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LISOS or Lissos Greece.

A small city on S coast of W Crete, on a remote bay named after the chapel of Ag. Kyrkos, Selino district; it is E of Kastelli Selinou and W of Souyia. Its early history is unknown. In the early 3d c. B.C. it had a coinage alliance with its neighbors Elyros, Hyrtakina, and Tarrha. By the mid 3d c. it was a member of the league of People of the Mountains (Oreioi) and probably the chief city; the league lasted until the late 3d or early 2d c. The city is mentioned in ancient coastal pilots ([Skylax] 47; Stadiasmus 332f) and geographies (Ptol. 3.15.3; Tab. Peut. 8.5; Geogr. Rav. 5.21); later sources show it was a bishop's seat until the 9th c. (Hierokles 650.16; Not. gr. episc. 8.239; 9.148). Coins of the 4th-3d c. and the treaty of the Oreioi with King Magas of Kyrene indicate that the main divinity of Lisos was Dictynna, but excavation has now revealed an important Sanctuary of Asklepios.

Lisos was once thought to lie at Kastelli Selinou, but the correct site was identified in the 19th c., and proved by discovery in the wall of the chapel of Agios Kyrkos of a stone inscribed with the treaty between the Oreioi and Magas. On the slopes W of the stream that crosses the small coastal plain are remains of the necropolis, including many freestanding barrel-vaulted built tombs; E of the stream are the ruins of the city, which was inhabited from at least the Classical to the First Byzantine period, but apparently not reoccupied after the Arab conquest. In antiquity the relative sea level was probably some 7.8 m higher; there would then have been the natural harbor attested by Skylax, which could have served as one of the ports of inland Elyros (the main one being Syia).

Remains have been found of an aqueduct, a theater only 23.4 m in diameter, and a large Roman bath building near the chapel of Agios Kyrkos at the back of the plain. Under this chapel and that of the Panagia near the shore are the remains of Early Christian basilicas. The city was small; it had little cultivable land and was barely approachable except by sea.

The Sanctuary of Asklepios, however, which arose because of a spring of curative water, is strikingly large. It was rediscovered after the unearthing of votive statues near the chapel of Agios Kyrkos, and is the only area of the city to be systematically excavated. The temple is a small, simple Doric temple with walls of well-dressed polygonal masonry below and pseudo-isodomic above. It has no pronaos, and the cella, paved with a fine polychrome mosaic, has a marble podium at its rear for the cult statues. The water from the spring ran under the paving to a fountain in the cella. In front of the building is a forecourt, and on the W side an entrance portico from which steps led up to the temple. The building seems to have been destroyed in an earthquake; parts of its superstructure were found widely scattered. Nearby was a building used by priests or visitors. The spring itself was approached by steps from the terrace; beside it was a large cistern.

This site has produced more sculpture than any in Crete except Gortyn. Many of the heads of statues and statuettes were found in a heap some distance away from the torsos; most of them represent Asklepios or Hygieia, or girls and boys (presumably consecrated to the god). They are of Hellenistic and Roman date, but the types are mostly Classical. A number of statue bases bear dedications to Asklepios and Hygieia. The finds are in the Chania and Herakleion museums.


R. Pashley, Travels in Crete II (1837; repr. 1970) 88-97; T.A.B. Spratt, Travels and Researches in Crete II (1865) 240-41; L. Savignoni, MonAnt 11 (1901) 448-59I; G. de Sanctis, ibid. 509-10; Bürchner, “Lisos,” RE XIII, 1 (1926) 730; M. Guarducci, ICr II (1939) 210-15; E. Kirsten, “Orioi,” RE XVIII, 1 (1942) 1063-65; H. van Effenterre, La Crète et le monde grec de Platon à Polybe (1948) 120-26; KretChron 11(1957) 336-37; 12 (1958) 465-67; 13 (1959) 376-78; 14 (1960) 516; BCH 82 (1958) 799; 83 (1959) 753-54; 84 (1960) 852-53; R. F. Willetts, Cretan Cults and Festivals (1962) 191-92; S. G. Spanakis, Kriti II (n.d.) 247-50.


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