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Delos

Delos, a small (1.3 x 5 km) island at the center of the Cyclades, was the political and religious center of the Aegean. Archeological remains show that human presence on the island goes back to the third millennium BCE. The islands strategic position may well have been known to the mariners of Minoan Crete as evidence, such as the Minoan Fountain, suggests.

According to mythology, Leto, pursued by the incensed and jealous goddess Hera, wandered from place to place seeking some corner of the earth in which to give birth to her children, fruit of her union with Zeus, father of the Gods. Islands and cities refused to receive her, afraid of the vengeance of Zeus' deceived consort, whom only a bare rock in the middle of the tempestuous sea dared to defy. Poseidon then anchored the island to the sea bottom with pillars of granite to stabilize it for the divine birth. Here, under the palm, Leto bore the twins, Apollo and Artemis.

The Delos oracle was second only to that of Delphi. The Delian Festival and Games were held here every 4 years. In addition to the Heiron of Apollo adjacent to the Sacred Lake, the temples and monuments to other divinities, and the sanctuary of foreign gods, there was also a thriving residential district and maritime quarter to the south.

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Delos from the ferryView of Delos from the ferry. Harbor of DelosView of Delos' Theater Quarter from the Aegean Sea. ShopsShops located in the Agora of the Competaliasts, a paved square directly abutting the Sacred Harbor.  Its name derives from the Competaliasts, a union of freemen and slaves whose patron deities were the Roman gods of crossroads, the Lares Compitales.  
Monument to HermesThis small circular marble building, located in the Agora of the Competaliasts, was dedicated to Hermes, the god of commerce. The agora was one of the main markets of the Hellenistic city and was the locus of the grain trade as well as the famous slave market mentioned by the geographer Strabo. The whole Agora complex is dated to the last quarter of the 2nd century BCE.  The Sacred WayDirectly east of the Agora of the Competaliasts and parallel with the quay is the Sacred Way (13 m wide). On the west side of the Sacred Way is the Stoa of Philip (left) dedicated to Apollo by Philip V around 210 BCE. On the east side of the road is the South Stoa (right) believed to have been built by King Attalos of Pergamon after the middle third century BCE. The Sacred WayView of the Sacred Way from the South towards the North. The Sacred Way is flanked on either side by countless pedestals for ex-votos (archaic vases and figurines) that impeded access to the stoas except through a very few openings between the columns.
Oikos of the NaxiansThe Sacred Way (right) leading into the Sanctuary of Apollo. The large square to the left of the Sacred Way is the Agora of the Delians, an open space with porticos and ex-votos alternatively known as the Square Market on account of its shape. In the foreground is the Oikos of the Naxians, constructed of white Naxian marble around 575 BCE. The long, narrow edifice is the earliest building in the Sanctuary which is preserved in full and the first in the history of architecture in which the upper structure and roof were of marble. The cella (central chamber) is divided lengthwise by a colonnade of eight marble Ionic columns set on a high cylindrical base with round support. The marble floor was an addition made in 560 BCE. Sanctuary of ArtemisThe remains of a building, located to the northwest of the three Temples of Apollo, with three restored columns of grayish blue marble belong to a stoa that faced the sea and is associated with the Artemision (Sanctuary of the goddess Artemis). The temple was dedicated by the Delians during the period of their Independence. Stoa of AntigonosThe greater part of the north side of the Sanctuary of Apollo is closed by the Stoa of Antigonos (120 m x 20 m), built by king Antigonos Gonates of Macedon about 250 BCE. In addition to the normal components of the Doric frieze (triglyphs and metopes), relief bull's heads were also used, accommodated in the triglyphs of the intercolumniations.
Minoan FountainClose to the northeast corner of the Stoa of Antigonos is a rectangular building (4 x 3.75 m) which has been identified from inscription as the Minoan Fountain, a well in the form of a cistern. The Sanctuary of Dionysus and Kynthos, a granite crag 112 meters high, are visible in the background. Minoan FountainThe Minoan Fountain was a public well dedicated to Minoan nymphs during the 6th century BCE making it one of the oldest places on Delos. A broad flight of eleven steps on the south side leads down into the public well (overall depth of 4m) allowing water to be drawn even when the level was very low. The granite-walled building remained in use for a very long time, until the late Hellenistic period, when it was finally converted into a house. The granite column in the middle of the space supported the fountain's hipped roof after its radical repair in 166 BCE, as dated by an inscription. Praetor Gaius BillienusAt the eastern end of the Stoa of Antigonos is the restored statue of the Praetor Gaius Billienus, set up in 100 BCE by his friend Midas, son of Zenon. In the background, one of the phallus pillars of the Sanctuary of Dionysus is visible.
