a pottery dating from the
Objects found in these digs are now divided between
the Heraklion, Mallia, and Haghios Nikalaos museums.
Lato's ruins are situated ca. 8 km from the sea. Scattered over the whole site can be seen the remains of
several terrace walls and walls of houses. The latter are
designed on an interesting plan: built lengthwise, they
sometimes have a courtyard with a cistern, a large room
with a hearth and one or more secondary rooms. Although not all the houses have been explored, the masonry of the walls shows that they date from different, and
in some cases quite early, periods. The plan of the city
was governed by the nature of the site, which is hilly.
The presence of large numbers of cisterns can be explained by the shortage of water.
During excavations carried out in 1899 and 1900, then
again from 1967 to 1971, the city agora was uncovered
on the W pass as well as some civic and religious buildings nearby and a section containing fortified houses between the agora and the W city gate.
1. Agora and prytanaion: Along the E side of the
agora is a terrace wall, the earliest stage of which may
go back to the 7th c. In the center of it is a small ruined
temple that may date from the archaic period. The square
is lined to the W by a portico and to the S by an exedra.
On the N side is a flight of steps leading to the prytanaion. Lato's principal civic building is made up of two
sections: a peristyle court to the E, and to the W the area
where the cosmes (council of city magistrates) took their
meals together. The steps leading to the prytanaion apparently served as a meeting place for an enlarged assembly. Indeed, the manner in which they are laid out—three
flights of steps 30-40 cm high separated by two series of
lower stairways—resembles the plan of theaters in mainland Greece. E and W of the steps are two massive
structures, rectangular in plan, whose appearance is reminiscent of military rather than civic architecture. They
were designed to support the platform on which the prytanaion stood. Between the steps and the W bastion is a
gap of a few m, now occupied by a peasant's hut, which
in antiquity may have held two rooms of still indeterminate purpose.
Recent studies have shown that the main city buildings
date at the earliest from the second half of the 4th or 3d
c. B.C. Only then, apparently, was a vast building plan
carried out in the city center.
2. Sanctuary and theater S of the agora: The city's
principal religious monument (10.1 x 6.5 m) stands on
a terrace connected to the agora by a winding road. Rectangular in plan, it consists of a pronaos and a cella. It
is not known to what deity the temple was consecrated.
The temple terrace is supported by a fine wall of polygonal masonry with bosses ca. 40 m long. The 1968-69
excavations uncovered an interesting complex at the foot
of this terrace consisting of straight tiers of steps and a
rectangular carefully built exedra. The tiers and the
exedra make up the cavea of a sort of rustic theater, the
stage being formed by a platform ca. 8 x 30 m. What
kind of ceremony, religious or civic, this complex was
designed for we do not know.
3. Fortified houses: The first excavations revealed a
street that climbs gradually from the W fortified gate to
the agora. To the S it is lined with a series of stalls and
workshops backed against a late rampart. Traces of various kinds of crafts: pottery, iron-working, dyeing have
been found here. To the N, at the end of the rows of
terraces spread out over the sides of the acropolis, are
some sturdy walls with one gate per terrace cut in them.
The resultant passageways open onto either a house or
a pathway leading to the N quarter. Study of these individual fortifications, set side by side yet separate from
each other, shows that the methods used in them are
more and more complex. Certain houses, the latest ones,
are veritable towers with zigzag entrances. When the S
rampart was put up the complex lost its usefulness.
In the 2d c. B.C. the inhabitants of Lato seem to have
abandoned the high city and settled by the sea, at Lato
pros Kamara. Numerous inscriptions dating from this
period found at Haghios Nikolaos show that the city
enjoyed renewed activity at this time.
A.J.A. Evans, “Goulas, The City of
2 (1895-96) 169-94; J. Demargne, “Les
ruines de Goulas ou l'ancienne ville de Lato en Crete,”
25 (1901) 282-307 & pls. XX-XXI; id., “Fouilles à
Lato en Crète 1899-1900,” BCH
27 (1903) 206-32 & pls.
IV-V; P. Demargne, “Terres cuites archaïques de Lato,”
53 (1929) 382-429 & pls. XXIV-XXX; E. Kirsten,
suppl. VII (1940) 342-65; P. Ducrey & O.
Picard, “Recherches à Lato, I. Trois fours archaïques,”
93 (1969) 792-822; id., “II. Le grand temple,” BCH
94 (1970) 567-90; id., “IV. Le théâtre,” BCH
515-31; id., “V. Le prytanée,” BCH
96 (1972) 567-92;
Vanna Hadjimichali, “III. Maisons,” BCH
P. DUCREY & O. PICARD