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GORTYNA gôr tī’ nə (Γόρτυνα, Γορτύν). A city of south-central Crete in the plain of Messara, on the River Lethaeus, about ten m. from the sea.

Next to Knossos it was the most powerful city on the island. According to Plato it was founded by a colony from Gortyn in Arcadia (Laws 4). In classical times it and Knossos in league controlled the island, but in later times they were in almost continual warfare (Strabo X). Gortyna allied with Rome in 197 b.c. against Philip V and soon became the most important city of the island. Under the Empire it was the capital of the province of Crete and Cyrenaica.

Much of the ancient city has been excavated by Italian archeologists, who in 1884 discovered the Gortyn Law Code. It is dated in the middle of the 5th cent. b.c. and deals mainly with laws concerning family rights.

Gortyna is listed among the autonomous cities to whom the Romans sent a letter in c. 139 b.c. guaranteeing the rights of the Jews (1 Macc 15:23). That there were Jews on Crete is clear from statements by Josephus (Jos. Antiq. XVII. xii. 1; War II. vii) and Philo (Leg. ad Caium 36).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A city in Crete, next in importance to Gnossus. It is mentioned in 1 Macc 15:23.

See Crete.