Marble exedraMarble exedra of the late second/early first century BCE on which now-lost statues one stood. They are located in the northeast corner of the Sanctuary of Apollo, in front of the phallus pillars of the Sanctuary of Dionysus. In sanctuaries, exedra such as these were not only used for setting up statues but also for practical needs such as providing comfortable seating for the weary. The statue of Praetor Gaius Billienus is also visible, in profile, to the left. The Sanctuary of DionysusThe Sanctuary of Dionysus is a rectangular platform near the northeast corner of the Sanctuary of Apollo. The Sanctuary of DionysusThe naiskos, essentially an exedra, is open on the side of the street. On either side of the platform (7.5 x 3.2 m), a pillar supports a huge phallus, the symbol of Dionysus. A phallic bird, symbol of the body's immortality, adorns the pillar on the right.
The southern pillarThe southern pillar, which is decorated with relief scenes from the Dionysian circle, was erected in c. 300 BCE by a Delian named Karystios in order to celebrate a victorious theatrical performance sponsored by him. The side relief depicts Selene, Dionysus, and maenad. The Sacred LakeThe wheel-shaped Sacred Lake, nowadays surrounded by dry-stone walling. Drained and dry since 1925, it is a principle landmark in the topography of Delos. In the center of the lake there is a slender palm tree, recalling the palm under which Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis. Terrace of the LionsDirectly west of the Sacred Lake is the Terrace of the Lions where the famous marble lions, or rather, their bases are located. The marble lions have been moved into the museum.
The Establishment of the Poseidoniasts from BeirutThe large complex north of the Terrace of the Lions (and west of the Sacred Lake) housed the Establishment of the Poseidoniasts from Beirut. It was a religious and commercial center for merchants and ship owners from Beirut who had come to Delos on account of its economic development. They were under the protection of the god Baal, identified with the Greek Poseidon. The complex was completed in 110 BCE and razed to the ground in 88 BCE.   The Establishment of the Poseidoniasts from BeirutThe Establishment of the Poseidoniasts from Beirut consists of a large central peristyle court with a cistern at the center, around which are arranged various warehouses, shops and temples dedicated to Poseidon-Baal, Astarte-Aphrodite, Echmoun-Asklepios and Roma. Above these was an upper story with houses. The buildings (background) west of the building of the Poseidoniasts (foreground) are private houses while the main section of the large Hill Quarter spreads to the north (right) of it. Shrine of RomaThe northernmost shrine of the Establishment of the Poseidoniasts from Beirut was dedicated to the the worship of the goddess Roma. The marble cult statue, which has survived with the head and upper torso missing, is a work by Menander, son of Melas, an Athenian sculptor who had carved the statue of Poseidon-Baal, patron of the Poseidoniasts in the next sanctuary to the south, as well as other works around 110 BCE. 
The epistyle and columnsThe four restored marble columns from the court of the Establishment of the Poseidoniasts from Beirut. The dedicatory inscription is still visible on the restored epistyle: 'The Koinon of Berytian Poseidoniasts, merchants and ship owners and inn-keepers, dedicated the oikos and stoa and chresterion (seat of an oracle), to the gods of the fatherland.' Mosaic floor and basinMosaic floor and basin inside one of the buildings in the Hill Quarter, near the Establishment of the Poseidoniasts. House CisternCement lined cistern beneath a house floor in the Hill Quarter. Since water is rare on the island, the houses in Delos usually had an underground cistern below the court for collecting rain water from the roofs.
