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KOS Greece.

An island of the S Sporades group. The Iliad (2.676) speaks of the participation of Kos in the Trojan War under the leadership of the Heraclidae Phidippos and Antiphos; they are to have succeeded the first dynasty of the island, which was Thessalian. In archaic times Kos was a Doric oligarchy; it became part of the political and religious union that included Lindos, Kamiros, Ialysos, Knidos, and Halikarnassos. At the end of the 6th c. B.C. Kos fell under Persian domination, but rebelled after the Greek victory at Cape Mykale in 479 B.C. In 477 the island entered the Delio-Attic League, and during the Peloponnesian war it participated in the expedition to Sicily as an ally of Athens. In 410 B.C. Alkibiades left an Athenian garrison on the island, and it was subsequently occupied by the Spartans under Lysander. Only after Knidos had done so did Kos become re-allied with Athens in 394 B.C., and the island was also a member of the Second Maritime League.

Following a synoecism, probably promoted by the family of the Asklepiads of Isthmos in the W part of the island, the capital was transferred from Astypalaia to the site of the modern city (Diod. 15.762; Strab. 14.657). In 357 B.C. the island fought against Athens in the social war, and passed under the control of Mausolos, King of Caria. After the victory of Alexander the Great at Halikarnassos in 334 B.C., Kos became part of the Macedonian domain. After 309 B.C. Kos was linked to the dynasty of the Lagidi until the naval battle of 260 B.C. in which the Ptolemies were defeated by Antigonos Gonatas, King of Macedonia. Later the island came under the influence of Rhodes, but from the beginning of the 2d c. B.C. entered into the Roman orbit. Kos was occupied and sacked by Mithridates in 88 B.C., but continued to have good relations with Rome and was a civitas libera of the province of Asia. In A.D. 53, under Claudius, the island was declared immunis. Antoninus Pius aided in its recovery after the terrible earthquake in 142. In the time of Diocletian Kos was part of the Provincia insularum, and later was annexed to the Eastern Empire. In this period the island suffered two violent earthquakes, in A.D. 469 and 554. The latter destroyed the city.

Excavations in the city and elsewhere on the island were begun in 1900-1904 and continued in 1922-43. The site of the modern city was occupied in very ancient times. In the zone called the Seraglio in the S central part of the city a habitation site from the Bronze Age has been explored, in which the earliest identifiable strata belong to the Middle Bronze Age and the most recent to the end of the Late Bronze Age. Related to this habitation site are the necropoleis of Eleona and Langada SW of the modern city, which were excavated in 1935 and 1940. Material from the three phases of Late Bronze Age III included imported Mycenaean pottery and locally made imitations.

Above the Mycenaean habitation site is a protogeometric necropolis, but the settlement has not been found. The latest tombs in the necropolis date from the end of the 8th c. B.C. Later finds are scarce and sporadic, and apparently the site was not reoccupied until 366 B.C. when the city was founded after the synoecism. On the other hand, the sources (Thuc. 8.41.2; Diod. 13.42.3) speak of Kos Meropis during the Classical period, a city which must have been situated on the sea near the new Kos of 366, but which was probably not a center of major importance. The new city of 366 B.C., with a geometric plan following the principles of Hippodamos was enclosed by a wall of volcanic stone, of which several sections have been found. Its perimeter is calculated as 3-4 km. The port was left outside the wall to the N, but was protected by two sections of wall that were detached on the E and W from the principal wall. In the 2d c. B.C., in connection with a general restoration of buildings in the city for which white marble from local quarries was freely used, the wall was restored with limestone worked in boss-like projections.

Some interesting monuments have been brought to light in the port area, including a shrine from the 2d c. B.C. with a rectangular plan. A few courses of the marble superstructure survive, on an earthen foundation that seems to be older; it is surrounded by a 3d c. A.D. building with a series of rooms on four sides. There are also remains of a travertine stoa, built in the 4th-3d c. B.C. and remodeled in the 3d c. A.D., which are visible between the foundation walls of a basilica built above it in the 5th c. A.D. The basilica had three aisles preceded by an atrium and a narthex, and a square baptistery. The principal monument in this area is a sanctuary, of which the foundations remain: a Doric quadriporticus on a high podium with two propylaea in front, and an internal esplanade with two matching tetrastyle temples which have high flights of steps in front. The sanctuary, attributed to Aphrodite Pandemos and Pontia, was erected in the 2d c. B.C. and must have been the first monumental structure seen by those arriving by sea. At the extreme NW of the port area a bath building from the 3d c. A.D. has been found.

