Excavations started in 1884 by Italian archaeologists and are still
Along with the excavations restoration works, mainly of the ancient buildings,
are being done throughout all this period of time. In what concerns the
"Gortyn Law Code" it has been embodied in the Northern circular wall
of the Odeon, which is now housed within a small recent structure for
The most importand monuments and architectural complexes the visitor
can see at the site are:
The Odeon, a typical Roman theatre of the 1st century with two entrances
facing the North and a semicircular orchestra, paved with white and grey
The northern wall of the stage, formerly raised, had four niches to house
statues and was also paved with mud-bricks and marble. Only three rows
of seats are preserved at the cavea ("koilon").
Below the Odeon, at a lower level, there was a circular structure of
the Archaic Period. It is here that the stones inscribed with the "Gortyn
Law Code" were walled in; when the Odeon was constructed the stones were
The monument was destroyed by the Arabs in 824 A.D. and was discovered
in 1884 when parts of the "Gortyn Law Code" came in light. Excavations
of the Odeon were conducted from 1899 up to 1921.
Today the Northern circular wall of the Odeon is housed within a small
recent structure in order to protect the inscription.
The "Gortyn Law Code" is a long inscription containing a complete Legislation
Code, dating back to the mid 5th century. Although the city was Doric
in this period of time, the inscription echoes the Minoan law and customs,
a fact that shows very clearly the power of the Minoan tradition which
continued to exert its influence some 1000 years after the Minoan civilisation
A very interesting building is the Isieion, the sanctuary of the Aegyptian
divinities, dated in the 1st-2nd centuries A.D. It is a rectangular space
dedicated to various Aegyptian gods as Isis, Serapis-Zeus and Anubis-Hermes.
The statues of the gods stood on an oblong podium with crepis, whereas
the temple had also an underground cistern.
The temple is very interesting as it clearly shows the influence of the
Aegyptian religious tradition during the fist centuries of our era.
The Temple of Apollo Pythios was built in the Archaic Period (7th century
b.C.). At this period of time it was a rectangular building with a treasury.
Later on, during the Hellenistic and Roman times several features were
added up to the original building, as the prodomos, the colonnades; the
statue of Apollo Pythios stood in a niche.
Another important Roman building is the Praetorium, seat and residence
of the proconsul of Crete. The building is divided in two sections: the
administrative one, which has a central building, the "basilica", and
theresidential, more private sector. The ruins preserved are dated to
the 2nd century A.D., but there is also evidence of repairments dating
to the 4th century A.D.
Next to the Praetorium, at the North, is situated the Northeast cistern
and Nymphaeum. When built, it was a rectangular open cistern with niches
on every side housing statues of Nymphes, from which the construction
took its name; in the 7th century A.D, it was converted into a vaulted
The acropolis is found on the hill of Aghios Ioannis, overlooking the
site. Parts of the fortification of the site going back to the 10th-6th
century b.C. are well preserved. It is a polygonal fortification wall
with towers at the angles. An archaic temple, on the ruins of which an
Early Christian basilica was built are found within the fortified area.,
Finally, the church of St. Titus is a stone made cruciform church with
three semicircular niches, three-sided at the external part and two small
arches on the northern and the southern arm of the cross. The church undrerwent
several changes and reconstructions; what we see today goes back to the
6th century A.D. The church was destroyed by the Arabs in 824.