by Dr. Alena Trckova-Flamee, Ph.D.

In mythical genealogy Gortys is mentioned as the great-grandson of king Arcas, the ruler of Arcadia at the center of the Peloponnese and who gave his name to this beautiful region. According to Pausanias, Arcas divided his kingdom between his three sons. Elatus, the grandfather of Gortys, took a piece of land with the mountain Cyllena (Mount Killini) at the western part of the Peloponnese. He was also the founder of the city of Elateia in Phocis, located in central Greece. Stymphalus, Elatus' son and father of Gortys, was associated with Peloponnesian places, namely with the town Stymfalia and even with a spring (named after him) outside this city.

Contrary, the inhabitants of the Arcadian town Tegea told another story in which Gortys was one of the five sons of Tegeates, the founder of their city. It was said that two of Tegeates' sons (Scephrus and Leimon) were killed and because of this, Gortys and his brothers Cydon and Archedius voluntary left their home and moved to Crete. But in the Cretan myth Gortys' origin was totally different, and he was mentioned sometimes as the son of the Cretan king Minos or of Minos' brother Rhadamanthys, who was called "the Just."

Gortys, therefore, was associated with different ancestors in those myths and in most of them he was introduced as the founder of Gortyn (or Gortis). However by accepting this story, we are confronted with a problem because two towns existed with the same name of Gortyn in completely different regions: the first one was located in Arcadia and the second one in the southern part of Crete. The Arcadian Gortyn (now Gortis) was situated near the river Gortinios, which was known as the river with the coldest water. The Gortinians called this river Lusius (in Greek louo -ein, "to take bath, to purify") in relation to a local story saying that Zeus was bathed there after he was born. This place was inhabited since the Mycenaean period (1250-1100 BCE) and during the Late Archaic and Classical time, while in the Roman age only a small village survived here.

The Cretan Gortyn on the Mesara Plain was a legendary place to which Zeus brought Europa. It was inhabited at least from the Late Minoan period (1400-1100 BCE), mentioned among the late Minoan sites and described in Homer as the city with the great walls. It flourished during the Roman period when it became the provincial capital of Crete and Cyrene (Lybia), existing until 826 CE.

Concluding we have to note, that in the Greek myths the important events and figures are often localized in many different regions. Especially the Arcadian myths are very original, introducing these mythological events in their own territory and using their own way of interpretation to put attention to their region and show it as an important place. Due to this reason the myth about Gortys, which was originally a Cretan one, was overtaken there and with many new details reconnected with a tribe of the legendary Arcas.



  • Davaras, C. (1976). Guide to Cretan Antiquities. Athens.
  • Homer. The Iliad ii, 605.
  • Pausanias. Description of Greece viii, 4.5.