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Striking Lights of Apollo

A Revival Of The Glory Of Greek Civilization

Mythology has it that Apollo, the God of Light, and Artemis, the Goddess of Hunting, the children of Zeus and Leto were born on the Island of Delos. Their mother, Leto, found refugee at Delos, an island that appeared amidst the waves, as she was pursued from every land after the older of Hera, Zeus’ wife and the Queen of the Gods. The childbirth of Apollo and Artemis rendered Delos into a sacred island, so no mortals would ever be allowed to live or die on the island. Located in the centre of the Cyclades, Delos is history itself, an experience of a lifetime, a mysterious island hosting a series of treasures from the Archaic, the Classical and the Hellenistic periods. Delos reserves its exclusivity to the world: nowhere else is there a natural archaeological site of this size and importance hosting such monumental antiquities on a territory used exclusively as an archaeological site. This is why Delos is history itself. Delos was established initially as a holy pilgrimage island, as Apollo and Artemis were born there, while it was then transformed to a political centre due to the fact that it served as the base of the Delian League, and later on, it was utilized as a commercial harbour with luxurious houses and markets. The island of Delos is one of the most important archaeological, mythological and historical sites in Greece. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, and it surely deserves a visit. Cast your imagination to transform these sprawling ruins into the magnificent city it once was.

Discover the Magnificence of the Cradle of the Western Civilization

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When you arrive at Delos, the small boat will leave you at the anchors of the ancient commercial harbour and you will find yourself walking at the Agora of the Competaliasts, the merchants who took their name from Lares Compitales, the Roman divinities, along with the Altar of Hermes and the Altar of Maia. There are three Agoras on the island, the Agora of the Poseidoniasts of Beirut, the Agora of the Italians from Southern Italy and Sicily and the Agora of the Delians; the Agoras used to be places of trade syndicates and commercial associations based on common origin. Moreover, you will come across to the first Synagogue of the Diaspora and the Jewish community, which was founded from the merchants of Alexandria and Tyre located on the eastern part of the island. On the eastern side of Agora, you will see the Sacred Way, which was the route of the procession to the Sanctuary of Apollo during the Delian Festival. On the left side of the Sacred Way is the Stoa of Phillip, which was a gift to Apollo from Phillip V of Macedonia. At the end of the Sacred Way, you will find the Propylea, a once white marble gateway framed by four Doric columns. Beyond the Propylea, there are the remains of the Sanctuary of Apollo, which used to be crowded with temples, statues and altars. On the right side of the sanctuary, you will find the House of the Naxians, a structure of a central colonnade, the Temple of the Athenians, a Doric building with six columns, and the Porinos Naos, where the treasure of the Delian League was kept. Outside the north wall, there was once a colossal statue of Apollo, which parts of it are now presented at the Archaeological Museum of Delos and the British Museum in London. On the southeast side of the Sanctuary of Apollo, you will come across the ruins of the Sanctuary of the Bulls, an extremely long structure which is considered to display a trireme, a type of an ancient boat with three banks of oars dedicated to Apollo from a leader of the Hellenistic period. Near the Sanctuary of the Bulls, there is an oval indentation protected from the five Naxian marble beasts where the Sacred Lake and the Palm Tree was once surrounded by a wall, the place where Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis. In a close distance from the shores, there are two ancient palaestra, which were buildings used for physical exercise, the gymnasium and the stadium where the Delian Games took place. One of the gems of Delos, however, is the Avenue of the Lions, a fifty metres long avenue. On the southern part of the gymnasium, one will find the Archaeological Museum of Delos that exhibits a wide collection of the archaeological findings and antiquities of the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods found on excavations of Delos including monumental statues, vases of instruments, idols, jewellery and mosaics. On the right side of the museum, there are the remains of the Sanctuary of Dionysus and a series of archaeological monuments dedicated to Apollo. On the north side of the sanctuary was the Temple of Artemis, which is now displayed at the museum. Walking along the path that lead to the southern part of Delos is the ancient theatre, once inhabited from Roman bankers and Egyptian merchants. From the southeast side of the Theatre, a dirt path leads to the base of Mount Kinthos with remains from the Sanctuary of the Egyptian and Syrian Gods.

Explore the Extravagant History of an UNESCO World Heritage Site


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Delos was inhabited from the 1st century BC, when the first inhabitants built dwellings at the hill of Kinthos, the highest point of the island inspecting the sea for forthcoming invasions. Thereafter, the Mycenaean settled at the island and the Ionians colonized Delos making it their religious capital while it served as the political capital of the Amphictyonic League. The Apollonian sanctuary reached the peak of its glory during the Archaic and the Classical periods, when Hellenes from all over the Greek world gathered to worship God Apollo and Goddess Artemis. By the end of the 5th century BC, Delos was an inhabited island with houses and farms around the sanctuary, rapidly developing after 167 BC as a result of the Declaration of Delos as a free port for commercial activity. During that time, Delos was burst in life with thousands of inhabitants, close to 30.000, from the East Mediterranean countries. Bankers, merchants and ship owners settled on Delos attracting many craftsmen and artists with the intention of building houses decorated with mosaic floors, frescoes and statues. Despite their varied nationalities and different cultural backgrounds, all these people managed to build a peaceable society communicating in written and spoken Greek, which was the inter national language of the period, while adopting in the Greek lifestyle. Soon, the sacred island of Delos became the greatest commercial, financial and trading centre of the Mediterranean at one of the most strategic geographical positions between Europe and Asia. Actually it sounds amazing, how this small island of just five square kilometres in length which produced nothing, was a place you could find everything. The prosperity of the island and the friendly relations with the Romans were the main cause of the destruction of Delos. The end of Delos came after the attack massacre from the King of Pontus, Mithridates, (88 BC) who was an enemy of the Romans, and later on from an ally of Mithridates, the pirates of Athenodoros. After the invasions, a few people continued to live on the island until its final abandonment in the 6th century AD. Thereafter, Delos was captured successively by Byzantine, Slavs, Saracens, Venetians, the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem and the Turks and was turned into a quarry site. At the end of the 19th century, the French Archaeological School started excavations, which are still in progress, and discovered the light of the Aegean, Delos, a majestic archaeological site, which travels you back to the birth of the Greek civilization and history.

Photo Credits

Note: All the images are copyrighted from their owners. Please see Terms & Conditions. You can find the original images at the following links

Lions Terrace: Shutterstock

Mosaics: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World by Flickr

Old Harbour: Eugenio by Flickr

Temple of Apollo: DiAnn L’Roy by Flickr

Temple of Apollo2: Shutterstock

Temple of Hera: Bernard Gagnon by Wikimedia

View of Delos: Bruce Harlick by Flickr

Walls: Alex Healing by Flickr