Ancient Gortys


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At a short distance from Elliniko on the banks of the Lousios river, where most of its footpaths end up, due to the outstanding natural beauty of the place, the French Archaeological School discovered the foundations of a temple of Aesclepius and its thermal baths, as well as sections of the city of Gortys south of the river, during the excavations of 1954-55. The importance of the sanctuary of Asclepius is attested by the visit of Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.), where he dedicated his armour and spear. In fact, Pausanias, in his writings on Arcadia, mentions that the spearhead and breastplate of Alexander were still kept in the temple during his time. According to sources, the temple was decorated with ritual statues of the gods Asclepius and Hygieia, made from Pentelic marble by the great Parian sculptor Scopas.

Next to the foundations of the sanctuary of Asclepius the thermal baths are preserved, a specimen of Greek design by far more advanced than the technology of the later Roman baths. The thermal baths at Gortys incorporated technology of moving hot air, and at their height they could serve around 30 patients at the same time, under the protection of Asclepius, god of health. Many votive offerings have been found here, dedicated to the healing gods (Asclepius and Hygieia).

According to archaeological research, ancient Gortys was an eminent city-state that made an important contribution to Arcadian life during the Classical and Hellenistic periods. Its loss of autonomy around 368 B.C., the year of the founding of the Great City (Megalopolis) and of the union of Gortys with neighbouring city-states, led to its decline. Nonetheless, the city continued to survive for at least 540 years (after the founding of Megalopolis, when Pausanias (176 A.D.) visited it). It is supposed that it was eventually abandoned and deserted during the early years of Byzantine rule.