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DELOS Greece.

Situated in the center of the Cyclades, Delos is one of the smallest islands of the group, measuring some 5 km N-S and 1.3 km E-W at the widest. The highest point on the island is Mt. Kynthos, which measures 112 m and down which flows the Inopos.

Famous in antiquity as the birthplace of Apollo, Delos is mentioned with great frequency in ancient texts. The most important ones which refer to it are the Homeric Hymn to Apollo and Kallimachos Hymn to Delos. The oldest habitation site that has been found on the island is on the summit of Kynthos (end of the 3d millennium B.C.). The island seems to have been abandoned in the first half of the 2d millennium. Then a Mycenaean settlement was established at the future site of the Sanctuary of Apollo, which was itself founded at the beginning of the 7th c. B.C. The number of offerings between 700 and 550 indicates domination by Naxos at this period, but in the second half of the 6th c., it was Athens which attempted to control the sanctuary. Pisistratos, tyrant of Athens, intervened in the religious life of the island by “purifying” it, that is, by removing the tombs which surrounded the sanctuary. The Athenian supremacy became increasingly apparent in the 5th and 4th c., despite a short interruption from 404 to 394: Delos, then the headquarters of the maritime league directed by Athens, was administered by Athenian magistrates known as “amphictyons.” In 426 it was again purified, with all the remaining tombs removed and the bones and funerary furnishings deposited at Rheneia. In 314, Delos again became independent, remaining so until 166. The administrative accounts for the sanctuary and the inventories of offerings give us a rather good idea of the civil and religious institutions of this time. In 166, by Roman decree, Delos became an Athenian possession and was administered by an Athenian epimelete. It was declared a free port, and consequently attracted a great deal of maritime traffic and many merchants from Greece, Italy, and the East. This cosmopolitanism led first to the installation of foreign deities for whom sanctuaries of a non-Greek type were built; secondly, given the influx of immigrants, the town grew considerably. Delos was partially ravaged in 88 by the troops of Mithridates Eupator, and again in 69 by pirates of Athenodoros. These devastations together with the shift of commercial traffic to Italy as a result of the Roman conquest, led to the rapid decline of Delos. It remained a small town until the coming of Christianity, and was finally abandoned in the 7th c. A.D.

Excavations since 1873 have uncovered a very great part of ancient Delos. The ruins can be divided into seven groups: the region of the Sanctuary of Apollo, which is situated on a small plain behind the main port; the lake quarter and the theater quarter, which border on the sanctuary to the N and S respectively; the quarter of the Inopos; the Terrace of the Foreign Gods and Mt. Kynthos; finally two outlying groups, the stadium quarter, to the NE of the island, and the S region.

