Monday, May 20, 2013

Gortyna, Crete

The ancient city of Gortyna is located on the plain of Messara, which has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. By the classical era (5th to 4th century B.C.), the city was quite large and powerful, even minting the first Cretan silver coins in 470. In the Roman period, substantial improvements were made including a large water supply and drainage system. Gortyna was the Roman capital of Crete. St. Titus, a disciple of the apostle Paul, founded the first Christian Cretan church and was martyred here. The city continued to flourish under the Romans and the Byzantines, eventually being destroyed by the Saracens in the 9th century A.D. The site has been uninhabited ever since.

Gortyna ruins

We drove into the town of Agii Deka and walked through some of the ruins to the main archeological site. My wife had the brilliant idea of calling it a "ghost town," having the children on their guard and ready to protect us from any danger.

Idyllic or ominous red flowers?

Old walls

The first site we came upon was the old Roman Praetorium, the governor's palace. Nearby were clear signs of preservation work.

Praetorium at a distance

View from the other side

Columns protected from the rain

Also nearby was a small flock of sheep wandering through the area. We were able to get close but not too close to the action. The shepherd eventually showed up following along behind the sheep.

L, Daddy, sheep

J was busy thinking about other things than sheep

Nearby are two temples. One is to Pythian Apollo (a native Greek god) dating from the 7th century B.C., the other to Egyptian deities dating from the 4th to the 1st century B.C.

Temple to Apollo, dates from Roman period

Temple to Egyptian gods

More of the Egyptian temple ruins

After crossing a road, we came to the main archeological area, i.e. we had to pay to get inside. The best preserved buildings are in this area. The church of St. Titus was described in yesterday's post. In addition, there is the Odeon from the first century A.D. The Odeon was a roofed theater that would have musical concerts and plays.

Theater in the round!

View from backstage

Behind the Odeon is a building with the Great Inscription. Dating from the 5th century B.C., the blocks contain amendments to Dorian law of that period, including topics like divorce, adultery, inheritance, and property rights. There are no references to criminal or commercial laws. The text reads from left to right with the subsequent line reading right to left, presumably to make faster reading.

The Great Inscription wall

Wall detail

Laws that didn't make it in

L wants to amend the laws

Other areas include the Agora or marketplace for the town.


Base of a column, good for an action shot

This would be a grate place for a shop!

Ruins being restored

On the hill above is the Acropolis and a temple to Athena. We didn't make it quite that far.

Too far for children to walk

The area also has an extensive collection of statues from the Roman period, the most unique being this fellow whose either broken his arm or gotten entangled putting his toga on.

The folds by his legs are pretty amazing!

Three women

Two headless women

Two more headless women

We stopped for a snack in the open air gift shop. The tables had a sign nearby that we think is unique in all our travels.


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