The name “Lentas” is pre-Hellenic and comes from the Phoenician word “Lavi” («Λάβι») that means lion or from the pre-Hellenic word Levinthos («Λέβυνθος»).
Lentas owes its name to the magisterial rock which is the western boundary of the bay of Lentas and it looks like a seated lion. According to the myth, one of the lions that dragged the carriage of Rea was petrified in that place. Another myth describes that Cleopatra visited the area having a lion, an elephant and a crocodile with her. She was so stunned from the area that she left her animals there to protect it. The rock that looks like an elephant is opposite Psamidomouri cape, while the Trafoulas cape looks like a crocodile.
During the Minoan period when Lentas was an important port it was known as Levina or Levin. A variety of finds from that period like vessels, cycladic idols, gems and an Egyptian scarabaeus are displayed in the archaeological museum of Heraklion.
However the site of Lentas is more known due to the Temple of Asklepios which dates back to the 5th century B.C. Asklepios was a god with therapeutic skills whom so many people, not only from Greece but from South Africa as well, visited Lentas in order to be cured. Although the monument suffered physical damage and destruction over the centuries, surviving several parts, most important of which is a mosaic depicting the hippocampus. The city - port as well as the temple flourished during the 2nd century B.C., when after the destruction of Phaistos, Gortyn became the capital of Messara and later the entire island. The city was destroyed in 46 BC after a massive earthquake but was rebuilt during the Roman Empire where there was a significant link between Egypt and the East.
Only a few meters from the Temple of Asklepios you can visit the Byzantine church of the village (15th century A.D.) where you can still see many pillars of the original temple.