The sanctuary, which was established on the site of a Mycenaean settlement, began to take its present form towards the 6th c. B.C. It is reached by an avenue leading to a propylon, the avenue being flanked by two Hellenistic porticos, one of which was built by Philip V of Macedon. The propylon is contiguous with a 6th c. B.C. edifice called Oikos of the Naxians, which consists of a rather narrow room with an axial colonnade, and a four-column prostoon which was added later. Immediately to the N on the Sacred Way is to be found the base of the Naxian Colossos. Near it are three Temples of Apollo, constructed side by side and all facing W. The temple farthest N, which the inscriptions call Porinos Naos, dates to the 6th c. B.C., and appears to have consisted of a cella and a prodoinos. The second building is the Athenian Temple or Temple of the Seven Statues, which was built by the Athenians ca. 425-420. It was an ainphiprostyle hexastyle Doric temple which had in addition four pillars in antis. The interior of the cella was occupied by a horseshoe-shaped base which supported the statues of seven divinities whose identity is conjectural. The third Temple to Apollo, which was Doric, was the only peripteral temple on Delos. It was begun around 475-450 B.C., but not finished until the first half of the 3d c. To the N and the E of the temples are five buildings arranged in a semicircle. They are referred to as treasuries, but their actual purpose is unknown. They date from the archaic to the Classical period. To the E of the Temples of Apollo are a 6th c. B.C. edifice which may have been the bouleuterion, and the prytaneion, which was constructed in the 5th and 4th c. B.C. The latter is divided into several small rooms which inscriptions tell us included, among other things, a prodomos, a courtyard, and an archives room. Parallel to these two edifices is the Edifice of the Bulls, which is formed by a six-column prodomos, a long gallery flanked by benches, and a sort of cella reached by way of a bay framed by two supports, the pilasters of which are decorated with bull protoinas. The building, which was constructed at the end of the 4th c. or the beginning of the 3d, appears to have contained a ship which was probably a votive offering. To the W of the Temples of Apollo, on the other side of the Sacred Way, are various structures grouped around the Artemision. A first Temple of Artemis was built in the 7th c. B.C. on top of a Mycenaean edifice near which a hoard of gold and ivory Mycenaean objects has been found. This first temple was replaced in the 2d c. B.C. by a new one which incorporated it. To the E of the Arteinision the Sema of the Hyperborean Maidens Laodike and Hyperoche which was mentioned by Herodotos (4.34) has been identified by some. Nearby there is an apsidal structure of uncertain purpose. Contiguous with the S face of the Artemision are the foundations in poros of a large edifice which according to an account of the hieropoipoi was built by the Athenians in the 4th c. B.C. Blocks from the frieze represent the episodes of an epic of Theseus. Some have identified the structure, though without compelling reasons, with the Keraton mentioned in the accounts of the hieropoipoi. Parallel to its W face is the Edifice with the Hexagons, which is from the archaic period and had honeycomb decoration on at least two sides. To the N of the Artemision were the ekklesiasterion, which was remodeled several times from the 5th c. B.C. to the Imperial period, and a 5th c. building of very unusual plan which some have incorrectly identified as the Thesmophorion. It consisted of a courtyard with a Doric peristyle flanked by two symmetrical rooms whose roofs were supported by four Ionic columns. This building, along one side, borders an agora built ca. 126-125 by Theophrastos, epiineletes of Delos. A hypostyle hall built in the last years of the 3d c. B.C. opens onto this agora. Inside, 24 Doric columns and 20 Ionic columns supported a roof with a skylight.

To the N the Sanctuary of Apollo is closed by a portico constructed by Antigonos Gonatas. The gallery, with a Doric exterior colonnade and an Ionic interior one, was flanked by two projecting wings. The triglyphs of the intercolumniation were each decorated with a bull's head in high relief. In front of the facade of the portico, a Mycenaean tomb surrounded by a semicircular wall corresponds to the Theke of the Hyperborean Maidens Opis and Arge which was mentioned by Herodotos (4.35). Behind the Portico of Antigonos, the fountain Minoe consists of a square well into which one could descend by means of a wide staircase of 11 steps.

To the E the Sanctuary of Apollo is closed by a wall behind which was a residential district which has so far hardly been excavated and the Shrine of Dionysos, the latter flanked on either side by a cippa surmounted by the stump of a phallus. To the S of the Sanctuary of Apollo was the agora, a trapezoidal area surrounded by porticos built from the 3d to the 2d c. B.C. Baths were built on the agora in the Imperial period. Nearby, the basilica of St. Cyriacus is the only well-preserved Early Christian monument on Delos.

The lake quarter extends to the N of the Sanctuary of Apollo around the “trochoidal lake” mentioned by several ancient writers as one of the most notable features of Delos' scenery. In the archaic period, this region formed the Temenos of Leto, of which the lion terrace offered by the Naxians towards the end of the 3d c. B.C., and the mid 6th c. Temple of Leto, still remain. To the SW of the Letoon, the dodekatheon contained only the altars and probably the statues of the twelve gods. In the 3d c. B.C. an amphiprostyle Doric temple was added to it. To the E of the dodekatheon and the Letoon, the agora of the Italians testifies to the prosperity of Delos' Italian colony. The agora, which was paid for by the donations of various benefactors in the last years of the 2d c. B.C., consists of a large trapezoidal area surrounded by a two-story portico on which opened exedrae and niches. Except for two palaestrae, the N part of the district is formed essentially of private houses, including some of the most opulent dwellings on Delos: the House on the Hill, the House of Diaduinenos, The House on the Lake, and several recently excavated insulae, in particular that of the House of the Comedians, which included a two-story tower crowned with pediments. In addition to these private buildings mention should be made of the establishment of the Poseidoniastes of Berytos. Constructed in the first half of the 2d c. B.C. by the “Association of the Poseidoniastes of Berytos at Delos, Merchants, Shippers and Warehousemen,” it consists of two courtyards, living quarters, and four shrines dedicated to Roina, Poseidon of Berytos, and two other national divinities of the Berytians, probably Astarte and Echmoun. The establishment of the Poseidoniastes and the neighboring insulae are oriented N-S and E-W and stand on straight, right-angled streets. This district, which appears to have been constructed in the second half of the 2d c. B.C. must have been laid out according to a predetermined plan.

