Delos is the most important archaeological site of the Cyclades and one of the most important in Greece. Delos, which is uninhabited today, was one of the most important religious centres of the Greek world in the ancient years. It was a holy island, dedicated to the god Apollo. A city without defensive walls, with theatres and other public buildings, developed around the temple of Apollo in antiquity. Today Delos constitutes the most well preserved ancient city in Greece.
The island has an arid river (Inopos), which runs from north to south. Even today, the landing of visitors on the uninhabited island takes place on the ancient “holy” harbour on the north-west coast.
With the birth of Apollo, the god of music and oracles (according to Greek mythology), life (vegetation) sprung throughout the whole island.
According to the archaeological findings, Delos had been inhabited since the prehistoric period. Around 1000 B.C., the Iones came to the island and from the 7th century and afterwards, Pan-Hellenic rituals and sacrifices in honour of Apollo began to take place on the island. First the people of Naxos and later the people of Paros and Samos tried to dominate the hegemony of the temple by filling the island with rich offerings. Finally the Athenians predominated and, after the Persian wars, founded here the first Athenian Alliance in 478 B.C. and installed their Common Fund in the temple of Apollo. Fifty years later, in 426 B.C., birth and death were prohibited in Delos, according to an oracle coming from Delphi, in order to stress the sanctity of the place.
From the 3rd century and afterwards the Athenian influence on the island lost its force, while from the middle of the 3rd century up to 88 B.C. Delos reached its pinnacle, not only as a Pan-Hellenic holy place but also as an important commercial centre of the period. The Romans declared it a free harbour and rich merchants from Asia Minor, Egypt, Syria etc. were installed here, building their own temples, and their own buildings, changing the island, in a cosmopolitan commercial harbour with particular economic blossoming, that however maintained its religious character. The years of blossoming lasted up to 88 B.C., when Delos was destroyed by Mithridatis, a thing that happened for the first time in its history and signalled the beginning of the end for the sanctity of the island.
Continuous raids by pirates, Slavs but also the Byzantine emperor Isavros, left in the place of the previously brilliant buildings a pile of ruins. On the 19th century excavations began by the French archaeological School, which is continued up to today, unveiling an enormous archaeological site, which reveals its history through the ruins of temples, public buildings, markets but also private residences.
Background of Excavations:
Delos, as a holy place on which one could see brilliant buildings and temples, was not forgotten and there are many reports by sightseers on the ruins that were visible on the island. Many of the sculptures were transported to museums in Greece and abroad, while marbles of ancient buildings were used as building material by the residents of the surrounding islands. The excavations on Delos began in 1873 by the French Archaeological School of Athens. From 1904 to 1914 the most important parts of ancient Delos were revealed under the management M. Holleaux and thanks to the brave subsidy of duke de Loubat. Between 1958 and 1975 intense diging activity took place on the island. The excavation is still continued by the French Archaeological School, but the religious, political and commercial centres as well as a big part of private residences has been already revealed. Mainly in the beginning of the 20th century, Greek archaeologists undertook small scale excavations.
Background of Restoration Work:
Big scale restoration work was done by the French Archaeological School, mainly in the districts of private residences, while smaller scale restoration work took place in the past few years by the Greek Prehistoric and Classic Antiquities Fund. Many columns were restored, while several ancient residences were covered, such as the Triainis Residence, the Residence of Masks and the Ermou Residence, mainly in order to protect the mosaic floors. Since 1990, Delos has been included in the list of World Cultural Heritage Monuments and is protected by Unesco.
This is an open square next to the Holy Harbour. It is one of the most important markets of a Hellenistic city, set with large granite plates, many of which had holes for the fixing of supports of shelters. The Gallery of Philippos and a small Ionic temple dedicated to Hermes are on the northern side, while arrays of shops and workshops are found on the eastern and southern side. At the centre of the square lie the foundations of a square and a circular monument dedicated also to Hermes, the god of trade, and around them bases of votives of bankers, sea captains and tradesmen. Last quarter of the 2nd century B.C.
Avenue of Leonton (Lions)
West of the lake and next to the Litoo lies the most photographed and worldwide known as the symbol of the island, the Avenue of the Lions.
The five marble Lions which stand proud, out of the initial sixteen, constitute the remainder of the nine or even more which survived since antiquity. They are the most known statues of the island.
