Welcome to Gortyna
When the island was under threat from the Romans, the Gortynians cleverly made a pact with them and, after the Roman conquest in 67 BC, Gortyna became the island’s capital. The city blossomed under the Roman administrators, who endowed it with lavish public buildings, including a Praetorium, amphitheatre, baths, a music school and temples. At its peak, as many as 100,000 people are believed to have lived here. Except for the 7th-century BC Temple of Apollo and the Byzantine Church of Agios Titos, most of what you see in Gortyna dates from the Roman period. Gortyna’s splendour came to an end in AD 824 when the Saracens raided the island and destroyed the city.
The city sprawls over a square kilometre of plains, foothills and the summit of plains, hills and fields of which a small percentage has been excavated. An aqueduct used to bring in natural spring water from Zaros, 15km away, to feed fountains and public baths.
There are two main sections to Gortyna, bisected by the main road. Most people only stop long enough to investigate the fenced area on the northern side of the road past the parking lot and entrance gate. However, other important Roman temples, baths and buildings are actually on the other side of the street, albeit scattered around a sprawling open area and thus not as easily explored. Admission to this section is free and there are no closing times.
Buses to Phaestos from Iraklio also stop at Gortyna (€4.70).