House of the ComediansLocated towards the northeast of the Hill Quarter is the Complex of the House of the Comedians. It is a complex of three separate houses built about 125 BCE and inhabited until the destruction in 88 BCE. The westernmost house, of which the walls are visible at left, is the three-story House of the Pediments. House of the ComediansThe House of the Comedians, the middle house in the complex, is located between the House of the Pediment and the House of the Tritons. It is the larger house, with Doric colonnades on the porticoes of the atrium upon which stood Ionic pillars that upheld the roof. House of the TritonsThe mosaic floor of the north room of the House of the Tritons, the easternmost house in the complex of the House of the Comedians.
Tritoness and ErosOne of the two emblems on the House of the Tritons' mosaic floor depicts a Tritoness and a flying Eros. Marble wellheadA marble wellhead, with a groove for a rope used to haul up a bucket of water, is tucked into the corner of a room in the Hill Quarter. House of the LakeThe House of the Lake with its peristyle impluvium is located to the east of the Hill Quarter and north of the Sacred Lake. It was built on an irregular plot with streets on all sides. On the walls of the andron (men's chamber) there are remains of stucco in several places. There are two wells in the court.
House of the LakeThe House of the Lake is one of the most elegant residences on Delos. Three entrances lead to the atrium surrounded by an elegant colonnade in the Ionic order. The columns have monolithic shafts of gray marble and bases and capitals of white marble. Preserved on the floor of the atrium is a mosaic with simple geometric patterns. Lake PalaestraThe Lake Palaestra is a large complex situated directly south of the House of the Lake (columns at left). In its original form it probably dates to the third century BCE, but it was rearranged in the second century BCE. Its western sector is badly destroyed. The eastern sector is better preserved because it was incorporated into the fortification wall built by Triarius. North of the Sacred LakeThe area north of the Sacred Lake. The Granite Palaestra (left) is located to the northeast of the House of the Lake (columns at right). Built in the second century BCE, the Granite Palaestra is better preserved than the Lake Palaestra because it was incorporated completely within the defensive wall of Triarius.
Granite PalaestraThe Granite Palaestra was used as a fort and barracks. It included a spacious central court with a cistern at the center, around which were the necessary porticoes and facilities, exercise areas, exedras where the athletes relaxed and spectators were received, changing rooms, and even latrines with sewers. Triangular WindowA triangular window in a building in the Granite Palaestra area. Arched doorwayAn arched doorway in a building in the Granite Palaestra area.
Agora of the ItaliansA street leads from the southwest corner of the Lake Palaestra, between the wall of Triarius and the Lake, to the northeast corner of the enormous complex known as the Agora of the Italians, here seen from the east. The complex, which bears witness to the prosperity of the Italian residents on Delos, was built around 110 BCE. Agora of the ItaliansThe Agora of the Italians as seen from the southwest. The center of the area is occupied by a large quadrilateral square (48 x 68 m) surrounded by Doric colonnades with 112 columns in all.  Two of the columns, along the north side, have been restored along with their epistyles. The Sacred Lake is visible to the north (background). Agora of the ItaliansThe Agora of the Italians as seen from the west. From its shape, it seems that it served as a place of assembly for the Italians, rather than as a market place. 
Sanctuary and Sacred LakeThe area of the Sanctuary of Apollo (left) and the area of the Sacred Lake (right) as seen from the east. To the right of the center is the Agora of the Italians. The four pillars of the Establishment of the Poseidoniasts from Beirut are visible to the extreme right, beyond the Sacred Lake. Area north of the museumThe area to the north of the museum. To the east (left) is the Sacred Lake and the Establishment of the Poseidoniasts from Beirut. To the north is Skardana Bay. To the right is Gamila Hill. The street leads to the Gymnasium and beyond to the Stadium in the homonymous Quarter. SteleA stele located in one of the buildings near the Agora of the Italians.
Delos latrineA Delos latrine. Mosaic floorMosaic floor of a building located in the Theater Quarter, perhaps the most interesting part of the city, which includes streets, homes, workshops and above all, shops that serviced the very lively trade in Delos. Detail of Mosaic floorDetail of one of the emblems of the Mosaic floor at left.
Mosaic floorMosaic floor of a building located in the Theater Quarter. This floor depicts one of the ubiquitous dolphins maneuvering around an anchor, a characteristic subject for Delos. Mosaic floorRectangular mosaic floor panel with wave border located in one of the buildings in the Theater Quarter. Buildings in the Theater QuarterGeneral view of buildings in the Theater Quarter with the sea and harbor in the background.