They were sculpted on the 7th century B.C. on Naxos marble and were dedicated by the residents of Naxos as symbolic guardians of the Holy Lake. On the 17th century, the Venetians seized one which is still found in the naval station of Venice. They were modern to the Colossus of Naxos.
The area behind the lions is called Andiro of Leonton
Temple of the Delians
The temple of the Delians or the Great Temple is the last and biggest of the three temples of Apollo. It is a Dorian temple with six columns on the narrow side and 13 on the long side. Its building began in 478 B.C. It was interrupted around the middle of the 5th century B.C., when the fund of the Athenian Alliance was transported to Athens, and was continued in the short period of the Delian Independence without ever to reach completion.
Minoa Krini (spring), is reported in the scriptures and was identified by an embossed dedicated to the Minoes Nymphs. It is a public reservoir, dug in the natural rock on the second half of the 6th century B.C. It was covered by a square building, open on the southern side, where a Dorian gallery was placed. Steps were built on the southern side, which led down to the level of the water. The spring it was in use up to the later Hellenistic years, when it was changed into a residence.
Andiro of Leonton
The marble lions, homage of the residents of Naxos from the 7th century B.C., are placed in line, gazing towards the east, at the Holy Lake. It is calculated that initially they were 16, but only five and parts of three more are still preserved, while the beheaded body of another one adorns the naval station of Venice. Placed on the western side of the street, which leads from the ancient harbour of Skardana to the temples, they were the eternal guards of the temple.
Institution of Byrition Poseidoniaston
The institution of Birytion was the club of a Union of ship owners, bankers and agents that had come together in order to worship their own gods and to protect their common commercial interests more effectively. It is constituted by a central courtyard with surrounding columns. Various rooms and small temples dedicated to Poseidon, Hercules and Rome where built around it. Last quarter the 2nd century B.C.
It is a rectangle platform, on the north east of the temple, in which a statue of Dionysus accompanied by the statues of two actors was found. The two bases on the left and right sides of the platform supported oversized phalluses. The base found on the southern side, was a votive from the resident of Delos (Karystios), won in a theatrical competition around 300 B.C. It has embossed scenes from the circle of Dionysus.
The initially wooden theatre was replaced with the current stone made, in the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. The lower part of the theatre is separated by a frieze. Behind the first line of seats, which was for the honoured spectators, there are 26 lines of seats on the lower department and another 17 lines on the upper, which are separated by eight staircases in seven departments. It could seat roughly 5.500 spectators. In front of the circular orchestra lie the foundations of the stage.
Temple of Isis
The small Dorian temple of Isis is found in Temple of the Foreigner Gods, at their foot of Kynthos hill. It was built in the beginning of the 2nd century B.C. and it was repaired by the Athenians in 135 B.C. The statue of the goddess, who was worshipped with various names and was the protector of sea people and the one who gave good health and good chance, is still preserved in the interior of the temple.
Temple of Hera
The Dorian temple of Hera was built around 500 B.C. Under it, however, relics of a more ancient temple from the beginning of the7th century B.C. were found. Many vessels from the archaic years (in the Museum) were found under the base. Many of these vessels have votive signs scraped on them. On the south of the temple lies the altar of the goddess.
The residence of Dionysus
The “residence of Dionysus” is a very good example of private residence in Delos from the last quarter of the 2nd century B.C. It was named thus by the famous mosaic that depicts Dionysus riding a panther. A covered corridor leads from the road to the central courtyard, which is surrounded from a colonnade, with the entrance to the ground floor rooms. There is a covered underground reservoir at the centre of the courtyard where rain water was assembled, with an important mosaic floor. A stone staircase leads to the elegant private rooms of the first floor.
Archaeological Museum of Delos
The archaeological museum of Delos, was built in 1904 from the Archaeological Department and is considered one of the most important museums of Greece. It includes nine rooms with sculptures, bas-reliefs, mosaics, vessels, jewels, objects of daily use etc. The statue of Apollo, the trunk of a Kouros from the temple of Apollo, the marble cluster of Voreas, the statues of Dioskouridis and his spouse Cleopatra, the copper mask of Dionysus and many other important finds Impress the visitor. The museum is open daily from 8.45 to 15.00, Sundays from 9.30 to 14.30, while on the Sunday and Monday of Easter it is closed.
The present report contains nine galleries: in six of them out the sculptures and reliefs found on Delos, one of the best collections in the world. Two classrooms to include prehistoric pottery and ysteroellinistikon years and another out various miniature found in the private homes of Delos. The report is not yet complete.
