The ruins of ancient Gortyna or Gortys, one of the most important ancient metropolises in Crete, are spread over an area of about 4,000 sq. m. It is located in Messara plain, in the SE of Idi Mountain. The first human habitation dates back to the Neolithic Era.
The name "Gortys" probably derived from its founder Gortys, brother of Minos. Another version, supports its establishment by Gortys from Tegea, in Arcadian Gortynia. Also the Queen Gortyna of Crete, mother of King Taurus, could be responsible for the name. Greek Mythology is also involved in Gortys identity the myth of God Zeus and Europe and the Homer’s Odyssey.
The heyday of the city was placed between Hellenistic years, where Gortys was one of the largest cities in Crete and during the Roman era. Gortys was ruined in 824 A.D., after the Arab conquest. The Odeon, Temple of Apollo, temple of Egyptian gods, Praetorium, the Great Basilica, Acropolis of Gortys are the splendid monuments of the archaeological site. Amongst them, the plane tree a symbol of Zeus, and the centenarian olive trees are included.
From the Classical Gortys the most important monument is the Great Inscription, the famous "Low code". It was found on the northern circular wall of the Odeon. The twelve column inscription provides important information for city's law frame. It is characterized as a complete code of law and the most well preserved ancient Greek text, based on Minoan tradition and dates back to 450 B.C. Its content constitutes detailed information about the private law, adoptions, inheritance cases, crimes, divorce and after divorce cases such as parent-child relations.