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MELOS Greece.

One of the islands in the Cyclades, constituted of a volcanic massif whose radius was probably an ancient crater. From the written tradition we know that the island was anciently inhabited by a Phoenician population. Excavation testifies to a flourishing prehistoric civilization. Thucydides (5.112,116) places the Doric invasion 700 years before the Athenian conquest, about the 13th c. B.C. The Athenians took Melos in 416 during the Peloponnesian War and subsequently lost it. It was liberated by Sparta, then fell under the Macedonians, was eventually conquered by Rome, and was abandoned in the 5th c. A.D.

In the W part of the island there are traces of prehistoric settlements. The remains of three such settlements have been found at Phylakopi, on a promontory dominating the sea. The first dates from the Ancient Minoan period (2600-2000), and was a center of commerce in obsidian. The second dates from the Middle Minoan I-III (ca. 2000-1700) and the Late Minoan I and II (1600-1500) and has houses decorated with frescoes, the most famous of which is of fish and is now at the National Museum in Athens. This settlement was destroyed by fire. The third (1500-1000) underwent Mycenaean influence and has a walled palace which represents the height of Cycladic civilization on Melos. It was destroyed by the Dorians who settled on the island. A vast necropolis, contemporary with the third settlement, has rock-cut tombs forming large niches, with double chambers and small dromoi. The hill of the Prophet Elias constituted the acropolis of ancient Melos, where there remain a few traces of ancient walls and of the city. The theater, now in a poor state of preservation, was rebuilt by the Romans. Adjacent to it there were walls belonging to either a stadium or a gymnasium. Near the port a portico has been uncovered on the site of the Sanctuary of Poseidon, where the famous statue of the god (mid 2d c. B.C.), now in the National Museum at Athens, was discovered. A sanctuary dedicated to Asklepios has been found, from which came a head of the god, now in the British Museum in London. Near the theater remains of catacombs include a large room with sarcophagi, from which open four smaller galleries with Christian tombs, including some ornamented by frescoes.

Production of the so-called Melian reliefs is attributed to the island of Melos. Over a hundred examples have been noted of these small reliefs in terracotta, dating from between 480 and 440-30 B.C., and coming largely from tombs. A single tablet was found in the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore at Kos. The clay tablets were stamped in molds, and were probably reproductions of clay models. They have holes, which leads to the supposition that they were used as a covering, perhaps on wooden caskets. They are the modest work of artisans, important because they show the influence of Ionic art and of the great painters, particularly Polygnotos. After the middle of the 5th c. Attic influence is felt instead. The figurative cycle is composed of mythological scenes and scenes of daily life.

Klima, founded about 700 B.C., took up the role formerly held by Phylakopi until its destruction, after a hiatus of 4 c. The ancient remains are few, though in 1820 a Greek peasant found here, in pieces, the famous statue of Aphrodite in Parian marble that was bought by the French ambassador to Istanbul as a gift for Louis XVIII, and since 1821 has been on display at the Louvre. During excavations undertaken at Melos in 1828 a base was found with part of a signature (. . .andros), datable to about 100 B.C., which was tried as a support for the instable statue of Aphrodite.

Zephiria, today known as Paleokora, was a rather prosperous city served by two ports, one on the Bay of Haghia Triada, and the other on the Bay of Paleokora. Only traces of the ancient foundations have been found under successive constructions. In 1204 the Venetians occupied the island, holding it until the arrival of the Turks in 1537. Zephiria, because of its position, suffered numerous epidemics, and was finally abandoned in 1793.


C. Bursian, Geographie von Griechenland (1868-72) II 496ff; K. Ehrenburg, Die Inselgruppe von Milos (1899); Atkinson et al., Excavations at Philakopi in Melos, Suppl. Papers Soc.Prom.Hellenic Studies (1904) IV; Reports in Arch.Anz. (1928, 1930, 1939) c.263; P. Jacobstahl, “Die Melischen Reliefs” in Zeits.f.bild.Kunst, LVI, NS XXXII (1931) 94-104; id., JHS 59 (1939) 65ffI; G. M. Richter, Archaic Greek Art (1949) 30, 35, 95, 100; J. D. Beazley, AJA 45 (1941) 342; C. Karouzou, JHS 71 (1951) 104ff; J. W. Graham, AJA 62 (1958) 313; B. Shafton, BCH 82 (1958) 27ff; M. Bieber, The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age (1955) 159ff.


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