• Epitymvia statues and columns of the 7th – 1st century BC
• Vases of instruments of the 3rd millennium – 1st century BC
• Idols 2nd – 1st century BC
• Jewelry and small items of 2nd – 1st century BC
• Mosaics of 2nd – 1st century BC
Key exhibits: plate with ivory relief of Mykinaiou warrior that was found in Artemision torso Kouros from the temple of Apollo, marble cluster Vorrea which snaps the princess of Attica Oreithyia and was the temple of Athens, statues Dioskouridi and his wife, Cleopatra — Athenians living in Delos – found at the home of the couple, in the area of theatre, statue of Apollo in the press of the Lyceum of Praxitelous Apollo – the god based in the trunk of a tree and clicks on Gallic shields – from the area of theatre, bronze facade bearded Dionysus who diadima bodies and ivy wreath and found south of the Market Kompetaliaston, Corinthian alabaster – a vase for perfumed oil with a Potnias Thiron between two swans – found in Iraio, headed triangular pedestal Kouros statue – with relief head crushed in a corner gorgoneia and the other two – from the Temple of Apollo, Archaic daughter – veil zosmeno bodies in the middle, which is decorated in the middle of the front with vertical film debossed double meandros – found from the Temple of Apollo and is considered one of the oldest existing large plastic, fresco from the outside wall of a house in the area where Skardana represented by Hercules, and two pygmachoi male form plays flute or trumpet.
Intact: € 5, Concessions: € 3
Free Entry Calendar Schedule
March 6 – Memory Melina Mercouri
June 5 – World Environment Day
April 18 – International Day of Monuments
May 18 – International Museum Day
The last weekend of September, each year (Thursday Cultural Heritage)
Sundays during the period from November 1 to March 31
The official non-working State days
The first Sunday of each month, except during the months of July, August and September (when the first Sunday is a holiday, the day of entry determines the second Sunday.)
September 27, World Tourism Day
Persons eligible for «free-pass» validate for three years, with the right of renewal.
Persons entitled to a lower entrance fee
The participants in international conferences following approval by the Director General of Antiquities and Civic Heritage
Participants in the tours organized by the Agency Workers’
Sessions parents in educational visits schools Primary Education
Senior citizens, members of the European Union who are older than 65, by showing identity card or passport
Students outside the EU
Persons entitled to Free Entrance
Journalists with an identity card ESIEA
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Members of KAPI by showing the Culture Card
Schoolchildren to 19 years accompanied by educational workers oriented A, B and C oriented education (Collective licenses granted by the Greek Ministry of Culture)
Members of the Greek Parliament
Young people up to age 19 years old by showing their ID card
Tourist guides with an identity card of the Ministry of Development
The official guests from the Greek state, after approval of the Director-General of Antiquities and Heritage
Blind escorts and persons with disabilities.
The ones serving in the armed forces by showing ID card
Preservers of antiquities and works of art that have been given specific permission from the Greek Ministry of Culture
Officials of the Hellenic Cultural (O.P.E.P.), on production of their identity
Officials of the Archaeological Resources and Fund (ARF), on production of their identity
Officials of Credit Management Fund for Archaeological Projects (T.D.P.E.A.E.), on production of their identity
Officials of the Ministry of Culture, through the demonstration of their identity
Students of Higher Education, TEI Or equivalent schools EU countries By showing the student identity
From 01.11.2007 to 31.03.2008
Tuesday – Sunday: 08:30 – 15:00
Boats sail daily from the Mykonos to Delos (6 naval miles). There are also itineraries from Tinos and Milos.
Port authorities of Mykonos, Tel. 0030 22890 22218
Port authorities of Tinos, Tel. 0030 22830 22348
Port authorities of Milos, Tel. 0030 22870 23360
Archaeological Museum of Delos: Tel. 0030 22890 22259
It is forbidden to any floating boat / ship to disembark people on the island or to reach (passing through, mooring, anchoring) in less than five hundred meters (500 M) around the coast. In case of passengers of any floating mean of transport that want to visit Delos, they can do so by docking at the islands’ port only during hours of when the archaeological site of the island is open.
Sources: www.cyclades-tour.gr, www.mykonos.gr, www.sacred-destinations.com, special thanks to photographers Heidi Solander, Uli Baecker, Wally Gobetz, Zoe52.