The Labyrinth of the Mesara, Crete.

The Labyrinth of Crete is situated around 3 km northeast from the archaeological site of Gortys in central Crete. It is an underground quarry in marly limestone, excavated probably during the Roman Period. It was first described and mapped in the 18th and 19th centuries. More detailed descriptions have been published recently.

The cave comprises 2.5 km of corridors, leading to or connecting small and larger rooms covering almost an area of one hectare. The Labyrinth of Gortys is connected to Greek Mythology and more especially to Theseus and the Minotaur, at least from the 9th century A.D. According to many travellers’ reports and 16th century maps, the Labyrinth of Gortys was one of the first and most significant Cretan attractions, at least from the beginning of the 15th century. Visits were organized, with Greek guides leading the visitors inside to the cave. These guided tours were carried on until at least the Second World War.

From the beginning of the 15th century, many travelers to Crete visited the Labyrinth, and stressed the existence of the numerous inscriptions they were carved on the cave’s walls. The first was that of Christophoro Buondelmonti who visited the Labyrinth on 1415. The inscriptions made by the visitors of the famous cave are found mostly on the walls of the rooms -especially the more distant ones- but also on the walls of the corridors and the rubble-stone interior walls.

In 1999 the Department of Crete of the Hellenic Speleological Society started a project for the inventory of the inscriptions found in the so-called Labyrinth of Gortys. More than 2,000 inscriptions have been inventoried so far.