Gortys, once the capital for the whole of Crete.
Gortys was already a city in the Minoan age, but never really got the chance to become important because it was overshadowed by the bigger city of Festos. In the Dorian age there were fights between Gortys and Festos that were won by Gortys. Its inhabitants therefore gained the use over the extremely fertile soil of the surrounding flatland of Messará.
Gortys is also one of the first cities surrounded by walls. However, this was not done in the Minoan age because by far the Roman age was the most important period for this city. Around 1100 BC the Romans made Gortys the capital city of Crete and also of a province in Libia, called Sirinaika. Sirinaika was a beautiful city. All the buildings were decorated with real size statues of emperors, philosophers and politicians. It was estimated that the city had over 300.000 inhabitants, double the amount that lives in Heraklion nowadays. The city had a diameter of 9.5 kilometres.
The new rulers also developed the fertile flatland of Messará to become one of the largest suppliers of grain for the Roman empire.
Also Gortys was converted to Christianity. The first bishop of the island, the holy Titus, made it the city where the bishop would be seated.
After 395 AD the city was mostly abandoned and the Saracins caused a lot of destruction.
An Italian writer wrote in the 13th century that he had seen about 2000 destroyed statues in the ruins of Gortys. After the Saracins had left the city it was never to be inhabitat again.
Strange enough the locals also helped with the devastation of the city. They took a lot of stone from the existing buildings to build their own houses. That is why this area is also referred to as the biggest open-air museum on Crete.
The place where the city used to be is now overgrown by olive trees and is also used for agriculture since the soil is very fertile.