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NAXOS or NAXUS(Νάχος: Eth. Νάχιος: Naxía), the largest and most fertile of the Cyclades, situated in the middle of the Aegean sea, about halfway between the coasts of Greece and those of Asia Minor. It lies east of Paros, from which it is separated by a channel about 6 miles wide. It is described by Pliny (4.12. s. 22) as 75 Roman miles in circumference. It is about 19 miles in length, and 15 in breadth in its widest part. It bore several other names in ancient times. It was called Strongyle (Στρογγύλη) from its round shape, Dionysias (Διονυσίας) from its excellent wine and its consequent connection with the worship of Dionysus, and the Smaller Sicily (μικρὰ Σικελία) from the fertility of its soil (Plin. Nat. 4.12. s. 22; Diod. 5.50-52); but the poets frequently give it the name of Dia (Δία; comp. Ov. Met. 2.690, 8.174.) It is said to have been originally inhabited by Thracians, and then by Carians, and to have derived its name from Naxos, the Carian chieftain. (Diod. 5.50, 51; Steph. B. sub voce Νάχος.) In the historical ages it was colonised by Ionians from Attica (Hdt. 8.46), and in consequence of its position, size, and fertility, it became the most powerful of the Cyclades. The government of Naxos was orignally an oligarchy, but was overthrown by Lygdamis, who made himself tyrant of the island. (Aristot. ap. Ath. viii. p. 348.) Lygdamis, however, appears not to have retained his power long, for we find him assisting Peisistratus in his third restoration to Athens, and the latter in return subduing *Naxos and committing the tyranny to Lygdamis. (Hdt. 1.61, 64; comp. Aristot. Pol. v, 5.) But new revolutions followed. The [p. 2.406]aristocratical party appear to have again got the upper hand; but they were after a short time expelled by the people, and applied for assistance to Aristagoras of Miletus. The Persians, at the persuasion of Aristagoras, sent a large force in B.C. 501 to subdue Naxos: the expedition proved a failure; and Aristagoras, fearing the anger of the Persian court, persuaded the Ionians to revolt from the great king. (Hdt. 5.30-34.) At this period the Naxians had 8000 hoplites, many ships of war, and numerous slaves. (Hdt. 5.30, 31.) From the 8000 hoplites we may conclude that the free population amounted to 50,000 souls, to which number we may add at least as many slaves. In B.C. 490 the Persians under Datis and Artaphernes landed upon the island, and in revenge for their former failure laid it waste with fire and sword. Most of the inhabitants took refuge in the mountains, but those who remained were reduced to slavery, and their city set on fire. (Hdt. 6.96.) Naxos became a dependency of Persia; but their four ships, which were sent to the Persian fleet, deserted the latter and fought on the side of Grecian independence at the battle of Salamis. (Hdt. 8.46.) They also took part in the battle of Plataeae. (Diod. 5.52.) After the Persian wars Naxos became a member of the confederacy of Delos under the headship of Athens; but about B.C. 471 it revolted, and was subdued by the Athenians, who reduced the Naxians to the condition of subjects, and established 500 Athenian Cleruchs in the island. (Thuc. 1.98, 137; Plut. Per. 11; Paus. 1.27.6.) From this time Naxos is seldom mentioned in ancient history. It was off Naxos that Chabrias gained a signal victory over the Lacedaemonian fleet in B.C. 376, which restored to Athens the empire of the sea. (Xen. Hell. 5.4. 60, seq.; Diod. 15.34.) During the civil wars of Rome Naxos was for a short time subject to the Rhodians. (Appian, App. BC 5.7.)

After the capture of Constantinople by the Latins in 1204, the Aegaean sea fell to the lot of the Venetians; and Marco Sanudo, in 1207, took possession of Naxos, and founded there a powerful state under the title of the Duchy of the Aegaean Sea (Dux Aegaei Pelagi). He built the large castle above the town, now in ruins, and fortified it with 12 towers; His dynasty ruled over the greater part of the Cyclades for 360 years, and was at length overthrown by the Turks in 1566. (Finlay, Medieval Greece, p. 320, seq.) Naxos now belongs to the new kingdom of Greece. Its population does not exceed 12,000, and of these 300 or 400 are Latins, the descendants of the Venetian settlers, many of whom bear the names of the noblest families of Venice.

