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GORTYN Kainourgiou, Crete.

The most important Graeco-Roman city of Crete stood on the N edge of the plain of Mesara, 15 km E of the great Bronze Age palatial site at Phaistos. Prehistoric remains at the site are scarce, although some evidence of Neolithic and Minoan occupation was found nearby at Mitropolis, and a little Late Minoan material has been found at Gortyn itself. References to the city in the Iliad (2.646) and Odyssey (3.294) suggest that there was probably a Late Bronze Age settlement somewhere in the vicinity of the Graeco-Roman city. The foundation of the city is variously ascribed to Lakonians (Konon, History 36), Tegeans (Paus. 8.53) and to Minos (Strab. 10.476-7), but the beginnings of the Graeco-Roman city can best be ascribed to the Geometric or early archaic period. The earliest inscriptions from the site date from the later 7th c., and the oldest of the temples was either a Geometric or archaic foundation. By the 3d c. B.C. it had become one of the major cities of Crete, and had conquered Phaistos and taken over its harbor at Matala. In 221 B.C., however, civil war broke out in the city between those who favored an alliance with Knossos and those who preferred alliance with Lyttos. The result of the war is uncertain, but there followed a long period of intermittent hostilities with Knossos, which were really ended only by the Roman conquest of Crete in 68 B.C. Gortyn allied with Rome, and while Knossos was destroyed, Gortyn became the capital of the new province of Crete and Cyrene. The city was finally destroyed by the Saracens in A.D. 824.

The city was built on either side of the Lethaios River, but there are few surviving remains to be seen to the W of the river. Immediately W of the river, however, is the acropolis with traces of its ancient wall and with the early temple mentioned above. This was a slightly oblong building with a cella, toward the back of which was a bothros flanked by two repositories. The building was restored in Classical, Hellenistic, and early Roman times. At the foot of the acropolis, by the river, are the remains of a theater.

Immediately opposite the theater, on the E bank, is the odeion, which was built in the late 1st c. B.C. and, after being damaged by an earthquake, was restored by Trajan. Behind the brick-floored stage was a facade with three portals and four built niches, while on the N side, incorporated into the foundations, were the 12 stone blocks carrying the famous law code. These had been built into an earlier, Hellenistic building which may well have been a law court, but the inscription was first cut in the first half of the 5th c. B.C. The code itself undoubtedly contains much that is archaic and indeed Minoan.

To the S of the odeion lay the agora and the Temple of Asklepios, about both of which little is known, although the cult statue from the temple is preserved in the Herakleion Museum. South of the agora, and close to the modern road, is the Church of Haghios Titus. It was probably built in the 6th c. A.D., but much of what survives certainly belongs to later repairs and additions. Originally there appear to have been transeptal apses and flanking chapels on either side of the great central apse and altar.

To the S of the modern road are several other important public buildings. Close together stand the Temple of Apollo Pythios and the Temple of Isis. The former is said to have stood at the center of the city and to have been its most important temple. Its foundation date is uncertain but it was restored and enlarged during the Hellenistic period, when a pronaos was added, with six half-columns of the Doric order. Between the columns were placed inscribed blocks carrying the treaties made between Gortyn and other Cretan cities during the 2d c. B.C. In the cella two rows of four Corinthian columns, the bases of which are still in situ, divided the interior into three aisles. Other subsequent additions included the great stepped altar which stood before the pronaos and was built during the Roman period. The Temple of Isis, just N of the Temple of Apollo, is known from an inscription to have been dedicated in fact to Isis, Serapis, and various Egyptian deities. The altar stand on the E wall, opposite the entrance, was in fact divided into three and took statues of Isis, Serapis, and Anubis. Niches for further statues were situated in the other walls and a number of inscriptions were recovered from the site.

East of the Temple of Apollo was a small nymphaion built at the end of the 2d c. A.D., and subsequently (6th-7th c. A.D.) made into a reservoir and fountain. A similar fate befell a second nymphaion, built perhaps a little earlier, and situated some distance S of the first. Immediately S of the N nymphaion is the building known as the Praetorium, and identified as the residence of the governor of the province. It was originally built at the beginning of the 2d c. B.C. during the reign of Trajan and may then have been a domestic residence for the governor and little more. Rebuilding following earthquake damage in the 4th c., however, saw the construction of the great basilican hall, which signifies that the building was now, if not before, used as an administrative center.

To the W, and close to the Temple of Apollo is a small brick-built theater of the Roman period. Some distance S of it are the remains of a substantial building of the Roman period which is almost certainly the main public baths. East of the baths is the brick and masonry amphitheater, another of the buildings erected early in the 2d c. A.D. The oval cavea is partially taken up by a built stage for theatrical performances, while on the outside wall of the building built niches were originally embellished with statues, one of which (of Antoninus Pius) is still preserved—the trunk on the site and the head in the Heraklion Museum. Fragments of other sculptured pieces survive in the vicinity of the amphitheater. South of it some of the supporting arches of the great circus or stadium can be seen.

During the Roman period water was supplied to the city by a built aqueduct which ran from a source somewhere along the line of the Lethaios river.

Finds from the site are on display in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, and in the small museum on the W outskirts of the village of Haghia Deka where a number of statues and inscriptions are displayed.


Hom. Od. 3.294; Il. 2.646; Strab. 10.476; F. Halbherr, “Relazione Sugli Scavi del Tempio di Apollo Pythio in Gortina,” MonAnt 1 (1892) 9-76; D. Comparetti, “Nuovi Frammenti d'Iscrizioni Arcaiche Trovati nel Pythion,” MonAnt 1 (1892) 77-120; S. Ricci, “Il Pretorio di Gortyna, Secundo un Disegno a Penna e Manoscritti Inediti del Secolo XVI,” MonAnt 2 (1892) 317-34; L. Savignoni et al., “Nuovi Studii e Scoperte in Gortyna,” MonAnt 18 (1907) 177-384I; L. Pernier & L. Banti, Guida degli Scavi Italiano in Creta (1947)MI; D. Levi, “Atti Della Scuola,” Annuario NS 19-20 (1958) 389-94; R. F. Willetts, The Law Code of Gortyn (1967)I; G. Rizza & V. Santa Maria Scrinari, Il Santuaria Sull' Acropoli di Gortina (1968)PI.


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