House of DionysusThe House of Dionysus, located in the Theater Quarter, is a good example of a private residence dating from the last quarter of the 2nd century BCE. A covered passage leads from the entrance to a peristyle court, on which open the rooms of the ground floor. At the center of the court there is a cistern for the collection of water, covered with a splendid mosaic floor. A stone stairway leads to the elegant private rooms of the upper story. The columns of the peristyle are 5.6 m high. House of Dionysus MosaicThe most famous feature of the House of Dionysus is the exceptional emblem at the center of the mosaic pavement in the court. Dionysus emblemThe emblem depicts the god Dionysus, with outstretched wings and ivy wreath, mounted on a tiger with a wreath of vine branches and grapes around its neck. In his right hand the god grasps the beribboned thyros as if it was a spear. On the ground, between plants, a kantharos, a wine vessel; attributes of the god of wine.
House of CleopatraOpposite the House of Dionysus is the House of Cleopatra, named after the headless statues of the Athenian lady, Cleopatra, and her husband, Dioskourides, standing on the pedestal (138/7 BCE). The columns of the House of Dionysus are visible in the background. House of the TridentA little higher up from the House of Cleopatra, is the House of the Trident. The sole opening into the house is the front door. Opposite the door, at the far end of the court, is the main room, the oikos or andron (men's room). The other rooms and the ancillary areas, kitchen, bathroom, latrine, are shared on the other side of the court. The colonnade on the north side, in front of the main rooms, is higher than the others, so as to admit more light to the andron yet protect it from the cold north winds. Lion consolesThe difficulties of connecting the porticoes of unequal length was overcome by adding consoles to the taller corner columns, on which the architraves of the lower lateral porticoes rested. These consoles, sometimes plain like the ones in the House of the Mask, are here ornamented with lion and bull heads, which are considered to be emblems of the Syrian deities Atargatis and Adad. For this reason, it is hypothesized that the house belonged to a merchant from far-off Syria.
Mosaic floorDetail of the fine mosaic, with a wonderfully executed, complicated and colorful meander pattern, in the impluvium of the court of the House of the Trident. Dolphin mosaicOne of the emblems from the mosaic floor in the main reception rooms in the House of the Trident. It depicts an elegant dolphin swimming around an anchor, a symbol frequently encountered on Delos. The dolphin emblem adorns the middle of the south side of the peristyle. Trident mosaicAnother emblem from the mosaic floor in the main reception rooms in the House of the Trident. It depicts a trident, after which the house is named, embellished with ribbons. The trident is another of the favorite motifs used in mosaic floors on Delos. The trident emblem is located in the middle of the north side of the peristyle.
Window onto streetA room near the House of the Trident is of interest on account of the window onto the street, an extremely rare feature in Greek architecture. Houses of the Trident, Dionysus and CleopatraView of the Houses of the Trident, Dionysus and Cleopatra in the Theater Quarter. The House of the Trident (right) is an excellent example of an opulent residence during the island's floruit. The restored roof of the north-east portico and the andron, the largest of all the apartments in the houses in the quarter, with ancillary rooms behind and two windows on the facade (right and left of the entrance) helps us to understand the form of the ancient house. The columns of the House of Dionysus (upper left) and the columns and statues of the House of Cleopatra (lower left) are also visible. The TheaterThe badly ruined Theater, built in the 3rd century BCE, lies at the end of the main street through the Theater Quarter. The lower section of the cavea (auditorium), with 26 rows of seats, is divided by eight steep stairways into seven cunei. A diazoma separates the lower part of the cavea from the upper, the epitheater, with 17 rows of seats. An ellipsoidal form ensured that all the spectators (about 5,500) had a good view. In front of the round orchestra are the remains of the stage-building (skene). A gutter surrounding the orchestra helped drain away all the rain water.
View from TheaterThe spectacular view of the sea and harbors from the top of the Theater. A retaining wall of ashlared blocks of gray marble supports the cavea all around as well as isolating the Theater from the other buildings in the quarter. The commercial harbor (left), Sacred Harbor (right), and rows of theater seats can be seen. View of the Theater QuarterView of the Theater Quarter from the Theater's retaining wall (left). The commercial harbor and some of the buildings in the Theater Quarter can be seen at right. Theater cisternThe Theater cistern, in which rain water was collected. Its roof rested on eight well-preserved and masterfully constructed arches of dressed granite blocks.