The ancient capital of the island, also called Naxos, was situated upon the NW. coast. Its site is occupied by the modern capital. On a small detached rock, called Paláti, about 50 yards in front of the harbour, are the ruins of a temple, which tradition calls a temple of Dionysus. The western portal still remains, consisting of three huge marble slabs, two perpendicular and one laid across, and is of elegant, though simple workmanship. A drawing of it is given by Tournefort. Stephanus B. mentions another town in Naxos called Tragia or Tragaea (s. v. Τραγία), but which Ross believes to be the small island Mákares, between Naxos and Donussa. Aristotle also (ap. Athen. 8.348) mentioned a place, named Lestadae (Ληστάδαι), of which nothing further is known.

In the centre of the island a mountain, now called Zia, rises to the height of 3000 feet. From its summit 22 islands may be counted; and in the distance may be seen the outline of the mountains of Asia Minor. This mountain appears to have been called Drius (Δρίος) in antiquity (Diod. 5.51); its modern name is probably derived from the ancient name of the island (Dia). On it there is a curious Hellenic tower; and near the bottom, on the road towards Philoti, an inscription, ὅρος Διὸς Μηλωσίου. Another mountain is called Kóronon (τὸ Κόρωνον), which is evidently an ancient name, and reminds one of the Naxian nymph Coronis, who brought up the young Dionysus (Diod. 5.52). The mountains of Naxos consist partly of granite and partly of marble, the latter being scarcely inferior to that of Paros. Good whetstones were also obtained from Naxos. (Hesych. sub voce Ναχία λίθος; Plin. Nat. 36.6. s. 9.) There are several streams in the island, one of which in ancient times was called Biblus (Βίβλος, Steph. B. sub voce Βιβλίνη).

The fertility of Naxos has been equally celebrated in ancient and modern times. Herodotus says that it excelled all other islands in prosperity (5.28). It produces in abundance corn, oil, wine, and fruit of the finest description. In consequence of the excellence of its wine Naxos was celebrated in the legends of Dionysus, particularly those relating to Ariadne. [See Dict of Biogr. art. ARIADNE.] Moreover, the priest of Dionysus gave his name to the year, like the Archon Eponymus at Athens. (Böckh, Inscr. 2265.) The finest wine of Naxos is now produced at a place called Aperáthos. It is a superior white wine, and is celebrated in the islands of the Aegaean under the name of Bacchus-Wine.

The plant which produces ladanum is found at Naxos; and in Thevenot's time it was collected from the beards of goats, in the manner described by Herodotus (3.112). Emery is also found there, particularly in the southern part of the island, and forms an article of export. The goats of Naxos were celebrated in antiquity. (Athen. 12.540.)

One of the most remarkable curiosities in the island is an unfinished colossal figure, still lying in an ancient marble quarry near the northern extremity of the island. It is about 34 feet in length, and has always been called by the inhabitants a figure of Apollo. On the side of the hill, at the distance of five minutes from the statue, we still find the inscription, ὅρος χωρίου ἱεροῦ Ἀπόλλωνος. Ross conjectures that the statue may have been intended as a dedicatory offering to Delos. (Thevenot, Travels, p. 103, Engl. transl.; Tournefort, Voyage, vol. i. p. 163, Engl. transl.; Leake, Northern Greece, vol. iii. p. 93; Ross, Reisen auf den Griech. Inseln, vol. i. p. 22, seq.; Grüter, De Naxo Insula, Hal. 1833 Curtius, Naxos, Berl. 1846.)


hide References (24 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (24):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 15.34
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.64
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.31
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.96
    • Herodotus, Histories, 8.46
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.61
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.112
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.30
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.34
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.27.6
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 5.4.60
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 5.1.7
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 8.174
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 2.690
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 36.6
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.12
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.137
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.98
    • Plutarch, Pericles, 11
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 5.50
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 5.51
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 5.52
    • Athenaeus, of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae, 12
    • Athenaeus, of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae, 8
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