previous next

KEOS (Ceos, Cea, Zea; now officially Kea, but called Tzia) one of the Cyclades, Greece.

Near the tip of Attica, the island is favorably situated on principal shipping lanes. It has more water than most islands and once bore a second name, Hydrousa. Small plains and terraced slopes provide arable land and there are deposits of useful minerals, including miltos. Not surprisingly, it has been inhabited since Neolithic times. The word Keos (with omega) is almost certainly not Greek, presumably pre-Greek.

In Early Classical times there was a tetrapolis, but in the days of Strabo (10.5.6; C486) the cities were only two. Ioulis having taken over Koressia and Karthaia having absorbed Poieessa. The history and antiquities of the island have been examined sporadically by modern scholars but few sites have been systematically excavated and much remains unknown.

Koressia (originally Koressos, another Prehellenic name), at the W end of the great natural harbor on the NW coast of the island, was and is now the principal port. Ancient walls are visible on the rocky heights behind it, and on an upper terrace are remains of a temple. Among chance finds in the town are bits of excellent Attic pottery and a fine kouros of the third quarter of the 6th c. (National Museum 3686).

Ioulis, the most important of the Classical poleis and the chief modern town (Kea, “Chora”), is inland, high on the steep hillsides S of the harbor. Parts of walls are exposed, architectural fragments and pieces of marble sculpture and inscriptions have been found, but the place has not been excavated. About a km NE of the town a mighty figure of a reclining lion, carved in high relief on a rough boulder, rests isolated on the slopes. It is 9 m long; a work probably of the early 6th c., seen undoubtedly by Simonides and Bacchylides, who were natives of Ioulis.

Karthaia, on the SE coast at the foot of deep gorges which descend from the highlands, is now called Poles and is all but deserted. Parts were investigated by Bröndsted in 1812. There are massive walls of masonry and remains of various buildings, among which are a Temple of Athena in excellent style of the early 5th c. and one of Apollo.

Poieessa (Poiessa, Poiassa; now Poises) was on the W coast, above a small, rich valley. Ancient walls can be seen on the rocky hills; it has not been excavated.

Between Poieessa and Koressia there were Temples of Apollo Smintheus and Athena Nedousia, the latter said to have been founded by Nestor on his voyage homeward from Troy (Strabo 10.5.6). A big watchtower, probably of the 4th c. B.C., shaken but remarkably well preserved, stands at the village of Haghia Marina. At many places along the coasts and on the high ground in the interior potsherds, bits of roof tiles, and building blocks testify to extensive occupation in Greek and Roman times.

The promontory of Haghia Irini at the inner (E) end of the great harbor, was the site of a flourishing town in the Bronze Age. In it was a free-standing building, a temple, which served religious purposes from the Middle Helladic period onward. Destroyed by earthquake in the 15th c. B.C., it was rebuilt and modified repeatedly in Mycenaean times and thereafter. One of the small rooms became a shrine and in it, around 700 B.C., was carefully preserved the head of one of the large terracotta female statues which had stood in the temple some eight centuries earlier. Graffiti and small votive offerings show that the shrine was sacred to Dionysos from the 6th c. The area seems to have been revered at least until late Hellenistic times.


P. O. Bröndsted, Reisen und Untersuchungen in Griechenland (also in French, Voyages . . .) (1826) II; A. Meliarakes, Hypomnemata perigraphika ton Kykiadon neson (1880) 184-263; F. Halbherr, “Iscrizioni di Keos,” Museo Italiano di Antichità Classica 1 (1885) 191-219; A. Pridik, De Cei insulae rebus (1892); L. Savignoni, “Archaiotetes tes Keo,” ArchEph (1898) 219-48; P. Graindor, “Fouilles de Karthaia,” BCH 29 (1905) 329-61I; K. Storck, Die ältesten Sagen der Insel Keos (1912); I. N. Psyllas, Historia tes nesou Keas (1920); L. Buuml;rchner in RE (1921); G. Welter, “Von griechischen Inseln,” AA (1954) 48-93; J. L. Caskey, excavation reports in Hesperia 31 (1962), 263-83I; 33 (1964), 314-35; 35 (1966), 363-76; 40 (1971), 358-96; D. Lewis, “The Federal Constitution of Keos,” BSA 57 (1962) 1-4; C. G. Doumas, “Kea,” Deltion 18 (1963) Chronika B2, 281-82I.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: