Gortyn is located at the Messara Valley, near the village of Agioi Deka, on the 46th km of the main road from Iraklion to Tibaki that traverses the island from north to the south.
Gortyn is crossed by the river Lithaios, today called Mitropolianos, that dominates the valley of Messara.
The significance of the great ancient city of Gortyn is recognized and recorded in its rich mythological and religious tradition. Great gods, like Zeus, Europe and Demeter, but also semi gods, heroes and kings like Minos, Gortys, Rhadamanthys, as well as Iasion and the Minotaur play a leading role in its myths. Gortyn is also associated with the major figures of Christianity; the Apostles Paul and Titus, and the Holy Ten Martyrs.
Gortyn was one of the oldest and strongest cities in Crete during the prehistoric and historic period. The population of ancient Gortyn is believed to be 300.000 people. The Gortynians occupied Phaistos during the 3rd century B.C. During the Roman period reached the peak of its glory and it was the capital of Crete. Gortyn was the first city of Crete to accept Christianity, and maintained its glory until 828 A.D. when it was occupied and destroyed by the Saracens. Since then it was never inhabited again.
The most important monuments of the ancient Gortyn are the ruins of the acropolis and the Odeum. The odeum of the ancient city was the place where parts of the great Law Code of Gortyn
was discovered. The Gortyn Law was inscribed on stones. Four series of inscribed stones are preserved today, which constitute relics of great importance for the study of the epigraphy and Law of the time. The inscription is in a Dorian dialect and it was written at the end of the 6th century B.C.
At the organized main archaeological site, visitors
can see the Roman Odeum and the Great Inscription
with the Law Code of Gortyn, the early Byzantine
church of Saint Titus, and the Antiquarium next to the
modern refreshment hall. Scholars and any other interested person can also visit the other major excavated monuments, providing they contact the Archaeological Service in advance and are accompanied by a warden.
The magnificent ruins of the great ancient city of
Gortyn, including the Acropolis and the cemeteries, cover an area of 4 square kilometers in the middle of
the Messara plain. The rectangle formed by the ruins
is 2 kms long on each side. The northern side is
bordered by the hills of Agios Ioannis, the Armi and
the hill of Prophitis llias. The southern side reaches
the fields south of the village of Mitropoli. To the
west it extends to the western boundary of the
fields belonging to the Agricultural School of
Mesara, while to the east lies the village of Agioi
Deka. The site is crossed by the modern roads
leading from Agioi Deka to Mires, from Agioi
Deka to Vagionia, and from Mitropoli to Lentas.
Besides, through the area flows the Mitropolianos
River, which according to one theory is the ancient;
river Lethaios, a tributary of Geropotamos (possibly the ancient Malonites).
Gortyn is the largest archaeological site on Crete
in terms of land area, and one of the largest in
Greece. Foreign travellers, impressed by its ruins as
early as six centuries ago, refer to the great number
of statues, inscriptions, columns and other
architectural fragments (up to 1500 in total).
23rd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities
Τ.Κ. 70012, Agioi Deka (Prefecture of Iraklio)
Telephone: +30 28920 31144
Full: €6, Reduced: €3
Website: The Hellenic Ministry of Culture