House of the MasksEast of the Theater is a large building complex of four houses, the most important of which is to the southwest, known as the House of the Masks. The houses of Delos, at least the main and most interesting ones such as this one, follow the type common in Hellenistic times of the house developed around a central court frequently surrounded by columned porticoes. The rooms are ranged around the court, which is the source of light and air. Mosaic pavements adorned the court and/or the rooms in the wealthier homes. Central HallThe mosaic pavement from the huge central hall (Oecus Major) in the House of the Masks is decorated with patterns of lozenge and zigzag motifs that give the impression of relief cubes. On two sides are bands with interlaces of ivy framing a row on ten masks - five down each side - representing typical characters from New Comedy which was much in vogue during the Hellenistic period. The house was given its conventional name from these masks. The walls of the typical Delos home, such as this one, are built of schist slabs and more rarely of sun-dried bricks and covered with lime plaster (stucco) which sometimes had architectural features and painted representations. Mosaic pavementIn the next room in the House of the Masks, the mosaic pavement  features wonderfully drawn rosettes, an amphora with a palm frond, two dolphins as well as many other elements.

House of the DolphinsThe House of the Dolphins, a typical example of a house of the Hellenistic period, is located opposite the northeast corner of the larger House of the Masks. The entrance leads into the peristyle, with the mosaic pavement which gives the house its name. Adjoining this is a large room and several smaller apartments.

House of the DolphinsThe mosaic floor of the impluvium in the House of the Dolphins. A large rosette of vegetal motifs adorns the center of the floor, surrounded by decorative concentric circles. Depicted in the four corners of the floor are pairs of dolphins ridden by Erotes with the attributes of Hermes, Poseidon, and Dionysus. The attribute of the fourth Eros is not discernable. Mosaic pavementMosaic pavement from one of the rooms in the House of the Dolphins.
Sanctuary of the Egyptian GodsClimbing eastwards from the House of the Dolphins leads to the sanctuaries of Kynthos. On the flat area at the bottom of the Kynthos staircase are the sanctuaries of the Foreign Gods. The Sanctuary of the Egyptian Gods, shared by the triad of Serapis, Isis and Anubis, is located on a high terrace by the foothill of Kynthos. The remaining two columns of the Temple of Hera (500 BCE) are also visible to the right at the bottom of the street leading up the hill. The steep, stepped road leads to the sanctuaries on the summit of Kynthos. Temple of IsisThe most impressive building in the Sanctuary of the Egyptian Gods is the restored Temple of Isis with its two Doric columns in antis on the front. It is a small Doric temple built at the beginning of the 2nd century BCE and repaired by the Athenians in 135 BCE. At the far end of the cella is the lower part of the cult statue of the goddess, dated exactly by inscription to 128 BCE. A characteristic work of the closing years of the 2nd century BCE, the garments with their rich draperies are consistent with Hellenistic tradition and in no way recall the goddess' relationship to Egypt, which was perhaps indicated only by her head. A relief bust, nowadays headless, adorns the left corner of the pediment. In front of the temple is the high altar to the goddess. House of HermesWest of the Sanctuary of the Foreign Gods, in the Inopos Quarter, is The House of Hermes. The remains of the three stories are preserved clearly on the hillside along with the staircases leading up to them. Androns and smaller chambers with the remains of stucco can be seen. The columns of the atrium on the ground floor and of the peristyle on the second floor have been restored. It is not known whether the building was simply the residence of a wealthy family. The considerable wear of the thresholds suggest that many people passed to and fro, thus it is possible that the building was used for purposes similar to the foundation of the Poseidoniasts.
View from Mt. Kynthos to the SouthView of the sanctuary and the Sacred Harbor from Mount Kynthos to the south. The large building in the lower left is the House of the Masks. The large island in the background is Rheneia. View from Mt. Kynthos to the S-SWView of the sanctuary from Mount Kynthos to the S-SW. The Sacred Lake is easily identified by the Palm tree and other greenery.

 
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