), a rocky island opposite to Cnidus, between Cos in the north and Telos in the south, about 12 1/2 Roman miles distant from Cape Triopion in Caria. (Plin. Nat. 5.36
; Strab. xiv. p.656
, [p. 2.441]
p. 488; Steph. B. sub voce
It also bore the name of Porphyris, on account of its rocks of porphyry.
The island is almost circular, and is only 80 stadia in circumference; it is said to have been formed by Poseidon, with his trident, knocking off a portion of Cos, and throwing it upon the giant Polybotes. (Strab. x. p.489
; Apollod. 1.6.2
; Paus. 1.2.4
; Eustath. ad Dion. Perieg.
530, ad Hom. Il.
The island is evidently of volcanic origin, and was gradually formed by volcanic eruptions of lava from a central crater, which in the end collapsed, leaving at its top a lake strongly impregnated with sulphur.
The highest mountain in the north-western part is 2271 feet in height; another, a little to the northeast, is 1800, and a third in the south is 1700 feet high.
The hot springs of Nisyrus were known to the ancients, as well as its quarries of millstones and its excellent wine.
The island has no good harbour; but near its north-western extremity it had, and still has, a tolerable roadstead, and there, on a small bay, was situated the towrn of Nisyrus.
The same spot is still occupied by a little town, at a distance of about 10 minutes' walk from which there are very considerable remnants of the ancient acropolis, consisting of mighty walls of black trachyte, with square towers and gates. From the acropolis two walls run down towards the sea, so as to embrace the lower town, which was built in terraces on the slope of the hill. Of the town itself, which possessed a temple of Poseidon, very little now remains. On the east of the town is a plain, which anciently was a lake, and was separated from the sea by a dike, of which considerable remains are still seen.
The hot springs (θερμά
) still exist at a distance of about half an hour's walk east of the town. Stephanus B. (s. v.) mentions another small town in the south-west of Nisyrus, called Argos, which still exists under its ancient name, and in the neighbourhood of which hot vapours are constantly issuing from a chasm in the rock.
As regards the history of Nisyrus, it is said originally to have been inhabited by Carians, until Thessalus, a son of Heracles, occupied the island with his Dorians, who were governed by the kings of Cos. (Diod. 5.54
; Hom. II.
It is possible that, after Agamemnon's return from Troy, Argives settled in the island, as they did in Calymnus, which would account for the name of Argos occurring in both islands; Herodotus (7.99
), moreover, calls the inhabitants of Nisyrus Epidaurians. Subsequently the island lost most of its inhabitants during repeated earthquakes, but the population was restored by inhabitants from Cos and Rhodes settling in it. During the Persian War, Nisyrus, together with Cos and Calymnus, was governed by queen Artemisia (Herod. l.c.).
In the time of the Peloponnesian War it belonged to the tributary allies of Athens, to which it had to pay 100 drachmae every month: subsequently it joined the victorious Lacedaemonians; but after the victory of Cnidos, B. C. 394, Conon induced it to revolt from Sparta. (Diod. 14.84
At a later period it was for a time probably governed by the Ptolemies of Egypt. Throughout the historical period the inhabitants of Nisyrus were Dorians; a fact which is attested by the inscriptions found in the island, all of which are composed in the Doric dialect.
An excellent account of Nisyrus, which still bears its ancient name Νίσυρος
, is found in L. Ross, Reisen auf den Griech. Inseln
, vol. ii. pp. 67-81.