The archaeological site of Lato in Lassithi Crete: The famous archaeological site of Lato is situated at Lassithi, on the island of Crete, the cradle of the Minoan civilization. The town of Agios Nikolaos is actually built on the ruins of ancient Lato. Among the most important Doric city-states in Ancient Crete, Lato is thought to have been in existence even before the Doric Descent. The location of ancient Lato, built between two hills, offers a magnificent view of Mirabella Bay and in the past, it provided natural protection against invaders.
The city-state of Lato, named after the mother of Apollo and Artemis, Leto (Lato in the Doric dialect), was a flourishing city and a member of the League of Cretan Cities, while it was continuously engaged in a border dispute with Olous, a neighboring city-state. The identification of the present site as Ancient Lato belongs to the work of archaeologists F. Halbherr, L. Mariani and A. Taramelli in the second half of the 19th century. The first systematic excavation of the site was undertaken by a French team of archaeologists who began their work in 1899-1901.
Ancient Lato contained a double acropolis. People lived in houses of simple construction that had two square rooms with a hearth in the center. Rainwater was collected and stored in underground cisterns cut into the rock, to meet the needs of the households. From the internal courtyards, one had to mount 80 steps to reach the Agora (public square, a place of assembly and center of civic life), which had a small column-less temple from the remains of which many figurines dating from the 6th century B.C have been unearthed.
An important monument of Lato is the Prytaneion, that is the seat of government, an immense seven-tiered structure, resembling an ancient theater and divided into three wings. The central room of the complex, with a seating capacity for 80 people and having a perpetually flaming hearth was used as a conference room and dining place for the distinguished citizens of the city. The other prominent structures of the site include the remains of the large temple of the city and an open-air theater which could accommodate about 350 persons.