Crete's Heraklion (Iraklion) Prefecture Overview Page Nine
Heraklion Capital of Crete
Gortys/Gortynia(open daily 8:30am-7pm; 4euros) is 46 km (28 ½ miles) southwest of Heraklion and 15 km from Phaestos, on the plain of Messara below Mt. Idha/Psiloritis, near the village of Ayii Dheka. It is crossed by the river Lithaios, which runs southward and joins the Yeropotamos River which dominates the Messara valley. Easy to walk to either along road or through fields. (Site open daily 8 am-6pm; 2.40 euros). . During the historic and prehistoric periods it was one of the strongest cities in Crete, with a population of 300,000. During the third century B.C. the Gortynians occupied Phaestos, and later Gortys supplanted Phaestos (and later Knossos as well) as the most powerful Cretan city.
It was capital of the Roman province called Cyrenaica that included all of Crete as well as much of North Africa and reached it's peak in the third century A.D. Ruins include temples, theatre, Roman pillars, statues, the odeon which housed the famous Law Code which is the largest Greek inscription ever found dated to the end of the 6th Century B.C. The Gortys Law was inscribed on stones of which four series have been preserved. A Dorian dialect is used. First Cretan city to accept Christianity. Occupied and destroyed by Saracens in 828 A.D. and never inhabited again.