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The "Byzantine District” of Gortyn (Crete)

  • Prof.dr. Enrico Zanini (Dip. Scienze Storiche e dei Beni Culturali, Siena)
Thursday 15 November 2018
Archaeological Forum
Van Steenis
Einsteinweg 2
2333 CC Leiden

One archaeological site and four (basic) ideas about the Early Byzantine city in the Mediterranean

The ongoing excavation in the so called “Byzantine District” of Gortyn – the capital city of Roman, Late Antique and Early Byzantine Crete -  offered us a large amount of  fresh archaeological data to use in building up a new and more complex image of an “average city” in Early Byzantine Mediterranean. The focus is on the “city of people”, with its everyday life and medium term socio-economic dynamics, compared to the more traditional image of the “city of monuments”.

Since 2002, a joint project by the University of Siena and the Italian Archaeologica School at Athens is focused on the excavation in the so called “Byzantine District” of Gortyn, the capital city of Roman, Late Antique and Early Byzantine Crete.

The project is intended to investigate a large non-monumental area placed in the real core of the ancient city, just between two large and already excavated monuments (the Apollo Pythius’ shrine and the so called Praetorium).

Fifteen years of fieldwork research produced a large amount of fresh archaeological data, that were used to build up a new and more complex image of the city, mainly in Late Antiquity and Early Byzantine times.

Potsherds and coins, houses and workshops, streets and water urban distribution system are the archaeological markers used to sketch up a more detailed image of the “city of people” to be compared, and maybe to be counterposed, to the ideal image of the city, usually built on the base of the investigation of public monuments.

A large “hole” excavated in the very centre of an average late antique and early byzantine city allows us to investigate non only the everyday life in a medium sized provincial capital city, but also to discuss some socio-economic dynamics of the overall changement of central and eastern Mediterranean between the  4th and the 8th-9th century AD.

Three main questions will be presented and discussed: the cronological “depth” of the Early Byzantine city, after the Golden Age of Justinian; the changing relationship between the city and the surrounding territory; the end of a city (Gortyn) as a marker of the end of a idea of city-life.

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