Such is not the case, however, with the area of the theater, which extends to the S of the Sanctuary of Apollo on the side of a hill. It is the oldest residential district of Delos. It continued to grow throughout the 3d c. B.C., and appears to be without prearranged plan. Its principal axis was the narrow Street of The Theater, which begins in a large flagged square called the Agora of the Herinaistes or Agora of the Coinpetaliastes on account of the numerous votive monuments erected there by these two Italian associations. The street, completely flagged, follows a twisting course as it rises to the theater, which was constructed in white marble in the 3d c. B.C. and could hold some 5500 spectators. The metopes of the frieze of the proskenion were decorated alternately with tripods and bucrania. The water which drained from the theater collected in a large cistern whose cover was supported by eight marble arches, which are still intact. On both sides of the Street of The Theater are houses dating in their present form from the 2d or the beginning of the 1st c. B.C. Most of them are two-story affairs. The most luxurious among them have a courtyard with marble peristyle and are decorated with mosaics. Some of them are well known: the House of Dionysos, which owes its name to a mosaic in opus vermiculatum representing a winged Dionysos (?) astride a tiger; the House of Cleopatra, in which the statues of its owners, the Athenian woman Cleopatra and her husband Dioskourides, are still to be found; the House of the Trident, whose peristyle of Rhodian type includes consoles decorated with two bull protomes and two lion protoines (probably symbols of Atargatis and Hadad), and which possesses several pictorial mosaics.

Behind the theater is a residential district which has only been partially excavated. The House of the Masks there is famous for the mosaics which decorate four contiguous rooms and which include a Dionysos on the cheetah and a series of ten theatrical masks. Almost directly across from it is the House of the Dolphins, which is almost equally famous on account of the vestibule mosaic with the symbol of Tanit and the mosaic in the iinpluvium, which is signed by [Askle]piades of Arados.

To the E of the theater precinct is the area of the Inopos, which is made up of public buildings and private houses along the banks of the Inopos. The waters of the stream were caught at this point in a reservoir constructed in the 3d c. B.C. The most noteworthy house in the area is the House of Hermes, which backs into a hill, and for this reason are preserved the remains of four stories. The sector includes two sanctuaries. The first is the Samothrakeion, consecrated to the Great Gods of Samothrace, Dioskouroi-Kabeiroi, and including both a temple built in the 4th c. B.C. which was enlarged in the 2d c. B.C. and the Monument of Mithridates, which Helianax, priest of Poseidon Aisios and the Great Gods, consecrated in 102-101 “to the gods of whom he is priest and to King Mithridates Eupator Dionysos.” The latter building consists of a square chamber with a statue of the king, and a facade with two Ionic columns in antis. Along the top of the walls ran a frieze composed of twelve medallions with half-length portraits of Mithridates' officers and allies. A little lower down is the Sarapeion A, the oldest of the Egyptian sanctuaries of Delos. It was built in 220 B.C. by the grandson of a priest of Memphis in obedience to a dream which is recounted in a long inscription carved on a colonnette found in the sanctuary. The sanctuary itself consists of a portico, two rooms, and a courtyard, at the far end of which stands a small temple. Some distance from the House of Hermes is the Aphrodision of Stesileos, a private organization of the 4th c. It consists of a marble temple, an altar, and five oikoi.

