DELOS - SEPTEMBER 2007
Delos, a small island roughly in the middle of the Cyclades, was a major sacred site in ancient times, second in importance only to the Apollo Temple at Delphi. Religious capital of the Ionians for many years, the island was, according to Greek mythology, the birthplace of Artemis and Apollo. Leto, their mother, having been banned by Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus, their father, found the support of Poseidon, who provided her with Delos as a place to give birth!
When in 478 BC the Persians were defeated, the Athenians created the Delian League, with its headquarters at Delos. The League had a famous treasury, transferred to the Acropolis in 454 BC. In 426 a decree forbade being born or dying at Delos. The island reached the top of its prosperity in late Hellenistic and Roman times, being a free port and the financial centre of the Mediterranean, with 10,000 slaves sold daily. However, in 88 BC, the King of Pontus, Mithridates, attacked the island, killing or putting into slavery the whole population of 20,000 inhabitants. Delos never recovered, and was gradually abandoned.
"ON THE WAY"
"FROM THE SEA - Delos, 5 km north to south, 1.3 km from east to west, and rising only to 112 m at Mount Kynthos, was included in the UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1990. It has been the object of huge excavations by the French School of Archaeology since 1872"
"THE AVENUE OF THE LIONS - One of most famous sights of Delos is the 50m long Avenue of the Lions. These five marble lions, guardians of the Sacred Lake, are replicas; we'll see the originals in the museum. They are part of nine erected in the second half of the 7th century BC by the Naxians. One of those, headless, removed in the 17th century, guards now the Arsenal of Venice"
"MUSEUM - The Archaeological Museum contains most of the interesting items found in the excavations on the island"
"LIONS - These are the original marble lions dedicated to Apollo by the Naxians at the end of 7th century BC; they stood facing towards the Sacred Lake (now completely dried to avoid diseases)"
"MOSAIC - The wonderful mosaic of the House of Dionysus. It shows a winged Dionysus riding a panther, with vine branches around the neck"
"PHALLUS - The emblematic symbol of the orgiastic rites that took place during the Dionysian festivals was brought from the Sanctuary of Dionysus to the Museum".
"SANCTUARY OF THE BULLS - A long and narrow structure probably built to display a boat dedicated to Apollo"
"THE SACRED WAY - The route of the procession to the sanctuary of Apollo during the holy Delian festival that, as well as the Delian games, took place every four years"
"THE HOUSE OF DIONYSUS is a luxury private residence dating from the last quarter of the 2nd century BC. 5.6 m high columns show the grandeur of the house. In the centre of the court there is a cistern covered with the famous mosaic floor"
"THE HOUSE OF CLEOPATRA is named after the headless statue of Cleopatra, an Athenian lady; Dioskourides, her equally headless husband, stands also on a pedestal"
"THE HOUSE OF THE TRIDENT is another beautiful house with a wonderfully kept mosaic floor in the main reception room, depicting a dolphin swimming around an anchor"
"THE HOUSE OF DOLPHINS has the best preserved mosaics in Delos. This one at floor of the impluvium shows a large rosette with concentric motives. In the corners, we may see the dolphins after which the house was named".
"ISIS TEMPLE - Delos was quite tolerant in religious terms, and there was even a Sanctuary of Foreign Gods. The most impressive was probably the Sanctuary of the Egyptian Gods, with its beautiful Temple of Isis, now restored"
"THE THEATRE, built in the 3rd century BC, has 26 rows of seats in the lower section and 17 in the upper section. The ellipsoidal form assured a good view to the more than five thousand spectators"