Terrace of the Lions. Delos. Greece.

Delos Greece, the sacred island birthplace of Apollo and Artemis

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Located near the Greek island of Mykonos and part of the Cyclades, sacred Delos is the birthplace of the Greek God Apollo and his twin sister the Greek Goddess Artemis and one of most important archaeological and ancient sites in the Mediterranean. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

According to ancient sources, Zeus (Greek king of all Gods) had an affair with the beautiful young goddess Leto. Hera, rightful goddess wife of Zeus, was furious and barred every place in the world from giving the pregnant Leto a place to give birth. The whole Greek world followed Hera’s order – with the single exception being Delos, a floating, unimportant, barren, rocky and windswept island that thought it had little to lose by giving sanctuary to Leto.  So with a safe haven in Delos, Leto rested under a stately palm tree and gave birth first to Artemis and then Apollo.

It is said that as soon Apollo, God of the Sun, Prophecy and the Arts saw the light of day, the island began to glow and the whole world shone.

Today, Delos consists of rich and extensive archaeological ruins from antiquity when as Apollo’s sanctuary it was a prosperous and cosmopolitan Mediterranean trading port and attracted pilgrims from all over the Greek world.  Even today a trek to the summit of Mount Kynthos, the highest point on Delos will reveal modern dedications and small shrines to Apollo, even one by my good self!

The ferry ride to Delos from Mykonos is about 30 minutes; however visitors are not allowed to stay on the island – apart from archaeologists working there. In antiquity there was a law in place that forbade births and deaths on the Island. Pregnant women and persons gravely ill were transported to the adjacent island of Rheneia to avoid breaking the sacred law.

Images from Delos can be viewed at my image library – www.stevensklifas.com

All images, text and content on this blog are copyright Steven Sklifas

Arriving to Delos with view of theatre quarter. Delos. Greece.
Arriving to Delos with view of theatre quarter. Delos. Greece.

Above: View of the Theatre quarter of Delos from aboard a ferry-boat. In the background is Mt. Cynthus, the highest point on the island.

Sacred Lake Palm tree. Delos. Greece.
Sacred Lake Palm tree. Delos. Greece.

Above: View of the lone Palm tree of the sacred lake where Leto gave birth to Greek God Apollo and his twin sister the Greek Goddess Artemis. In the background are the four re-erected marble columns belonging to the complex of the Foundation of the Poseidoniasts of Berytos (Beirut).

Temple of Isis. Delos. Greece.
Temple of Isis. Delos. Greece.

Above: View of a headless marble sculpture of a female figure and the restored Temple of Isis at the Sanctuary of the Egyptian Gods. The temple with two Doric columns in antis dates from the 2nd century BC.

Terrace of the Lions. Delos. Greece.
Terrace of the Lions. Delos. Greece.

Above: The grand row of marble lion sculptures crafted and dedicated by the Naxians to the Sanctuary of Apollo in the 7th century BC. Situated on a natural terrace standing guard and overlooking the sacred lake, it is believed that there may have been between nine and nineteen lions. These are copies of the remaining five which are in the Delos museum.

General view of Delos. Greece.
General view of Delos. Greece.

Above: Partial view of the archaeological site of Delos from the South East. To the right is the lone Palm tree of the sacred lake where Leto gave birth to Greek God Apollo and his twin sister the Greek Goddess Artemis. In the background to the left are the four re-erected marble columns belonging to the complex of the Foundation of the Poseidoniasts of Berytos (Beirut).

Agora of the Competialists. Delos. Greece.
Agora of the Competialists. Delos. Greece.

Above: View of ornate crafted marble architectural fragments – bulls heads-  at the Agora of the Competialists or Hermaists. The agora was constructed in the late Hellenistic period mainly by merchants from Southern Italy and Sicily.

House of Dionysus. Delos. Greece.
House of Dionysus. Delos. Greece.

Above: The House of Dionysus in the theatre quarter of Delos. Originally two levels, the luxurious house is famous for its elegant central peristyle courtyard atrium floor mosaic depicting Dionysus seated on a tiger. Dates from the 2nd century BC.

Minoan fountain relief. Delos. Greece.
Minoan fountain relief. Delos. Greece.

Above: The small intricate stone carved relief from the Minoan fountain which was built-in the mid-6th century BC and modified in the 2nd century BC. The relief depicts the head of a river God and three nymphs which may be in memory of the early Minoan settlement on the island.

