The wall of laws in Gortys.
The most important find of Gortys is ‘the wall of laws’, or also called ‘the code of Gortys’.
The wall of laws are marble plaques that were attached between the piers. Plaques that were found in nature and the river. They were written on, only this was not noticed by the Romans at the time. They just liked the plaques and used them as decoration on the walls. This is how these plaques were kept for us to see.
The text on the plaques describes one of the oldest written laws of Europe. Originally the plaques were masoned on to the public buildings, in a way that everybody could read them. Back then it was already a very extensive law with aspects such as inheritance-, personal-, divorce- and adoption rights. It contained rights and obligations for free civilians as well as slaves. When a free civilian harmed a slave, he also had to do penance. The death penalty did not exist, only fines and imprisonment.
Initially there were 20 plaques but only 12 have been preserved. The plaques are written on in an old Dorian-Cretan script, with 18 letters in a style called boustrofidon. The first part of this word, ‘bou’, means ‘ox’ and the second part, ‘strofi’, means ‘curve’. To put it differently; like an ox leaves his trail through the landscape, so in curves. You read one sentence from right to left and the next from left to right.
You can also recognize this by the letters ‘E’ and ‘K’; in one sentence they are printed the right way, in the next they are printed in reflection, wherefore they have to be read from right to left.