A splendid multi-period site, many in the past believed to be Knossos, due to its labyrinth of tunnels. Gortyna has always been associated with important discoveries, from an engraved law-code which can still be seen, to the church of Aghios Titos.
A Roman odeion with baths, a stadium, an amphitheatre and a number of temples are also situated here. The main site revolves around the church and the law code to its north, with the odeion in between. The law-code is 5th C. BC and is believed to be the earliest such example in Europe. Written in Greek, in a style known as boustrophedon (“as the ox ploughs” with the first line reading left-to-right, the second right-to-left, and so on), it is well protected from the elements, but is clearly visible. Under the Romans it was the capital, not only of Crete, but of the whole of Cyrenaica, which included all the Greek sites found in modern day Libya. St Paul wrote to Titos, whose church was founded here, and in the third century BC, 10 Christians matyrs were killed by the Romans, giving the name “Aghoi Deka” (Ten Saints) to the village slightly east of here. If all this seems a little too late, remember that Gortyna was settled during Neolithic times, was undoubtedly important during the Minoan period, and was mentioned by Homer, for its defences. If one has transport, one can easily take in Gortyna, Phaistos and Aghia Triadha in a day, and also nip down to the coast to visit Kommos, which was the port of both Gortyn and Phaistos (and, presumably Aghia Triadha), and have a good swim to boot!