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COS (Κῶς, Κόως; Cos, P. Mela; Cous, Liv., Tac.; Cea, Plin.: Eth. Κῶος (Κώτης in modern Greek): Stanko, or Stanchio, a corruption of ἐς τὰν Κῶ), an island in the Myrtoan sea, “one of the most renowned of that beautiful chain, which covers the western shore of Asia Minor.” One of its earlier names was Meropis (Thuc. 8.41), another was Nymphaea (Plin. Nat. 5.31. s. 36). It appears from an inscription mentioned by Ross, that it was called Lango in the time of the Knights. Its situation is nearly opposite the gulf of Halicarnassus, and it is separated by a narrow strait from Cnidus and the Triopian promontory. Its length lies NE. and SW. Strabo gives the names of three promontories, Scandarium on the NE., Lacter on the S. (with the town of Halisarna near it), and Drecanon on the W. (near the town of Stomalimne). Its principal city, bearing the name of [p. 1.695]the island, was near the first of these promontories, in lat. 36° 53′ and long. 27° 17′. The circumference of the island, according to Strabo (xiv. p.657), was 550 stadia, and according to Pliny (l.c.) 100 Roman miles; but neither of these dimensions is correct: the true circumference is about 65 geographical miles, and the length about 23. The relation of Cos to the neighbouring coast and islands is vividly illustrated by such voyages as those which are described in Liv. 37.16; Lucan 8.244-250; Act. Apost. xx. xxi.

Tradition connects the earliest Greek inhabitants of Cos with a migration from Epidaurus; and the common worship of Aesculapius seems to have maintained a link between the two down to a late period. (Paus, 3.23.4; Muller, Dor. bk. i. ch. 6.) In Homer we find the people of the island fighting against the Carians. (Il. 2.677, 867.) As we approach the period of distinct history, the city of Cos appears as a member of the Dorian Pentapolis, whose sanctuary was on the Triopian promontory. (Hdt. 1.144.) Under the Athenian rule it had no walls, and it was first fortified by Alcibiades at the close of the Peloponnesian War. (Thuc. 8.108) In subsequent times it shared the general fate of the neighbouring coasts and islands. For its relations with Rhodes in the wars against Antiochus and the Romans, see Plb. 30.7; and Livy, l.c. The emperor Claudius bestowed upon it the privileges of a free state (Tac. Ann. 12.61), and Antoninus Pius rebuilt the city, after it had been destoyed by an earthquake. (Paus. 8.43). The ancient constitution of the island seems to have been monarchical, and traces of its continuance are observed in an inscription as late as Vespasian. It was illustrious as the birthplace of Ptolemy Philadelphus (Theoc. 17.57), and of the painter Apelles, and the physician Hippocrates. An interesting inscription (Bëckh, No. 2502) associates it with Herod the tetrarch, whose father had conferred many favours on Cos, as we learn from Josephus (B. J. 1.21.11).

The present mixed population of Greeks and Turks amounts to about 8000. The island still gives proof of the natural productiveness which was celebrated by Strabo. It was known in the old world for its ointment and purple dye, but especially for its wines (Hor. Sat. 2.4, 29; Pers. Sat. 5.135), and the light transparent dresses called “Coae vestes.” (Tib. 2.3. 53; Propert. 1.2.) The island is generally mountainous, especially on the south and west: but there is a large tract of level and fruitful ground towards the north and east.

The most ancient capital was called Astypalaea, the position of which is extremely doubtful. The city of Cos itself has continued to our own times. An unhealthy lagoon, on the north of the modern town, marks the position of the ancient harbour. Close to it is the Turkish castle, which Christian travellers are not allowed to enter. In its walls are some elaborate sculptures, which may perhaps have belonged to the Aslepieium or temple of Aesculapius. This sanctuary was anciently the object of greatest interest in the island. A school of physicians was attached to it, and its great collection of votive models made it almost a museum of anatomy and pathology. Strabo describes the temple as standing in a suburb of the town: but the site has not been yet positively identified.

An account of Cos will be found in Clarke's Travels, vol. ii. pt. i. pp. 196--213, and vol. ii. pt. ii. pp. 321--333. But the best description is in Ross, Reisen nach Kos, Halicarsnassos, u. s. w. (Halle, 1852), with which his Reisen auf den Griech. Inseln should be compared, vol. ii. pp. 86--92, vol. iii. pp. 126--139. There is a monograph on the island by Küster (De Co Insula, Halle, 1833), and a very useful paper on the subject by Col. Leake (in the Trans. of the Royal Soc. of Literature, vol. i., second series). Both Leake and Ross give a map of Cos, reduced from the recent survey: but for full information, the Admiralty Charts should be consulted. Of these, No. 1604 exhibits the situation of the town and the roadstead in their relation to the opposite coast; No. 1550 shows the town in detail, with a view of it from the anchorage; and No. 1898 gives a general delineation of the whole island. See also No. 1899. With these charts it is desirable to compare Purdy's Sailing Directory, p. 114.



hide References (12 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (12):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.144
    • Homer, Iliad, 2.677
    • Homer, Iliad, 2.867
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.43
    • Thucydides, Histories, 8.41
    • Polybius, Histories, 30.7
    • Thucydides, Histories, 8.108
    • Tacitus, Annales, 12.61
    • Lucan, Civil War, 8.250
    • Lucan, Civil War, 8.244
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 5.31
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 37, 16
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