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laws of Crete  

David M. Lewis

Crete provides historians with a rich fund of legal inscriptions from the Archaic and Classical periods. Although legal inscriptions have survived from several poleis (Axos, Datala, Dreros, Gortyn, Eltynia, Lyktos, Eleutherna, Prinias, Phaistos, and Cnossus), it is Gortyn that has produced the most spectacular finds and in the greatest quantities. These laws provide detailed provisions on various aspects of life, but in particular they deal with property and the family, as well as legal status. Rules on marriage, divorce, adoption, and inheritance all aim to guarantee the stability of families over the long term, whilst numerous laws on debt aim to prevent citizen households from falling below the subsistence margin. Taken as a whole, Crete’s laws provide much evidence for the priorities of male citizens living across the island and the various challenges that they faced.Ancient literary traditions strongly associated Crete with lawgiving through legendary figures such as Minos.