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A small hilltop city on one of the S spurs of Mt. Kadiston, NW of Ag. Nikolaos and just NE of modern Neapolis, Mirabello District, N Crete. The twin hill, known as Ag. Antonios, dominates the inland plain of Mirabello to the S; to the E lie Olous and Lato.

Dreros is barely mentioned in literary sources. There is no trace of Minoan occupation; the earliest remains found are Sub-Minoan. Plentiful remains of the Geometric and archaic periods attest the city's prosperity in the 8th-6th c., and a group of archaic inscriptions includes the earliest complete constitutional law yet found in Greece. In the 3d c. B.C. Dreros was an ally of Knossos and on hostile terms with Lyttos and Milatos: this is vividly expressed in the famous oath of the Drerian epheboi (late 3d c.), which also indicates dissensions within the city. In the 2d c. B.C. Dreros seems to have ceased to exist as an independent city; it became a dependency of Knossos, or possibly Lyttos. The chief deities of Dreros were Apollo Delphinios and Athena Poliouchos; the few surviving (Hellenistic) coins of the city depict the latter and the caduceus of Hermes.

The center of the city lies on the N side of the saddle between the two hilltops, overlooking the small valley of Fourni. It has the same features of an archaic Cretan town as Lato: stepped agora, nearby temple and probably prytaneion, going back to the 8th c. These remains, with those of private houses particularly on the N slope of the twin hill, illustrate well a small provincial Greek city of the Geometric period.

The agora is a large, almost rectangnlar area (ca. 40 m N-S x over 20 m E-W) on the N side of the saddle. At its N end, where the ground falls away, it is bounded by a polygonal retaining wall, and at the S end by a set of stone steps, probably used as seats; at the SW corner seven rows of seats still survived when excavated. Like the agora at Lato, it bears a striking resemblance to the theatral areas by Minoan palaces, and was probably used as a meeting place for the popular assembly and for religious spectacles. The floor was of beaten earth. The steps on the S side were rebuilt in the Hellenistic period, probably when the cistern to the S was constructed; the reused blocks included one with primitive incised designs.

Above the SW corner of the agora, and approached from it by a set of steps, lie the remains of the Geometric Temple of Dreros, one of the earliest known temples of the Greek Iron Age. It is probably the Delphinion, Temple of Apollo Delphinios, or possibly that of Apollo Pythios. Its excavation followed the discovery on the site of three curious statues of hammered bronze plating, originally covering wood: a nude male and two smaller clothed female figures, probably representing Apollo, Leto, and Artemis, and dating from ca. 650-640.

The building dates probably from the second quarter of the 8th c. The cella (ca. 10.90 x 7.20 m externally) has walls, built of small dressed stones, standing up to 2.50 m high at the SW corner. The entrance was on the N, where the wall is thicker and the facade of better masonry; between the facade and the steps leading up from the agora is a shallow pronaos of uncertain plan. There may have been another entrance on the E. Within the cella was a central rectangular hearth, sunken and lined with stones, and one or two axial columns to support the roof; a round stone column-base was found in situ between hearth and entrance. In the SW corner is a stone bench for offerings, on which were found an early 6th c. bronze Gorgoneion, vases, and terracotta figurines. Later a small stone box was built beside it against the S wall—a keraton or altar of horns; the box, formed of vertical slabs (probably covered by a low wooden table), contained goats' horns, more of which were found in front along with a stone offering-table. The three bronze figures, like the altar a later addition, probably originally stood on this altar. Most of the pottery from the area is of mid 8th to early 7th c. date, and several stones incised with goat-hunting scenes have been found.

On the W side of the temple is a terrace at a higher level, probably roofed as a portico, and on the S a group of rooms which may be the prytaneion of the city: three rooms, one containing a hearth, all entered from a common vestibule. The first divinity invoked in the Drerian Oath is “Hestia in the Prytaneion.” Finds here include a stone cult vase in the Minoan tradition. The building remained in use, with alterations, into the Hellenistic period.

Below the temple to the E, and S of the Agora, an enormous rectangular cistern (13.50 x 5.50 m and nearly 8 m deep) was constructed in the late 3d century B.C. An inscription recording the work and mentioning the protection of Apollo Delphinios was found in the cistern; it is contemporary with the Drerian Oath. Two walls were built and two rock-cut; all four were plastered. The cistern was probably open to the sky, and assured the water supply of the acropolis. In the upper levels of its fill on the W were found a number of blocks, probably fallen from the E wall of the Geometric temple, with archaic inscriptions of the late 7th or 6th c., including a constitutional law, a Greek-Eteocretan bilingual text (suggesting a surviving pre-Greek element in the population) and six fragmentary religious and public texts. In the lower levels on the E side were found incised blocks, clearly not from the temple, including one with graffiti similar to Minoan script and one with hammered designs curiously similar to scenes on the Ag. Triada sarcophagus.

The E hilltop seems to have been surrounded by a wall with a gate on the W side. However, the earliest remains found here are Roman; later ones are Byzantine and Venetian. Traces of a fortification wall of various periods have also been found on the W side of the W hill, on top of which a building (24 x 10.7 m) has been excavated which, though it was originally interpreted as a temple, may rather be an andreion or meeting place for hetaireiai; it has a deep vestibule with a side room, and a main room with a hearth and 2 (4?) columns. The stele bearing the Drerian Oath was found on this hill in 1854, identifying the site.

At the foot of the N slope of the E hill part of the cemetery has been excavated: 25 graves with low stone walls and an enclosure wall on the lower side. One grave contained inhumations and Sub-Minoan pottery; the rest are of Geometric date and contain mainly cremation burials, some of them in pithoi or urns, with scanty grave goods.


E. Bürchner, “Dreros,” RE 5 (1905) 1699; S. Xanthoudides, Deltion 4 (1918) Parartima I.23-30PI; M. Guarducci, ICr I (1935) 83-88; S. Marinatos, “Le temple géométrique de Dréros,” BCH 60 (1936) 214-85PI; H. van Effenterre, “A propos du serment des Drériens,” BCH 61 (1937) 327-32; id., “Une bilingue étéocrétoise?” RevPhil 20 (1946) 131-38; id., “Inscriptions archaïques crétoises,” BCH 70 (1946) 588-606; id., Nécropoles du Mirabello (1948)MPI; id., “Pierres inscrites de Dréros” BCH 85 (1961) 544-68; id. & P. Demargne, “Recherches à Dréros,” BCH 61 (1937) 5-32, 333-48MPI; E. Kirsten, “Dreros,” RE Suppl. 7 (1940) 128-49MP; P. Demargne, La Crète dédalique (1947); R. F. Willetts, Aristocratic Society in Ancient Crete (1955); id., Ancient Crete: A Social History (1965) esp. 68-73; C. Tiré & H. van Effenterre, Guide des fouilles françaises en Crète (1966) 5-88PI.


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