Delos

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The Sacred Island

Delos is an Ark of History and the Birthplace of the Immortals: A Revival Of The Glory Of Greek Civilization
Delos is history itself, an experience of a lifetime, a mysterious island hosting a series of monumental antiquities from the Archaic, the Classical and the Hellenistic periods on a territory used exclusively as an archaeological site. Delos is a small rocky island situated in the heart of the Aegean and the centre of the Cyclades. Delos was established initially as a holy pilgrimage island, as Apollo and Artemis were born there, while it was then served as a political centre as it was the base of the Delian League, and later on it served 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, a key monument of the world’s cultural heritage. On this holy place, where Apollo was born, the Greek sun reflects off the precious marbles, which symbolized the light of reason and harmony for the Ancient Greeks. Its’ radiation can be felt all around Greece.As travellers stand in the center of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, they will feel awe, aspirations and respect for the rich history of Greece.Undeniably,  the center of the Cyclades’ archipelago is a destination for your bucket list.

 


Best of Delos

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 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, the Propylea is located, a once white marble gateway framed by four Doric columns. Beyond the Propylea 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, is 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, the ruins of the Sanctuary of the Bulls are located, 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, which parts are now displayed in the museum. 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 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.

History & Mythology

Mythology

According to mythology, 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. For this reason, pregnant women and people close to dying were carried to the neighbouring island of Rhedia, accepting the uniqueness and sacredness of the island, during the years of the Delian Alliance.

History

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 kilometers 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.

Mysterious Greece Tips

About Delos

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 as it was the base of the Delian League, and later on it was 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. Extensive excavations have found important archaeological artefacts that are on display in the Archaeological Museum of Delos and the Archaeological Museum of Athens. Discover Delos through a photographic journey of Google!

Astonishing Views from the Island of Delos

Climb up to the highest point of Delos, the peak of Mount Kithnos, to admire one of the best views over the islands of the Cyclades!

Cultural and Musical Festivities on Delos

Every summer, various concerts and special performances take place on the island of Delos!

Delos under the Moonlight of August

On the moonlight of August, the archaeological site of Delos is open for visitors!

Find More Information about Delos

Discover Delos through the Website of Unesco and The Brochure of Visit Greece!

Mysterious Beach

There is a beach on the right side of the harbour, accessible through a hiking trail!

Necessary Accessories: Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Hat and Trainers

Make sure you bring with you your sunglasses and sunscreen, your hat and your trainers, as the temperatures are high during the summer! In case you are tired, you can enjoy refreshments and snacks in the canteen of Delos!

Travel & Transport

By Boat (3.95 Nautical Miles): Delos is accessible by boat from the harbours of Naxos, Mykonos and Paros. Mykonos is accessible from the harbours of Rafina and Piraeus. The journey usually lasts from three to five hours.

Useful Information

The ticket booth of Delos is equipped with information material!

Visitation Hours of Delos

The visitation hours of the Archaeological Site of Delos are from 8.30 a.m. to 15.00 p.m. Beyond these hours, it is forbidden to stay at Delos!

Photo Credits

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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