The Ancient city of Gortys
Slightly north of Phaistos, between the villages of Agioi Deka
and Mitropoli are the ruins of ancient Gortys, Gortyna or Gortyn,
one of Crete s most powerful cities and island s capital at the
times of the Roman and Byzantine periods. With a history of
6,000 years it is one of the most extensive archaeological
sites. The whole area has been inhabited since the end of the
Neolithic period and continued through the Minoan period with a
Minoan villa found near Mitropolis in the Kannia area proof of
Gortys replaced Phaestos in the middle of 1000 BC as the chief city. The most interesting monuments on the site are the remains of a fortified acropolis, the temple of Athena Poliochios, the crepidoma of an ancient theatre and the Odeon, which was used for plays, recitals and musical events . Also, at the back of the site, is the famous and rare evergreen plane tree of Gortys which was reputed to have shaded the wedding guests of Zeus and Europa. Be sure also to see the fascinating Law Code of Gortys carved on the Great Inscription in twelve columns. They deal with matters of civil law and are extremely progressive and liberal. They represent not just the laws of a Cretan city-state but also they form the oldest Greek law code and are considered to be the greatest contribution of Classical Crete to world culture.
Near the car park it is worth looking at the Roman statues which were discovered whilst excavations were taking place in the wider area of Gortys. They date from 1st to 3rd century AD and are Roman copies of Greek statues. Near the agora are the ruins of the Basilica and church of Ayia Titos, one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture. Built in the mid-6th to early 7th century AD it was mostly destroyed during an earthquake in the 8th century. The Gortys Museum, close to the basilica houses finds from the area and is located in a square with ancient olive trees. .