(ancient Greek Gortyn Γορτύν or Gortyna Γόρτυνα, Modern Greek Gortyn Γόρτυς)

From Lentas coming over Miamou, Plora and Platanos further to Mitropoli you reach directly the important archaeological site of the ancient city of Gortyn. Today's busy main road to Heraklion leads through the former center of this important ancient city which was for centuries the capital of Crete and of a Roman province in North Africa.

Since 6000 years the area of Gortyn has been inhabited continuously and it seems that Gortyn in its heyday had been the most populous city of Crete (the population is estimated at 35,000 to 40,000). Lentas (the ancient city Lebén) was besides Matala an important port for Gortyn and a major transshipment port between Egypt and the East.

With the Arab conquest 828 AD the city lost influence since it was finally abandoned and nearly one thousand years forgotten, it has been largely overgrown by nature and the ruins were only recently rediscovered.

Gortyn became world famous through the exposure of a legal code (the Great Code) from the first half of the 5th century BC. The inscription carved in stone contains the legal code of the ancient city of Gortyn and it is the oldest known European Code, which assigns the Civil Law. The law of Gortyn is an amazing testimony of liberal and equitable legislation and the greatest philosophers of antiquity had high respect for the progressiveness and liberality of the Gortyn Code.

Nowadays the 12 columns are placed at the spot where they were discovered in 1857 on the central archaeological site of Gortyn (north of the main road), immured in a round building in the Roman Odeon.

On the site there are also the remains of Saint Titus Basilica and on a hilltop are the ruins of the Acropolis and the Greek Theatre.

South of the main road, hidden in a large olive grove more ancient excavations are tucked. Here you can discover the remains of the ancient city over a large area in a peaceful atmosphere among the old olive trees.

Information Gortyn

  • Adonis Vasilakis: Great Inscription of the Law Code of Gortyn. MYSTIS, Heraklion 2007, ISBN-10: 9608853400
  • The Gortyn Code