Ancient Theatre. Delos. Greece.
Ancient Theatre. Delos. Greece.

Above: View of the ancient theatre which dates from the 3rd century BC. The cavea which is cut partly into the hill could hold around 6000 spectators.

Dionysus temple phallus. Delos. Greece.
Dionysus temple phallus. Delos. Greece.

Above: View of the pillar supporting an oversized phallus, symbol of Dionysus worship. This is found at the small temple dedicated to Dionysus, the Stoivadeion, which is a rectangular exedra. Adorning the front is the phallic bird, symbol of the body’s immortality and relief scenes from the Dionysian circle are found on the side.

The Gymnasium. Delos. Greece.
The Gymnasium. Delos. Greece.

Above: An ornate marble carving at the partially restored Gymnasium, which dates to the 3rd century BC. Located in the stadium quarter, the structure was large square open-air courtyard enclosed by four peristyle stoas with thirteen Ionic columns on each side. On its north side was the Ephebeion, where youths would sit on benches and be lectured.

Mount Kynthos. Delos. Greece.
Mount Kynthos. Delos. Greece.

Above: View of the stone cut staircase that provides access to the summit of Mount Kynthos, the highest point on the island of Delos.

Archaic Temple of Hera. Delos. Greece.
Archaic Temple of Hera. Delos. Greece.

Above: The archaic Temple of Hera dating from the 6th century BC. The Temple consisted of a sekos and pronaos with two slender Doric columns in antis.

House of the Dolphins. Delos. Greece.
House of the Dolphins. Delos. Greece.

Above: House of the Dolphins dating from around the 2nd century BC. The central peristyle mosaic floor comprises of a central rosette surrounded by various bands of floral patterns, one of which comprises a frieze with griffin heads and the other bears an inscription with the name of the artist. In each of the four corners winged youths are depicted riding dolphins holding divine emblems.

Base of the Colossal statue of Apollo. Delos. Greece.
Base of the Colossal statue of Apollo. Delos. Greece.

Above: The base of the Colossal statue of Apollo next to the north wall of the Oikos of the Naxians. The almost 9 metres high statue was depicted in the Kouros form and carved in Naxian marble in the 6th century BC. Only the torso and pelvis of the statue survive and are nearby.

Temple of Hercules. Delos. Greece.
Temple of Hercules. Delos. Greece.

Above: On the slopes of Mount Kynthos is the Temple of Hercules, the andron (rock shelter), considered to be the oldest site of Apollo’s worship on Delos.

Stadium quarter buildings. Delos. Greece.
Stadium quarter buildings. Delos. Greece.

Above: View of a large peristyle house at the stadium quarter, the north-east side of Delos. It is though that this building was a perfumery in use around 100 BC. As seen it has four built-in ovens with two marble troughs or presses used for the extraction of essential oils for perfumes. Pliny the Elder refers to the production of renowned perfumes on ancient Delos. The stadium quarter was Residential and commercial area.

South Stoa. Delos. Greece.
South Stoa. Delos. Greece.

Above: In the foreground is a section of the South Stoa (Portico) and in the background is the Stoa (Portico) of Philip V of Macedonia. The two stoas flank the Sacred Way. The South Stoa was built-in the 3rd century BC by the Kings of Pergamon (Pergamum). The Stoa (Portico) of Philip V was built-in 210 BC.

Ionic portico of the Artemision. Delos. Greece.
Ionic portico of the Artemision. Delos. Greece.

Above: The Ionic portico of the Artemision with imposing marble fragments of the Colossal statue of Apollo amongst its ruins.

Panoramic view. Delos. Greece.
Panoramic view. Delos. Greece.

Above: General view of the archaeological site and the ancient stone cut staircase that provides access to the summit of Mount Kynthos, the highest point on the island of Delos.

Panoramic view from the summit of Mount Kynthos. Delos. Greece.
Panoramic view from the summit of Mount Kynthos. Delos. Greece.

Above: View from the summit of Mount Kynthos, the highest point on the island of Delos. The summit surrounds is adorned with small simple stone shrines and dedications to Apollo from modern pilgrims. In the background is Mykonos.

Images from Delos can be viewed at my image library – www.stevensklifas.com

All images, text and content on this blog are copyright Steven Sklifas.

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