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Roman Odeion of Gortys

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The Gortys archaeological site is located in Gortyna Municipality, in Crete. The Odeion was built at the highest part of the Greek Agora and the opposite bank of the River Lethaeus, where the Large Theatre of Gortys stood. It probably stands on the site of the Hellenistic Bouleuterion (4th-2nd c. BC). The Odeion was inside a circular building built in the mid-1st c. BC on the site of a square structure. This building was destroyed by the earthquake of 46 (or 66) AD and rebuilt by the Emperor Trajan in 100 AD. Modifications were carried out in the 3rd and 4th c. AD.

The Odeion consists of the cavea, the orchestra and the stage building. The cavea of the Odeion is divided at its base into three cunei by two staircases leading up from the orchestra. However, there is also a second row of four cunei divided by vomitoria (vaulted passageways with steps). The seats were faced with marble. Set into the outer wall of the circular passageway (ambulacrum) of the Odeion, preserved in second use, was the famous Inscription of the Laws of Gortys.

The inner wall comprised 18 arches which supported the cavea. From the circular passageway, both cavea and orchestra could be accessed via either the parodoi or three vomitoria. This passageway continued in a circular route to the pulpitum (the raised platform on which the actors performed) or the stage, and to the postscenium (the area behind the stage) measuring 21.50 m x 2.50 m.

The orchestra is approximately 8.50 m in diameter and its floor is paved with white and blue marble. The raised rectangular stage is 3 m wide, with three doorways flanked by square niches in which were set statues, some of which were discovered during the course of the excavations. The postscenium had a mosaic floor with geometric patterns (only the west end is preserved). There were two porticos. The west portico, with a mosaic floor, was much narrower than the south one, which was 5 m wide.

Excavations began in 1884 under F. Halbherr, continuing in subsequent years under L. Pernier. The monument was conserved – without reconstruction interventions – as part of the “Remodelling, Promotion, Restoration of the Gortys Archaeological Site” project in 2004-2007. The walls have been conserved, rainwater drainage works have been implemented and, finally, the arches of the passageways behind the cavea have been supported. The monument is open to the public, as is the Gortys archaeological site.

Great Inscription of Gortys

The Law Code or Dodecadeltos of Gortys, better known as the Great Inscription or Queen of Inscriptions, is the greatest contribution of Classical Crete to Greek and indeed world culture. The Inscription consists of 12 columns (deltoi) written in the boustrophedon style. It originally comprised about 640 verses of which 400 survive, and is dated to the first half of the 5th c. BC. The earliest European Civil Code, it is imbued with a liberal and progressive spirit. It treats matters of Civil Law, such as Family and Inheritance Law, matters of sales, mortgages and debts, matters regarding the liability of slaves and their owner, and also matters of rape, seduction and adultery.

The laws of Gortys do not prescribe barbarous penalties. They provide for an extensive process for the equitable bestowal of justice and required objective proof of both the guilt and the innocence of the accused. The death penalty was unknown. Many of the clauses of the modern Penal Code are based on the Laws of Gortys.

Maria Bredaki
Archaeologist

Monument Name

Roman Odeion of Gortys

Category

Odeion

Brief Description

The Roman Odeion of Gortys is located in Gortyna Municipality, in Crete. It was built at the highest part of the Greek Agora and the opposite bank of the River Lethaeus, where the Large Theatre of Gortys stood. Set into the outer wall of the circular passageway of the Odeion was discovered the famous Inscription of the Laws of Gortys.

Images - Plans

There are photographical records and drawings (23rd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities).

Documentation - Bibliography

1. L. Pernier, “L’Odeum nell’Agora di Gortina presso il Leteo”, Asatene 8-9 (1925-1926), pp. 1-69.

2. I. Sanders, Roman Crete, Warmington 1982, pp. 65-66.

3. A. di Vita, V. La Rosa & M. A. Rizzo (eds), Ancient Crete. A Hundred Years of Italian Archaeology (1884-1984), Roma 1985, p. 47.

4. Α. Κάντα, Φαιστός, Αγία Τριάδα, Γόρτυνα, Athens 1998, p. 128-131.

Location

The archaeological site of Gortys is located in Gortyna Municipality.

Dating

The Odeion was built at the highest part of the Greek Agora and the opposite bank of the River Lethaeus, where the Large Theatre of Gortys stood. It probably stands on the site of the Hellenistic Bouleuterion (4th-2nd c. BC). The Odeion was inside a circular building built in the mid-1st c. BC on the site of a square structure. This building was destroyed by the earthquake of 46 (or 66) AD and rebuilt by the Emperor Trajan in 100 AD. Modifications were carried out in the 3rd and 4th c. AD.

General Description of Monument

The Odeion consists of the cavea, the orchestra and the stage building. The cavea of the Odeion is divided at its base into three cunei by two staircases leading up from the orchestra. However, there is also a second row of four cunei divided by vomitoria (vaulted passageways with steps). The seats were faced with marble.
Set into the outer wall of the circular passageway (ambulacrum) of the Odeion, 29 m long and 2.58 m wide, the famous Inscription of the Laws of Gortys was preserved in second use. The inner wall comprised 18 arches which supported the cavea. From the ambulacrum, both cavea and orchestra could be accessed via either the parodoi or three vomitoria. This passageway continued in a circular route to the pulpitum (the raised platform on which the actors performed) or the stage, and to the postscenium (the area behind the stage) measuring 21.50 m x 2.50 m. The orchestra is approximately 8.50 m in diameter and its floor is paved with white and blue marble. The raised rectangular stage is 3 m wide, with three doorways flanked by square niches in which were set statues, some of which were discovered during the course of the excavations. The postscenium had a mosaic floor with geometric patterns (only the west end is preserved). There were two porticos. The west portico, with a mosaic floor, was much narrower than the south one, which was 5 m wide. It is worth mentioning the Great Inscription of Gortys, which, as stated above, was found here in second use. The Law Code or Dodecadeltos of Gortys, better known as the Great Inscription or Queen of Inscriptions, is the greatest contribution of Classical Crete to Greek and indeed world culture. The Inscription consists of 12 columns (deltoi) written in the boustrophedon style. It originally comprised about 640 verses of which 400 survive, and is dated to the first half of the 5th c. BC. The earliest European Civil Code, it is imbued with a liberal and progressive spirit. It treats matters of Civil Law, such as Family and Inheritance Law, matters of rape, seduction and adultery, matters of sales, mortgages and debts, and matters regarding the liability of slaves and their owner. The laws of Gortys do not prescribe barbarous penalties. They provide for an extensive process for the equitable bestowal of justice and required objective proof of both the guilt and the innocence of the accused. The death penalty was unknown. Many of the clauses of the modern Penal Code are based on the Laws of Gortys.

Current Situation

The walls have been conserved, rainwater drainage works have been implemented and, finally, the arches of the passageways behind the cavea have been supported.

Excavations - Interventions

Excavations began in 1884 under F. Halbherr, continuing in subsequent years under L. Pernier. The monument was conserved – without reconstruction interventions – as part of the “Remodelling, Promotion, Restoration of the Gortys Archaeological Site” project in 2004-2007, funded by the 3rd Community Support Fund. Prior to 2004, only small-scale conservation work had been carried out on the monument.

Permitted Uses

Archaeological site open to the public.

History of Modern Uses

Further Information

Located in the archaeological site of Gortys and open to the public.

Intellectual Rights

Latitude

35.063822°

Longitude

24.945327°