The mythological birthplace of the gods Apollo and Artemis, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cycladic island of Delos in the Aegean Sea is one of the most amazing and quite magical historical landmarks to experience up close. Uninhabited but open to visitors during certain hours of the day, Delos was once a religious mecca and served as Greece’s economic center.
Today, it’s host to remarkable ancient findings including temple ruins, elaborate residences, intricate mosaics, and more. Referenced in Homer’s Odyssey and the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, Delos had a reputation that ranked high among other notable settlements around ancient Greece. Serving as a central commercial port in the Aegean before it was destroyed by various invaders over time, Dlos once hosted some 30,000 inhabitants.
Primitive stone dwellings found on the archeological site indicate the island was inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC. Centuries later, Delos underwent a series of purifications by various rulers including the tyrant Pisistratus, who rid the ground of all graves and buried bodies in the 6th century BC. It was after the 5th century forbidden for anyone to be born or to die on Delos, as the island became a renowned symbol of sacredness throughout Greece. Serving as a treasury until Pericles moved it to Athens in 454 BC, the island was in later years taken over by the Romans.
Among interesting finds on site are advanced aqueduct systems and sanitary drains that aided in the daily life of the island’s inhabitants, serving a very important role since fresh water was scarce. Remnants of clay pipes and drains can be seen, among other interesting things, on a walk around the island.
Some landmarks on Delos include the Terrace of the Lions, the House of Dionysus, the Sacred Lake, the Minoan Fountain, the Hellenistic Agora, the Sacred Harbor, the Doric Temple of Isis, the Temple of Delians, and several market squares.
The Terrace of the Lions is believed to originally have had nine to 12 marble guardian lions dedicated to Apollo along the Sacred Way. Today, the remains of seven original lions can be seen.
The House of Dionysus is a lavish private residence dating back to the 2nd century named after its floor mosaic depicting the god of wine and merrymaking riding a panther. Similarly, the House of Dolphins is named after a mosaic depicting dolphins.
Other notable excavated sites on Delos include the House of Masks, the House of the Comedians, the Commercial Port, the Gymnasium, Stadium, the Terrace of the Foreign Gods, the Cave of Kythnos, and the Theater Quarter.
When visiting Delos, be sure to have enough time on your hands, bottled water, and comfortable shoes…because you will be on foot exploring the island step by step, walking through streets like the ancients once did. And don’t forget your camera, of course, because you’ll definitely want to take a few shots of this wonderful Greek treasure.
Delos is accessible everyday by boat from Mykonos, and in the summertime from nearby Tinos and Naxos. In both ancient and modern times, Delos stood and stands as a sacred place on this planet. Its uniqueness is unmatched, and the island is definitely worth the visit!