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OLOUS (near Elounda) Greece.

On the W side of the Gulf of Mirabello, just N of Ag. Nikolnos, N coast of Crete. The remains of the ancient city lie on both sides of the isthmus which joins the peninsula of Spinalonga to the mainland; the area of the site is known as Poros.

Ancient literary sources merely locate the site. In late sources (e.g. Notitiae) the name has been corrupted to Alyngos. Most of our knowledge of the city's history is derived from inscriptions of the Hellenistic period. In one of post 260 B.C. Olous appears as a subordinate ally of Knossos. A number of 3d and 2d c. inscriptions show the city's close relations with Rhodes; in particular, parts of a treaty between Rhodes and Olous dating from 201-200 have been discovered in recent years, by which Rhodes secured a great measure of control over Olous and her ports and anchorages, as she did over those of Hierapytna in the same year. Ptolemaic admirals had been honored at Olous at about the time of the Chremonidean war in the 260s. Olous does not appear among the cities of the Cretan koinon in the treaty with Eumenes II in 183, either because she was then subject to her neighbor Lato or because of her links with Egypt. A boundary dispute between Olous and Lato was referred to the Knossians for arbitration (117-116/116-115 B.C.); continuing wrangles led to Roman intervention and confirmation by the Senate of the Knossians' decision on the boundary line (ca. 113; see Sta Lenika).

Coins of ca. 330-280 B.C. are known, depicting in particular the heads of Britomartis and Zeus Tallaios. The latter was clearly the chief deity of Olous, in whose temple many inscriptions were displayed; for the same reason the cult of Asklepios must also have been important. Pausanias (9.40.3) mentions a statue of Britomartis by Daidalos at Olous. None of their temples at Olous has been found.

There is clear evidence that the site has been submerged by at least 2 m since antiquity, probably mainly as a result of land movements: by the actual isthmus some remains of houses are visible in shallow water. The channel at the isthmus was dug for the local fishermen by French sailors who occupied the area in 1897; their finds included the large stele now in the Louvre. The only ruins still clearly visible E of the isthmus are those of an Early Christian basilica with a mosaic in the nave.

Few remains of the archaic and Classical periods have been found, but part of the massive E wall of the city still stood 6 courses high in the 19th c. Graeco-Roman sherds have been found at Kolokythia Bay on the E side of the peninsula, and at the N end of Spinalonga is an islet fortified by the Venetians; no earlier remains are visible. There are many rock inscriptions around the peninsula.

West of the isthmus a few walls have been found, but the area served mainly as a cemetery. Graves with coffins or pithoi of the LM IIIB period have been found, and the Hellenistic necropolis with funerary inscriptions. Just to the N lies a significant Middle Minoan settlement, and a few Early Minoan pots have been found.

Just within the territory of Olous, to the SW, a prominent hilltop bears remains of a fort of uncertain (ancient) date (Mt. Oxa). Farther N another fort at Stis Pines guarded the road to Dreros. Just S of Mt. Oxa lies the site of Sta Lenika in Latian territory.


T.A.B. Spratt, Travels and Researches in Crete (1865) 117-29I; A. Mariani, MonAnt 6 (1895) 248-49; M. Guarducci, ICr I (1935) 243ff; J.D.S. Pendlebury, The Archaeology of Crete (1939); E. Kirsten, “Olur (2),” RE 17,2 (1937) 2504-8; H. van Effenterre, La Crète et le monde grec de Platon à Polybe (1948) esp. 226-34; id., Nécropoles du Mirabello (1948)MI; id., “Fortins crétois,” Mél. Charles Picard II (1949) 1033-46I; A. Orlandos, Praktika (1960) 308-16; id., Kret. Chron. 15-16,1 (1961-62) 230-40; C. Tiré & H. van Effenterre, Guide des fouilles françaises en Crète (1966) 88-89I; SEG XXIII (1968) Nos. 546-55.


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  • Cross-references from this page (1):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.40.3
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