The Plane Tree of Gortys
The plane tree of Gortys is at the back of the archaeological site. Although most plane trees are deciduous, this one is evergreen, making it a member of an extremely rare subspecies, about 50 examples of which have been recorded on Crete.
The abduction of Europe by Zeus
The plane tree is linked to the myth of Zeus' abduction of Europe. Princess Europe, the daughter of the King of Phoenecia, was playing with her friends on an Eastern Mediterranean beach when Zeus, king and father of the Twelve Gods of Olympus, caught sight of her. He fell instantly in love with her and appeared before her and her friends in the form of a bull.
The maidens started to play with the bull and Europe approached him, stroked him and sat on his back. The bull-Zeus immediately carried her off across the sea to Crete.
At Gortys Zeus revealed himself to the princess in all his glory. According to legend, they made love under the plane tree, which has kept its leaves all through the winter ever since.
Zeus and Europe had three sons, all mythic kings of Crete: Minos, Radamanthys and Sarpedon. It was once believed that the plane tree of Gortys had magical properties, and people picked its leaves to help them have sons.