The apostle Paul preached here and the city is known for its text of the law carved in stone, the oldest text found in Europe.
Currently the ruins of ancient Gortyna / Gortys / Gortyn (Greek: Γόρτυνα) covers an area of about 400 hectares. These sizes should come as no surprise, as the city had to accommodate 35-40,000 residents and 5,000 mercenaries in Roman times. In addition to public buildings and temples, wells, colonnades, workshops, schools, aqueducts and waterworks, baths, theaters, markets and secondary schools were created on the site. The stone for its construction was taken from a nearby quarry called Messara Labyrinth near the town of Ambelouzos. Water from springs on the Psiloritis slopes was brought to Gortyna by aqueducts. On its territory, water supply systems were distributed to 46 fonntans, a bathhouse and laundry. A large number of residents needed efficient management and legal issues. Discovered boards with the Gorton code also prove that Gortys was one of the best managed cities in Crete.
Gortyna is considered to be one of the most extensive excavations in Greece and is located near the village of Agia Deka. The asphalt road divides the former metropolis and so on one side of the road are the remains of St. Titus Church, a small Odeon and the Gorton Law. On the other side between olive trees are the extensive remains of the basilica, the temple of Apollo and the Egyptian gods, the praetorium and the Roman baths. The first part is fenced and costs entry, while the other is much more extensive, but not yet processed, with remains of ancient culture scattered between olive trees. Here and there are fragments of columns and remnants of cobbled streets and remind us that the inhabitants of this city once walked on the same stones.
Both parts are well worth seeing and the excavations are still going on, so amazing fragments are found every year, such as rare silver coins and loads of ancient shards.
The name Gortyna was taken from the name of its founder, although it is not clear where it came from or whether it was a man. The area where Gortyna was founded has been inhabited since the end of the Neolithic. After the Minoan era, remains were in the form of residential villas near the village of Mitropolis. However, the real history of this place began when Gortyna in the third century BC. BC triumphed over Phaistos and took power in the entire Messara region.
67 BC The Romans were interested in Crete and founded the capital and the Roman province Cyrenaica, which included Egypt and part of North Africa, which made Knossos less important. The impressive remains of Gortyna only confirm its high status at the time and its important political and economic importance.
In 330 the city was conquered by the Byzantine Empire. Here, the apostle Titus, the first bishop of Crete and its patron saint, proclaimed Christianity, and Gortyna was the first city in Crete to support the new faith. Two temples were dedicated to him, the ruins of which can be seen.
In 796 the city was almost completely destroyed during an earthquake and 32 years later Candia (now Heraklion) was named the capital of Crete.
In 1857, in a local mill, two French travelers, G. Perrot and L. Thenon, discovered a small piece of a plaque embedded in the wall of a watermill in the neighboring village of Agioi Deka and which had 15 archaic lines on it. The find ended up in the Louvre Museum, where it aroused the interest of researchers. As it turned out, the decrypted fragmentary record concerned the rules for child adoption. A year later, another French scientist, B. Haussoullier, found another stone in the walls of a house in the same village. The text, which consisted of 15 poems, was later found to be the original fragment of the Code of Succession.
In 1884 the Italian archaeologist Federico Halbherr visited Gortya, he wanted to see the mill in which these mysterious writings were discovered and in the watercourse, he discovered some columns with inscriptions of the old law, which was later called the Code of Gortyna.
The discovery of the Great Inscription led to the start of excavation work in this area. They were carried out by the Italian Archaeological Mission in collaboration with the Archaeological Service after Crete regained its autonomy in 1898. The work was directed by Federico Halbherr, Joseph Hatzidakis, and Stefanos Xanthoudides. Today the most important finds are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion.