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Egyptian Crocodile in Roman Sewer September 8, 1999
by Yannis N. Stavrakakis

[image] Crocodile waterspout from Gortyn, Crete (Italian Archaeological School in Athens) [LARGER IMAGE]

Discovery of a crocodile-shaped limestone waterspout that once adorned a Roman temple at Gortyn in central Crete provides evidence of close links between the island and Egypt. Excavations conducted by Antonino Di Vitta, director of the Italian School at Athens, revealed that the temple was built during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 161-180), remodeled in the fourth century, and finally quarried for limestone at an unknown date.

Brightly painted and fashioned with eye sockets that once held shining glass paste, the crocodile waterspout was found covered by rubble in a sewer, where it had eluded ancient quarrymen. Di Vitta says the crocodile is one of four that once adorned the temple's entablature and represents an early example of the use of Egyptian motifs on Roman temples in Crete. From fragmentary inscriptions found on the temple, it appears a certain Titus Pactumeius Magnus, a Cretan by birth and prefect of Egypt, built and dedicated the temple to the Roman emperors. Di Vitta says it is likely Pactumeius built the temple to advertise the high offices he held or once held to his family and friends on Crete.

The waterspout will be on display at the "Crete-Egypt" exhibition at the Heraklion Museum in Crete this fall, then possibly on permanent view at a new museum in Messara in south-central Crete.

© 1999 by the Archaeological Institute of America