Ariadne, Karma and Gortyn Law

I should be heading off to Greece two weeks today, Icelandic volcano ash willing. Our first island stop is Santorini which I don’t think has any substantial Roman remains. Our second island is Crete, where we’ll be spending four days.

Of course we’ll be visiting at least 3 or 4 Minoan palaces including Knossos. I am so looking forward to seeing the palace there. It is the site of many Greek myths including King Minos, the Minotaur and the Labyrinth. Another myth set there is the one about Daedalus and Icarus. But the one that I like the best is a memory from my last trip to Greece 30 years ago. Then I stayed on the island of Naxos and knew very little Greek mythology or Roman history. But I had purchased a mythology book and read about Ariadne who was abandoned on Naxos.

Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos and she was the one who helped Theseus escape from the Labyrinth after he slew the Minotaur. Theseus was from Athens and he had promised to take Ariadne back to Athens and marry her if she helped him. They got as far as Naxos before he left while she was sleeping. When she awoke she cursed him but soon she was rescued by Dionysus who married her. Above is the famous painting of this by Titian (in the National Gallery in London) which is quite a wild scene. Anyway Theseus went on to Athens but forgot to put the white sail up to let his father Aegeus know he was alive. So his father thought he was dead and threw himself down a hill and died. Karma.

While most of the sites I’ll visit will be Minoan and Greek, I’ll also be visiting Gortyn which was the capital of Crete and Libya during the Roman Empire. There are several interesting remains there including a Praetorium, an Odeion, and an Isieion. The Praetorium dates from the second century AD and was the seat of power in the town. The Odeion is a small amphitheater which was built in the first century AD, and large stone blocks containing 5th century BC Greek inscriptions were used in its construction. These inscriptions are what Gortyn is most famous for because they are a rendering of civic law called the Gortyn Code. This law covered marriage, divorce, inheritance, slave status and much more.

Other ruins at Gortyn include a first century AD Isieion, a sanctuary of Egyptian dieties including Isis, Serapis-Zeus, and Anubis-Hermes; the Temple of Apollo-Pythios dating from the 7th century BC; and some aquaduct remains. Gortyn was named for Gortys, son of Rhadamanthys who was the brother of King Minos, who were the sons of Zeus and Europa. There is always just one degree of separation in Greek mythology.

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