Doúli (GR: Δούλι) is a village in Kenouriou county, located 38 km from Iraklion at an altitude of 440 m above sea level. The earliest reference to it, is to be found in the Duke's Archives of 1372, where it is mentioned as the feudal property of Nic. Venerio. The name figures in all the Venetian censi of the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as in the Turkish (1671) and Egyptian (1834) censi. In 1881, Douli forms part of the municipality of Megali Vrisi with about 170 inhabitants, and again in 1900 with only 21 inhabitants. As of 1920, Douli is a commune in its own right, and today Douli has about 240 residents. The patron saint of the village is Aghios Panteleimonas and the feast of the Saint is celebrated on July 27th.A visit to the old church of Aghios Nikolaos is also a must. For those interested in paleontology, there are fossils to be found at the location 'Pirgos'.
Moúlia (GR: Μούλια) is a village in Kenouriou county, located three and a half kilometers away from Agia Varvara town and 32 km from Iraklion at an altitude of 640 m above sea level. Moulia is an old village as we come across a reference to it in a document dated in 1248, where the settlement is recorded as belonging to the archbishopric of Crete. Another reference is found in a legal agreement established in 1411. The name figures in all the Venetian censi of the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as in the Turkish and Egyptian censi. In 1881, it forms part of the municipality of Zaros with about 180 inhabitants, and again in 1900. As of 1920 it is a commune in its own right, and today with the lower village of Kato Moulia it counts over 550 inhabitants. The main church of the village, with wall paintings, is that of the patron saints, Saints Peter and Paul, and there is a village feast on the 29th June, in their honour. The lovely chapel of Zoodochos Pigis is also well worth a visit.
Mitropoli (GR: Μητρόπολη) is a small village in the archaeological site of Gortyna in Messara plain. The village is mentioned for the first time in the Ducal archives of Candia in 1368 and later in the census of 1577 by Fr. Barozzi and in 1583 by Castrofylaka. Early mention of the settlement is to document the Ducal Archive of Candia in 1368, also mentioned by Fr. Barozzi in 1577 with the name and the Mitropoli Kastrofilakas in 1583. According to the census of 2001 it has 382 inhabitants. Main occupations of the inhabitants is the cultivation of vines, olives, vegetables, cereals and citrus fruits. At its north borders are located the ruins of the first cathedral of St. Titus, in which it owes its name.(Mitropoli = Cathedral).
The Roman Odeum at Gortyn is considered one of the best and the most important of its type on Crete. Is has been founded at the North part of the Ancient Agora of the City. This semicircular building consists of three main parts: a. The Cavea, connected with a domed corridor through three wide staircases; b. the Orchestra, which has an internal diameter 8,5 m. and was paved with white and blue marble slabs; c. The Scene, which had two entrances and the paraskenion, with mosaic pavement in geometric pattern. Statues of Muses stood in the niches. Initially the building was a circular Ekklesiasterion founded in the 5th c. BC. In the portico of this public building the Great Inscription with the Law Code of Gortyn dated to the early 5th c., stood. It was destroyed twice: in the 1st century BC, and again in 46 AD. After this last destruction it was reconstructed as an Odeum. The great Inscription is considered to be the largest Greek inscription, the Queen of all Inscriptions. Its first fragments were found by the French travelers and were bought by the Louvre Museum. The most part of the Inscription was found accidentally by local farmers in 1884 and was further explored F. Halbherr. It is a Law Code inscribed in the boustrophedon system of writing. It dates in the 1st half of the 5th c. BC and is the oldest Greek and European Law Code. It consists of twelve Deltoi and was built in the Ekklesiasterion of the 5th c BC. In this Code older laws, regarding the personal and family rights of the citizens of Gortyn, were codified.
According to the myth, Zeus, disguised as a bull, coupled with Europe, whom he had brought from Phoenicia, under a deep- shaded plane tree on the banks of the Lethaios River. The offspring of this union were three sons, Minos, Sarpidon and Radamanthis. Later, the oldest Agora of the city of Gortyn, the Ekklesisterion (Congress hall), and the Roman Odeum were founded on this site. The plane tree was blessed and has remained ever green since that time. As his place of birth, the city was founded by King Minos himelf. According to the myth, it was on the fields of Gortyn that the bull given as a gift to Minos by Poseidon coupled with the Queen Pasiphae and out of this union Minotaur was born.