At the foot of the Kynthos massif extends a long terrace sometimes called the Terrace of the Foreign Gods because standing on it are the Sanctuary of the Syrian Gods and a Sarapeion. The sanctuary, consecrated essentially to Atargatis and Hadad, occupies the N half of the terrace. Built in stages during the second half of the 2d c. B.C., it was administered at first by hieropolitan priests and then as an official right by Athenian priests. It consists of a square courtyard surrounded by small rooms and shrines, and a long terrace onto which a small theater opens. Here the faithful sat during the ceremonies, as is indicated by the absence of a stage and the presence of a portico which surrounds the cavea and hid the spectacle from profane eyes. To the S is the Sarapeion C, which was under official administration from the beginning of the 2d c. B.C. A dromos bordered by porticos and small sphinxes alternating with square altars leads to a large flagged courtyard. This is surrounded by several small buildings of cultic purpose, in particular the little bluish marble Temple of Serapis and the Doric distyle in antis Temple of Isis. The facade of the latter has been reconstructed and its cella still contains the big statue of Isis. The dromos of the Sarapeion C is dominated by the Heraion. This temple, Doric distyle in antis, dates from the end of the 6th c. B.C. Its foundations enclose the remains of a much smaller, earlier temple which appears to date from the beginning of the 7th c. B.C.

The summit of Mt. Kynthos was reached by three roads which ran up the N and W sides. It was originally the site of a post-Neolithic settlement dating from the last centuries of the 3d millennium B.C. The remains of huts with generally curvilinear walls, as well as various stone and earthenware artifacts, have been found under the Sanctuary of Zeus and Athena Kynthia. This Kynthion was erected in Hellenistic times, for the most part in the 3d c. B.C. Its main structures are an oikos of Zeus Kynthios and an oikos of Athena Kynthia, both Ionic distyle in antis.

The W face of Mt. Kynthos supports two sanctuaries, that of Agathe Tyche and the Den of Kynthos; the nature of the latter has long been a matter of dispute. It consists of a natural cleft in the rock covered by a ridge-roof formed by 10 enormous blocks of granite leaning against and supporting each other in pairs. Inside is a base which bore a statue of Herakles. Although the Den was long considered to have been the original Sanctuary of Apollo, it would appear in reality to have been a Hellenistic Sanctuary of Herakles. The N face of Kynthos is occupied by several sanctuaries of oriental type, such as that of the gods of Iamneia and that of the gods of Ascalon.

The stadium area is in the NE part of Delos, running along the E coast. The stadium is bordered with tiers of seats on the W and has a tribunal on the E. It is next to a gymnasium, established there in the early 3d c. B.C. and rebuilt during the Athenian period, whose central courtyard with an Ionic peristyle is flanked by rooms on two sides only. The stadium dominates a partially explored residential quarter. Nearby on the shore was the synagogue, identified by its ground-plan and dedications to Theos Hypsistos. It was in use until the 2d c. A.D. Halfway between the stadium area and the Sanctuary of Apollo is the Archegesion or Sanctuary of Anios, mythical archegetes and king of Delos. It dates from the 6th c. B.C. but was remodeled during the Hellenistic period.

To the S of the Sanctuary of Apollo along the W shore are various ruins which have been only partially excavated. After a group of warehouses opening on the port comes a sanctuary which might be the Dioskourion. It contains various archaic and Hellenistic structures. More to the S the Asklepieion was built between the end of the 4th and the middle of the 3d c. B.C. Among other things, a propylon, an oikos, and the Doric tetrastyle temple have been found there. To the E of this sanctuary, on the side of the hill, is the exceptionally large House of Fourni.

In 69, Delos was fortified by the legate Triarios; remains of the Wall of Triarios are to be found in various places, particularly to the E of the lake area.

Most objects found on the island are preserved in the Delos museum, with the exceptions of some exceptional pieces in the National Museum of Athens. The former thus possesses a considerable collection of archaic kouroi and korai, some pieces of Classical sculpture, and a vast quantity of Hellenistic statues and reliefs. In addition it contains fragments of murals from the houses and the altars of the Compitalia; gold and ivory Mycenaean objects; ceramics from all periods, but especially from the 1st and 2d c. B.C.; Hellenistic figurines and furnishings; and hundreds of marble inscriptions.

