”… one of the holiest sanctuaries in Greek mythology, the island is the mythical birthplace of the gods Apollo and his twin sister Artemis. Today, the fascinating archaeological site on the island, one of the most important collections of ancient Greek ruins on earth, preserves the remains of a sanctuary to Apollo and Artemis and the once-magnificent city, a bustling commercial centre, that developed around it.”
Image || Supervisor at the Terrace of the Lions of the archaeological site Ancient Delos. May 2, 2017.
Delos, Cyclades, Greece
When island-hopping the Cyclades archipelago in the Greek Aegean Sea, a visit to the small UNESCO-listed island of Delos, the region’s spiritual if not geographical bull’s eye, is said to be completing the circle, completing the Cyclades circle.
Delos & The Cyclades
The Ancient Greeks named the archipelago Cyclades, meaning ‘encircling islands’ because they imagined the islands encircling the small sacred island of Delos; one of the holiest sanctuaries in Greek mythology, the island is the mythical birthplace of the gods Apollo and his twin sister Artemis. Today, the fascinating archaeological site on the island, one of the most important collections of ancient Greek ruins on earth, preserves the remains of a sanctuary to Apollo and Artemis and the once-magnificent city, a bustling commercial centre, that developed around it.
Inhabited since around the 3rd millennium BC, Delos was well-established as a cult centre to Apollo and Artemis by c. 1000 BC. The island’s fortunes thereafter varied but it reached the peak of its prosperity under Roman rule in c. 100 BC, mostly off the back of slave trade, when the population of the tiny 3.43 km² island was estimated to be 25,000.
– UNESCO commenting on Delos
dMb Country Overview - Greece
Region – Southeastern Europe/The Balkans (dMb tag: The Balkans). Capital – Athens. Population – 10.8 million. Official Language – Greek. Currency – Euro (€) GDP (nominal) per capita – US$21,000 Political System – Unitary parliamentary republic. EU Member? – Yes (10th member joined January 1981). UN Member? – Yes (founding member joined October 1945). G20 Member? – No. Size – 132,000 km² (Europe’s 15th largest country is approximately half the size of Ecuador, twice the size of Sri Lanka, and roughly the same size as the US southern states of Alabama and Louisiana. Topography – A mountainous interior (80% of Greece is mountainous), a long and convoluted coastline, and hundreds of offshore islands. Independence – 1830 from the Ottoman Empire following 1821 to 1830 Greek War of Independence. Brief History – From the eighth century BC, the Greeks were organised into various independent city-states, known as poleis (singular polis), which spanned the entire Mediterranean region and the Black Sea. Philip of Macedon united most of the Greek mainland in the fourth century BC, with his son Alexander the Great rapidly conquering much of the ancient world, from the eastern Mediterranean to India. Greece was annexed by Rome in the second century BC, becoming an integral part of the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine Empire, which adopted the Greek language and culture. The Greek Orthodox Church, which emerged in the first century AD, helped shape modern Greek identity and transmitted Greek traditions to the wider Orthodox World. After falling under Ottoman dominion in the mid-15th century, Greece emerged as a modern nation state in 1830 following a war of independence. UNESCO World Heritage sites – 18. Tourism Catchphrase/Slogan – All Time Classic. Famous For – Endless coastline and beaches; shipping; democracy (born here); a classical and hallowed past; ouzo; sun-drenched islands; Alexander the Great; the Olympics; being the cradle of Western civilisation; food (tzatziki, feta, souvlaki, moussakas, yogurt, grapes, olives and olive oil); economic collapse & austerity.
Highlights – Cyclades island-hopping and the remnants of all that ancient history (Greece boasts four millennia of sun-bleached ruins, artefacts, and architecture). Greece Titbits – At nearly 14,000 km (8,500 miles), Greece has the 11th longest coastline in the world; Greece is considered the cradle of Western civilisation, being the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, Western literature, historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, Western drama, and the Olympic Games (the country’s rich historical legacy is reflected in part by its 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as of 2017); the Greek economy is the largest in the region with an economy larger than all other Balkan countries combined, this despite its well-documented economic battering and subsequent austerity measures.
Visits – 2 (May 2008 and April/May 2017). Where I Went/What I Saw – Thessaloniki; The Cyclades (Santoríni, Paros, Mykonos, Delos, Tinos); Zakynthos/Zante; Olympia; Sparta; Mystras; Athens.
It doesn’t take long to amble through the various regions of the exposed and hilly Delos site; various colour-coded routes to follow depending on the time and energy levels at your disposal are outlined in the official site pamphlet. Most embark on a counterclockwise loop from the port through the so-called Residential and Theatre Quarters to the summit of Mount Kýnthos before heading for the Archaeological Museum of Delos followed by the Sacred Lake and Terrace of the Lions region. By doing so I easily passed a few early May morning hours before returning whence I came to the relative hustle and bustle of neighbouring Mýkonos.
The Residential and Theatre Quarter is where Delos’ wealthiest inhabitants lived and socialised. A lot of their impressive villas and mansions were built in a peristyle design which boasted intricate and colourful mosaics, artistically the central feature of the abode and after which the remaining structures are now named.
Signing Off | The Complete Delos Gallery