The agora, ca. 82 m wide, was built against the N side of the N city wall, extending out from its E part. It was enclosed by its own wall on the other three sides, and a section of the W side, built in the 4th-3d c. B.C., remains. A road circled the wall on the outside. The inside of the walls formed the backs of wide porticos which were reconstructed in marble in the 2d c. B.C., with Doric columns fluted for two-thirds of their height. The pavement, remade in the 2d c. B.C., was of regular slabs of marble. The S side, recently excavated, extended as far as the altar of Dionysos and a Doric temple in antis, both of the 2d c. B.C. In the Roman period the walls on the N side, which had fallen in the earthquake during the reign of Antoninus Pius, were rebuilt with a monumental entrance. The opening had three large arches, which on the interior corresponded to rooms with barrel vaults decorated with plaster. In front of the arches a grand marble staircase descended to the area of the port.

In the N part of the W zone of the city are the badly damaged remains of large bath buildings datable to the 3d c. A.D. There is also a stadium built against the E slope of a small hill. Its original plan, with simple benches in travertine, is attributable to the first phase of the city. The aphesis, of which the stylobate and several bases of semi-columns in marble built against pilasters survive, belongs to the 2d c. B.C. The W tribune dates to the Roman age, the 3d c. A.D. Farther S, but still in the W section, is a monumental complex including a gymnasium of the 2d c. B.C., the xyston of which has been partly restored; E of the gymnasium were large baths. After the earthquake of A.D. 469, which destroyed the baths, the frigidarium and several other rooms were transformed into a basilica. Mosaic pavements in ornate geometric designs have been found. Another church with a baptistery was built in the caldarium.

On the E the baths were bounded by the cardo maximus, and its paving of large irregular slabs, of the 3d c. A.D., is preserved under the level corresponding to the Early Christian basilicas. Part of a travertine portico of the 4th-3d c. B.C. survives E of the cardo, and S of the portico is a public latrine, also contemporary with the baths, which has been entirely reconstructed. It has a square plan with an interior gallery on three sides; the sewer ran along the back wall. The gallery consists of Ionic columns surmounted by arches in brick with vaults. On the fourth side of the latrine is a fountain with three niches and basins, and behind that an access corridor with the entrance to the cardo. Farther S the cardo intersects the decumanus, 150 m of which have been brought to light towards the W. It is ca. 10.5 m wide, including the sidewalks, had porticos on both sides, and also dates from the 3d c. A.D.

Near the intersection of cardo and decumanus is the Odeion, with rectilinear walls enclosing the cavea, which is supported by two semicircular vaulted galleries. The circular orchestra was decorated in opus-sectile with a design of intertwined squares. Three open doorways in the scena lead to a room behind. A loggia probably ran above the summa cavea. A last large public building, not yet completely excavated, is the theater, dating like the Odeion from the 3d c. A.D. Near the S walls of the city, it has a semicircular orchestra and cavea with the marble tiers built against a hillside. Especially to N and S of the decumanus there are interesting private houses, arranged in regular city blocks.

At the corner of the decumanus and the cardo is the House of the Mosaic of Europa, which constitutes an entire block. The house has a trapezoidal plan and a central porticoed courtyard, from which open various rooms. Another block S of the decumanus is occupied by a large socalled Roman house, with two peristyles and a courtyard with windows. Many mosaics have been found in the houses, featuring figured scenes and geometric designs. In the House of the Mosaic of Silenus, for example, mosaics of a boar hunt and of a battle between gladiators, datable to the 2d-3d c. A.D., have been found, in addition to the mosaic for which it is named. A nearby house has mosaics of the 3d-4th c. A.D., showing the Muses and Eros depicted as a fisherman. Among mosaics worth mentioning from the W zone of the city are Orpheus and the animals, Hunting and Fishing, and The Judgment of Paris, of the early 3d c. A.D.

