The ruins of the large ancient city of Gortyna along with its acropolis and cemeteries lie 46 km south of the city of Herakleion on the plains of Mesaras and on an area of 4,000 hectares.
In 67 A.D. and for the following one thousand years it was the capital of Crete whereas it was where the first silver Cretan coins were cut in 470 A.D. There were three fortifications here, three large markets, two aquaducts, five theaters, one stadium, five sanctuaries and temples, nine buildings of Christian worship, underground mausoleums among other.
The imposing Temple of Saint Tito is an impressive ecclesiastical monument which dominates Gortyna and is the first building which will draw your attention. Its architecture is royal with a dome and its construction with carved limestone is impressive. On the east lies the sculpture gallery with exhibits and copies of statues and inscriptions of roman ages. The Ancient Theater of the city is outside of the enclosed space, opposite the Conservatory and is dated to the 10 century. On the northwest of the Market lies the Acropolis of Gortyna where significant clay statuettes were found (a triad of naked goddesses, twin figures, a figurine of the goddess Athena among other).
On your tour you will also see the Conservatory, a building which was used for performances and which is well-kept today.
Unique and particularly impressive is the large inscription which writes the most ancient codes of European law. Its written in boustrophedon writing ,namely, being read from right to left and archaic writing which is dated to the 6th and 7th centuries. It has been characterized by expert epigraphologists as the queen of all inscriptions. Parts of the inscription are hosted at the Louvre Museum.
The subjects which the inscription defines are those of civil law such as family and inheritance issues, matters of buying and selling, mortgages and debts, rapes, seduction and adultery.
Inside the enclosure of the archaeological site you will find the famous evergreen plane tree which preserves its leaves during winter and is a special sub-species of our well know plan tree.
In the surrounding area there are exceptional samples of the age of domination of Gortyna.
Near the Agricultural School lies the church of Saint George where a dome-shaped geometrical tomb has been found dating to the end of the 9th century B.C. and which has a plethora of vases, earthenware jars and ash urns.
The Praetorium was the largest construction the size of 1,000 square meters and was the home of the officers as well as the governor of Crete. Columns interspersed among the impressive olive trees but also the paved yard are witness to its size. Another large monument of Gortyna is the Temple of Apollo Pythius which lies in the center of the ancient city. It was rebuilt in roman times together with a small theater of which hardly any parts have been found. Here lies the unique sanctuary of Crete which is dedicated to the Egyptian gods of Isida, Serapi and Ermi which were worshipped during roman times.