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GORTYN, GORTYNA (Γορτύν, Γόρτυνα: Eth. Γορτύνιος), a town of Crete which appears in the Homeric poems, under the form of Γορτύν (Il. 2.646, Od. 3.294); but afterwards became usually Γόρτυνα (comp. Tzchuck ad Pomp. Melam, vol. iii. pt. ii. p. 811), according to Steph. B. sub voce (s. v.) it was originally called Larissa (Λάρισσα) and Cremnia (Κρήμνια).

This important city was next to Cnossus in importance and splendour; in early times these two great towns had entered into a league which enabled them to reduce the whole of Crete under their power; in after-times when dissensions arose among them they were engaged in continual hostilities (Strab. x. p.478). It was originally of very considerable size, since Strabo (l.c.) reckons its circuit at 50 stadia; but when he wrote it was very much diminished. He adds that Ptolemy Philopator had begun to enclose it with fresh walls; but the work was not carried on for more than 8 stadia. In the Peloponnesian War, Gortyna seems to have had relations with Athens. (Thuc. 2.85). In B.C. 201, Philopoemen, who had been invited over by the inhabitants, assumed the command of the forces of Gortyna. (Plut. Phil. 13.) In B.C. 197, five hundred of the Gortynians, under their commander, Cydas, which seems to have been a common name at Gortyna, joined Quinctius Flamininus in Thessaly (Liv. 33.3.)

Gortyna stood on a plain watered by the river Lethaeus, and at a distance of 90 stadia from the Libyan Sea, on which--were situated its two harbours, Lebena and Metallum (Strab. l.c.), and is mentioned [p. 1.1006]by Pliny (4.20), Scylax (p. 19), Ptolemy (3.17.10), and Hierocles, who commenced his tour of the island with this place.

In the neighbourhood of Gortyna, the fountain of Sauros is said to have been surrounded by poplars which bore fruits (Theophrast. H. P. 3.5); and on the banks of the Lethaeus was another famous spring, which the naturalists said was shaded by a plane-tree, which retained its foliage through the winter, and which the people believed to have covered the marriage-bed of Europa and the metamorphosed Zeus. (Theophrast. H. P. 1.15; Varr. de Re Rustic. 1.7; Plin. Nat. 12.1.)

The ruins of Gortyna, as they existed previously, have been described more or less diffusely by various writers (Belon, Les Observ. des plus Singul. p. 8; Tournefort, Voyage du Lévant, pp. 58--64; Pococke, Trav. vol. ii. pt. i. pp. 252--255; Savary, Lettres sur la Grèce, xxiii.); their statements, along with the full account of the Venetian MS. of the 16th century, will be found in the Museum of Classical Antiquities, vol. ii. pp. 277--286. The site of Gortyna cannot, till the survey of the island is completed, be made out, but Mr. Pashley (Trav. vol. i. p. 295) has placed it near the modern Haghius Dhéka, where the ten Saints of Gortyna, according to tradition, suffered martyrdom in the reign of Decius (comp. Cornelius, Creta Sacra, vol. i. pp. 156--166). In this neighbourhood is the cavern which Mr. Cockerell (Walpole, Memoirs, vol. ii. pp. 402--406) has conjectured to be the far-famed labyrinth; but as the ancients. with the exception of Claudian (Sext. Cons. Hon. 634), who, probably, used the name of the town as equivalent to Cretan, are unanimous in fixing the legend of the Minotaur at Cnossus, the identification must be presumed to be purely fanciful. The coins of Gortyna are of very ancient workmanship. Besides the autonomous, there are numerous imperial coins, ranging from Augustus to Hadrian. (Eckhel, vol. ii. p. 312; Sestini, p. 82.)



hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • Homer, Iliad, 2.646
    • Homer, Odyssey, 3.294
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 12.1
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.20
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 33, 3
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.85
    • Plutarch, Philopoemen, 13
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