Gortyn ( ancient Greek Γορτύν, also Γόρτυνα Gortyna in Modern Greek, Γόρτυς Gortyn ) was an ancient city in central southern Crete, about 40 kilometers south of Heraklion in Agii Deka in the Messara plain.

Well known is the archaeological site of Gortyn for the " Greater Inscription ", the oldest so far discovered laws Codex Europe.


The various founding myths of all refer to the legendary King Minos. In fact, traces the first settlement to the Neolithic; a Minoan settlement was located in the southwestern region of the surface. In the traditional Homer Iliad Gortyn is in the second song, line 646, mentioned ( German translation by Johann Heinrich Voss ):

Κρητῶν δ ' Ἰδομενεὺς δουρὶ κλυτὸς ἡγεμόνευεν, οἳ Κνωσόν τ ' εἶχον Γόρτυνά τε τειχιόεσσαν, Λύκτον Μίλητόν τε καὶ ἀργινόεντα Λύκαστον Φαιστόν τε Ῥύτιόν τε, πόλεις εὖ ναιετοώσας, ἄλλοι θ ' οἳ Κρήτην ἑκατόμπολιν ἀμφενέμοντο. τῶν μὲν ἄρ ' Ἰδομενεὺς δουρὶ κλυτὸς ἡγεμόνευε Μηριόνης τ ' ἀτάλαντος Ἐνυαλίῳ ἀνδρειφόντῃ · τοῖσι δ ' ἅμ ' ὀγδώκοντα μέλαιναι νῆες ἕποντο.

Cretan Idomeneus commanded the people, knowledgeable of the lance: All that Gnossos inhabited, and the festummauerte Gortyn, Lyktos also, and Miletus, and round the white Lykastos, Phaistos and Rhythios also that volkdurchwimmelten cities, Even the otherwise still inhabited Crete in a hundred cities: This prevailed ahead Idomeneus, All-Aware of the lance, Also Meriones, equal to the murderous Ares. Follow you ' a squadron of eighty dunkelen ships.

At the time of the Dorian immigration Gortyn was before Phaistos is the most important city of the Messara - a walled acropolis dates from this period. Since the 8th century, the town expanded to the areas of the plane in front of the hill of the Acropolis. In the Archaic period, the city center was already there with an agora ( market place) and a temple of Apollo Pythios. During the heyday of the city-states in classical and Hellenistic Gortyn was Knossos, Eleutherna, Cydonia and Lyktos the most important and populous with 40,000 to 80,000 inhabitants cities of the island.

In the 3rd century BC, the city dominated the southern central Crete fully. 189 BC Hannibal found asylum here. When Gortyn on the side thereof opposite Knossos engaged in conflict with Rome, it was named after the Roman occupation of the island (69 BC), from 67 BC to the capital of the Roman province of Creta, later summarized province Creta et Cyrene, what, for example, the judgment hall, the headquarters and home of proconsular governor, was built.

The city was a center of early Christianity: AD 59, the Apostle Paul preached here. AD 250 to close the so-called Ten saints martyred bishops have been found. The name of the city Agii Deka goes back to this event. In a medieval source Gortyn was already designated for the 2nd century alongside Knossos as episcopal, first bishop to St. Titus, be a student of the Apostle Paul had been.

After the division of the Roman Empire in 395 Gortyn Byzantium was slammed and permanent in the period following a shadowy existence. It was a buccaneer nest, because from Crete it could be more or less operate unmolested. Gortyn had several early Byzantine churches and remained after the conquest by the Arabs who fled from Spain with Abu Hafs Omar ( 824 or 828) abandoned by its inhabitants for a while the only bishopric of Crete, in ecclesiastical terms significant. Only 961 could take back the pirate island and thus Gortyn, the Byzantine commander Nikephoros Phokas. In the former bishop's residence today Titularerzbistum Gortyna goes back.

Since 1884, the ancient city was excavated by Italian archaeologists.

Buildings and landmarks

  • Titus Basilica: ruins of an early Christian basilica from the 6th century; only the altar area of the basilica still stands, three longitudinal vessels can be seen. The name was given the church due to the local tradition by their excavators in the 19th century. Since in later excavations in place Mitropolis another, older church was discovered, he is now regarded as doubtful.
  • Roman Odeion
  • Laws Codex (the Great inscription of Gortyn ): A comprehensive, alternately written in a Doric dialect from left to right and right to left, inscription dating from the 5th century BC, which is located on the north wall of the Odeion, is the oldest laws Codex Europe. Amazing liberal it contains all important for the common life provisions, such as a marriage and family law.
  • Praetorium
  • Temple of Apollo
  • Theater
  • Amphitheater
  • Circus
  • The "Labyrinth" called cave at Gortyn