Saint Titus church at Gortyn bears the name of the Apostle Titus, attendant of Apostle Paul, who was appointed as the first Christian bishop of Crete. It is one of the most important Byzantine monuments in Crete. The name was given to the ruined church by the excavators in the beginning of the 20th c., as they considered it to be the site of the saint’s martyrdom. After the discovery of the new Great Early Byzantine Basilica, just outside the village Mitropolis, its excavators have proposed that as the original bishopric basilica, as it is a century earlier than this, which in the local tradition is named and celebrated after Virgin Mary, “Kera”. The church has the plan of a three aisled inscribed cross with a low vault. It has been built of ashlar limestone. It has a narthex to the west and five entrances three of which form the trivelum with two columns. There were pillars instead of columns. Its architectural features date its foundation in the 2nd half of the 6th c. AD.
The main acropolis of Gortyna was located on Agios Ioannis hill, to the northwest of the Agora. Acropolis can be accessed from its west side driving through Ambelouzos village to the direction of Gergeri. At a spot around 1.6 kms from Gortyna parking there is a footpath (not clearly signposted and maintained) that leads to the top of the hill. Once at the top you'll be rewarded by the magnificent view to the whole area and the archaeological site itself. The site was first inhabited in the Neolithic era and again at the end of Minoan times (1200 BC). Since then it was continuously inhabited until the Middle Byzantine period. From the first settlement only parts of walls, floors and hearths were preserved. In the 10th century BC a Geometric settlement was established fortified by a polygonal wall with towers at the corners. At the end of the 7th c. A.D., a small tripartite temple, dedicated to Athena Poliouchos was founded at the south side of the hill. From this temple some very important architectural sculptures were excavated. During the Early Byzantine period (5 - 6th century AD), a basilica was erected over the ruins of the geometric/archaic temple and, in the time of the emperor Heraclios (7th century A.D.) the last fortification with a castle in the center was built which still survives but in a very poor condition.
The Temple of Apollo Pythios (Pythian Apollo) located in the center of the ancient Agora, was excavated in 1887 and was the largest temple and the religious center of ancient Gortyn until the introduction of Christianity and the founding of the basilica of St. Titus around 500 AD. The first building of the seventh century. BC was a four-sided enclosure with four wooden pillars in the center to support the roof. The exterior walls and stairs of the crepis were covered with archaic inscriptions. In the Hellenistic period a monumental anteroom was added while columns with inscriptions were placed between the pillars. Alterations and additions were made during the Roman period. Outside the temple was built a magnificent altar on a stepped base while in the west of the temple was built a small theatre. In the middle Byzantine period in the vicinity of the temple, which had been abandoned, were built houses and aqueducts. Many finds have been made in the temple among which the colossal statue of Apollo Pythios and many inscriptions with administrative and law content of the Archaic and Hellenistic period. Dates: 7th c BC; Hellenistic; 2nd c AD.
The Praetorium was the seat and residence of the proconsul of Crete. It is divided into two parts: the administrative section, in which the central building is the basilica, and the more "private" sector. The preserved ruins are dated to the 2nd century A.D. and seem to have been repaired in the 4th century A.D. This totally excavated building is the largest in the whole City of Gortyn. The earliest constructions have suffered successive alterations in a long period of eight centuries. New structures were erected on the ruins of the earlier sometimes incorporating parts of them. In the 1st c AD the Praetorium consisted of a peristyle court 1000 sq.m. and large halls to the north and west. This first Praetorium was destroyed by an earthquake in the time of the Emperor Trajan (early 2nd c AD). It was reconstructed and a large Thermai complex was built at its east side. Some years later a large temple dedicated to the Augusts was built further at the east part. To the west of the Thermai the juridical basilica continued to function under a judge’s responsibility according to the inscriptions found there, and statues of the emperors and other officers were still standing there. All these famous buildings were destroyed by the large earthquake in 365 AD. In 383 the consul Oecumenius Asclepiodotus Dositheus, agreeing with the capital of the empire, took care of the construction of the new Praetorium.
The Great Nymphaeum (Nymphaion GR: Νυμφαίον), located to the north of Praetorium, was a marble construction with a covered cistern and fountains. Statues of Nymphs stood in the niches. The area of the remains is closed to the public but visitors can see it from a distance.