Near the city of Kos is the sanctuary of Asklepios. The healing god was venerated from the earliest times on the island, which was also the home of Hippokrates, the most famous physician of antiquity. In the beginning the sanctuary had only an altar in the place which had originally been the sanctuary of Apollo Kyparissios. Only after the death of Hippokrates, about the middle of the 4th c. B.C., was the construction of the Asklepieion begun, and its completion and embellishment took a long time. The first plan consisted of the temple of the god with the altar decorated by the sons of Praxiteles, and of the abaton, the room in which the sick awaited the god. The sanctuary, excavated in 1901, in its final form consisted of four terraces joined by stairways, with heavy foundation walls. In the lower quarter is a small Roman bath building, from which one may ascend to the large baths added in the 3d c. A.D. to the E part of the third terrace, with an apsidal basilica and frigidarium. The principal access to the third terrace, enclosed by porticos on three sides, was by a Doric propylaion; its foundations and a wide stairway are preserved. From the porticos opened various rooms for the sick. At the center of the second terrace the foundation of the altar of Asklepios is visible. To the right is the Ionic temple of the god, of the early 3d c. B.C., in which votive offerings were deposited. To the left is another temple of the Imperial age. Nearby are the remains of a lesche with a portico. An exedra and a building to house the priests, of which little remain, were located at the foot of the stairway to the terrace above. The uppermost terrace was constructed during an enlargement of the complex in the 2d c. B.C. It contains the six-columned Doric peripteral temple of the god, enclosed by porticos.

In the S part of the island not far from the village of Kephalos, on an upland near the church of the Panaghia Palatiane, are the remains of polygonal walls. These belong to the site of ancient Astypalaia, the principal city of the island before the synoecism, which was probably founded after the Doric invasion. Ceramic material from the 9th c. B.C. found at the site support the identification. Near Kephalos there are two small Doric temples in antis and a Hellenistic theater with a semicircular orchestra and seats of trachyte. Not far away, near the SE coast, excavations in the grotto of Aspripetra have brought to light a cult place active from the Neolithic period until the 4th-3d c. B.C., when Pan and the Nymphs were venerated there. A Hellenistic theater built against a hill has been excavated near Kardamena; the cavea is preserved to the height of three tiers of seats. In the same area inscriptions attest that ruins near the church of Haghia Theotes belonged to a sanctuary of Apollo. In the center of the island, at Pyli, a vaulted hypogeum in which are incorporated elements of Doric entablature from the Hellenistic age has been found under a village church. It is popularly identified as the Heroon of Charmylos, a local mythological hero. There is a tract of Cyclopean wall near the abandoned medieval fortress of Palaio Pyli, and Mycenaean pottery fragments from the area may indicate a Bronze Age settlement. Between Pyli and Asfendiu is a sanctuary of Demeter and Kore, with a little Hellenistic temple in which marble votive statues were found.

Both in the city of Kos and elsewhere on the island are interesting Early Christian basilicas, with splendid mosaics, that date from the period between the earthquakes of A.D. 469 and 554. The sculpture and ceramics from the excavations are preserved in the archaeological museum at Kos.


R. Herzog,AA (1901) 131ff; (1903) 1ff; (1905) 1ff; id. & P. Schazmann,Kos I, Asclepieion (1932)MPI; D. Levi, “La grotta di Aspripetra a Cos,” ASAtene 8-9 (1929) 235ffPI; L. Laurenzi, “Nuovi contributi alla topografia storico archeologica di Coo,”Historia 5 (1931) 603ffMPI; id., “L'Odeion di Coo,” ibid. 592ffPI; id.,EAA 3 (1959) 795ff; H. Balducci, Basiliche protocristiane e bizantine a Coo (1936)MPI; L. Morncone, “Scavi e ricerche a Coo, 1935-43,”BdA 35 (1950) 54-75, 219-46, 316-31MPI; id., “Eleona e Langada; sepolcreti della tarda età del bronzo a Coo,” ASAtene 27-28 (1965-66) 5ff; J. D. Kondis, Αἱ ἑλληιστικαὶ διαμορφώσεις . . . (1956)MPI; G. E. Bean, “The Carian Coast III,” BSA 52 (1957) 119ff; id., “Kos,”Ergon (1959) 131ff; G. Pugliese Caratelli, “Ii damos coo di Isthmos,” ASAtene 25-26 (1963-64) 147ff; A. Orlandos,ArchEph (1966) 1-103; R. Hope Simpson & F. Lazenby, “Notes from the Dodecanese,” BSA 57 (1962) 169ffM; 65 (1970) 55ffMPI; 68 (1973) 170ff.


hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 13.42.3
    • Thucydides, Histories, 8.41.2
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