Archaeological Site of Delos

Delos Island
Delos Island, Mykonos, Cyclades, Greece, 84600
Archaeological Site of Delos - DelosIsland50.JPG - Mykonos, Greece
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About Archaeological Site of Delos

Delos is accessible from Mykonos by boat. Boats travel from 9AM to the latest 12PM. You can easily spend an entire day there, so a morning start is definitely recommended. The Archaeological grounds close at 3PM when the last boat departs. The island is small, only 1.2 km wide and 5 Square Km, and you arrive on the west coast in the Commercial Harbour by the south end of the ruins.

There are four main areas to be visited: the Maritime Quarter, the Theatre District, the Sanctuary of Apollo, and the Lion District. In between the Sacred Harbour and the Commercial Harbour is the 150 BC area Agora (Market) of the Competialists, in the centre of which you will find a round shrine with a square base where offerings were placed.

The Competialists were Roman merchants and freemen who celebrated annual festivals in honour of the patrons of travellers and commerce, Lares Compitales: Roman gods of the crossroads. The Ionic Naiskos, probably also built by the Competialists, sits nearby with a marble offertory box decorated with two snakes.

Walk down the Sacred Way, on the left side of the Agora, which leads to the Sanctuary of Apollo. The 45 foot wide paved road is flanked by marble bases where statues and monuments donated by kings and generals once sat. The path was travelled by ancient pilgrims and was the location of the annual procession during the Delia festival.

Beside the Sacred Way sits the Stoa (Arcade) of Phillip, a gift from Philip V of Macedon, the ruler of the Cyclades in 200 BC, to Apollo. Only one of the 16 Doric grey marble columns of the stoa still stands and the inscription on the architrave has also survived. To its right is the South Stoa, which was built in the 3rd century BC.

At the end of the Sacred Way lies the Sanctuary of Apollo, the heart of ancient Delos. The entrance is marked by the Propylaea (c. 150 BC), three portals in white marble supported by four Doric columns. Hundreds of years ago the Sanctuary boasted three grand temples dedicated to Apollo surrounded by a plethora of other temples, altars and monuments. Little remains of these impressive structures today, but you can still make out the places spiritual splendour from the ruins that have survived hundreds of years.

The first temple is the Great Temple of Apollo. Construction on the temple began in 477 BC but it was only completed in the 3rd century BC as building was stalled when the treasury was transferred to Athens in 454 BC. Its magnificent Doric structure consisted of six rows of 13 29.6 by 13.4 metre columns with plain metopes and architraves decorated with palm leaves and lion spouts.

Next to the Great Temple of Apollo lies the Temple of the Athenians (425-17 BC). This Doric amphiprostyle building has six columns and measures 17.8 by 11.4 metres. Seven statues made of chryselephantine used to stand on a semi-circular marble pedestal in the cella. The Archaic statue of Apollo was probably housed in the temple.

The temple of Porinos Naos was built in the 6th century and was the original site of the Delian League. To the right, from around the same period, is the ancient Nouse of the Naxians, a shrine where sanctuary treasures were stored.

The base of the enormous Statue of Apollo, built in the 7th century BC out of Naxian marble, sits against the north wall of the sanctuary. There are several inscriptions on its base: the original dedication in Archaic letters reads “I am of the same marble, statue and pedestal”, a 4th century dedication reading “The Naxians to Apollo” and a line of graffiti scrawled by Venetians in the 17th century.

Chunks of it are on display all over the world: the foot is in the British Museum, a hand is in the Delos site museum and part of the trunk and thighs are behind the Temple of Artemis in Delos. According to Plutarch the statue was destroyed in 417 BC when it was hit by a bronze palm tree. It was probably restored in its present position.

On the west side of the sacred way lies the granite base of the bronze palm tree with a cylindrical hole in the centre. Part of the inscription, which dedicates the monument to Nikias, can still be seen.

Head further inland to the tourist pavilion and the site museum, which exhibits various artefacts uncovered during excavations (admission is included in the site ticket). The Sanctuary of Dionysus, best known for its enormous phalluses, is next to the museum. The Ionic Temple of Artemis, which was rebuilt c. 179 BC, stood at the north end of the sanctuary and many statues that were discovered here are now in the museum. The sanctuary of Apollo’s twin sister is market by two Ionic porticos and to the left of the site stands a 2nd century BC semi-circular platform which was probably a cult object.

The Lion District is situated at the north end of the ruins and was named after the Terrace of the Lions (7th century BC). At least nine majestic Naxian marble lions guarded the sanctuary which looks out over the Sacred Lake. The original lions are no longer there but replicas have been constructed and five of the originals are on display in the museum with one located at the Arsenal in Venice.

Drained since 1926, the Sacred Lake was where Apollo’s sacred swans and geese were kept. The palm tree planted in the middle of the lake honours the swan Leto clutched while giving birth to her twins.

The Institution of the Poseidoniasts of Berytos, an association of merchants from Beirut who worshipped Baal, identifying him with the Greek god Poseidon, is nearby and comprises courtyards, chapels, meeting rooms and shops.

Ruins of many stunning mansions and villas are located in the Maritime Quarter, which was the main residential area of Delos at its height of prosperity. You can still make out some of their splendid mosaics. The House of the Masks, for example, boasts a glorious mosaic of Dionysus riding a panther and the House of Dionysus has one of a god.

South of the Maritime Quarter is the Theatre Quarter where the grand classical theatre of Delos is situated. 5500 people used to fill mosaic paved interior. Just east of the theatre lies the House of the Dolphins where you can see a beautiful mosaic depicting lovely creatures of the sea.

There are many more sanctuaries to be admired dedicated to Greek and foreign Gods at the south-east end of the ruins.

Take a steep path from the south-east corner of the Theatre Quarter that leads up to Mounth Kinthos. This 113 metre conical hill stands in the centre of the island. On your way up, note the Grotto of Hercules covered with stone slabs. At the top, experience spectacular views of the ruins and the surrounding islands!

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