Rheneia, to the W of Delos, has been only summarily explored. The E coast, which is that closest to Delos, contains the necropolis of the Delians. In addition to numerous tombs and funerary stelai, there have been found a columbarium from the Hellenistic period and the mass grave where the bones and funerary offerings exhumed in the “purification” of 426 were placed. A small Sanctuary of Herakles, dating from the 2d or the 1st c. B.C. has been found near the W bank.


M. Bulard, Monuments Piot, XIV: Peintures murales et mosaïques de Délos (1908)I; L'Exploration arch. de Délos, 30 vols. (1909-74)MPI. I: A. Bellot, Carte de l'île de Délos (1909); II: G. Leroux, La Salle hypostyle (1909); II.2: R. Vallois & G. Poulsen, Compléments (1914); III: L. Gallois, Cartographie de l'île de Délos (1910); IV: L. Cayeux, Description physique de l'île de Délos (1911); V: F. Courby, Le Portique d'Antigone ou du Nord-Est et les constructions voisines (1912); VI: C. Picard, L'Etablissement des Poseidoniastes de Bérytos (1921); VII.1: R. Vallois, Le Portique de Philippe (1923); VIII: J. Chamonard, Le Quartier du théâtre (1922-24); IX: M. Bulard, Description des revêtements peints à sujets religieux (1926); X: C. Dugas, Les vases de l'Héraion (1928); XI: A. Plassart, Les sanctuaires et les cultes du Mont Cynthe (1928); XII: F. Courby, Les Temples d'Apollon (1931); XIII: C. Michalowski, Les Portraits hellénistiques et romains (1932); XIV: J. Chamonard, Les mosaïques de la Maison des masques (1933); XV: C. Dugas & C. Rhomaios, Les vases préhelLéniques et géométriques (1934); XVI F. Chapouthier, Le Sanctuaire des dieux de Samothrace (1935); XVII: C. Dugas, Les vases orientalisants de style non mélien (1935); XVIII: W. Deonna, Le mobilier délien (1938); XIX: E. Lapalus, L'Agora des Italiens (1939); XX: F. Robert, Trois sanctuaires sur le rivage occidental (1952); XXI: C. Dugas, Les vases attiques à figures rouges (1952); XXII: E. Will, Le Dôdékathéon (1955); XXIII: A. Laumonier, Les figurines de terre cuite (1956); XXIV: H. Gallet de Santerre, La Terrasse des lions, le Létoon, le Monument de granit (1959); XXV: J. Delorme, Les Palestres (1961); XXVI: P. Bruneau, Les lampes (1965); XXVII: P. Bruneau et al., L'Ilot de la Maison des comédiens (1970); XXVIII: J. Audiat, Le Gymnase (1970); XXIX: P. Bruneau, Les mosaïques (1972); XXX: M.-Th. Couilloud, Les Monuments funeraires de Rhénée (1974); P. Roussel, Les cultes égyptiens à Délos (1915-16)PI; id., Délos colonie athénienne (1916); R. Vallois, L'architecture hellénique et hellénistique à Délos (1944, 1966) I, II; id., Les constructions antiques de Délos (1953)MPI; Gallet de Santerre, Délos primitive et archaique (1958)MPI; P. Bruneau & J. Ducat, Guide de Délos (1966)MPI; Bruneau, “Contribution à l'histoire urbaine de Délos,” BCH 92 (1968) 633-709; id., Recherches sur les cultes de Délos a l'époque hellénistique et à l'époque impériale (1970)MPI; J. Marcadé, Au Musée de Délos, étude sur la sculpture hellénistique en ronde bosse découverte dans l'île (1969)I.

Inscriptions: IG XI 2, 4; Inscriptions de Délos; F. Durrbach, Choix d'inscriptions de Délos avec traduction et commentaire I: Textes historiques (1921). Only Vol.

I is published. P. BRUNEAU

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  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.34
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.35
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