Gortyn before the Roman Period

Gortyn in the Archaic-Classical periods

Gortyn: aerial view of Akropolis.
(Click to enlarge) Thames and Hudson

Gortyn in the Archaic-Classical periods was a major city on the island. It fought for territory and influence with its two immediate neighbours: Phaistos to the west, near the foot of the Mesara plain, and Knossos to the north. By the third century BC it had conquered Phaistos, and incorporated its territory (including the useful harbour at Matala; Gortyn also had a harbour to the south at Kaloi Limenes). In this troubled period, it is not surprising to find that the city had its own system of fortifications. There were *walls round the Akropolis (noted already in Homer's Iliad 2. 646, and detectable today on the ground), and also over a large area of the hill to the east of the Akropolis, to protect the city below from attack from the north.

Plan of Gortyn (1992).
(Click to enlarge) Thames and Hudson

The city had some notable public architecture, spread over a considerable area. From the seventh century BC on the Akropolis was a *temple and altar to the Greek goddess Athena Poliouchos, and in the centre of the plain a *temple to the Greek god Apollo Pythios. A sanctuary to the Greek goddesses Demeter and Kore, as was usual, lay outside the city to the north-east. On the south-east slopes of the Akropolis, beside a river, was another public area. Here was inscribed in the fifth century BC, on a curving wall the city's law code, and here, probably, the city's council and assembly met.