Friday, October 2, 2015

Mykonos and Delos

The iconic windmills of Mykonos
 Mykonos is supposedly the party town in this part of the Greek Isles so we spent most of our time exploring the island of Delos, famous as the birthplace of the twin Greek Gods Apollo and Artemis.

Approaching Delos
First established as a sanctuary to Apollo, the good of light, harmony  and balance,  in the 9th century BC Greeks from all over their world would gather there to pay homage to Apollo and his sister, the Moon goddess for the next 600 years.

Delos became the major port for the region after it was declared a free port in 167 BC. The population grew to at least 30,000 as Delos became the epicenter of all trade in the region. Over 750,000 tons of cargo would pass through the port each year. Because Apollo was the god of harmony and balance slavery was not allowed and the island became a multicultural melting pot of different religions and nationalities. Shrines and temples to other gods were built such as the one honoring Poseidon by the Lebanese. This came to an end when it was attacked and looted in 87 BC and again in 69 BC by enemies of the Romans. Gradually the city fell into decline and was eventually abandoned. 

Today Delos is a city of ruins and a UNESCO World Heritage Sites because of its archaeological significance. Archaeological excavations began in 1872 and continue today. The museum unfortunately does not give its subject a proper display. Housing one of the most important collections of ancient Greek sculpture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a simple building with little in the way of explanatory description. The ruins are poorly marked. However, with our guide’s help we were able to get a good feel for the importance of the ruins and the power of the sculpture. He did tell us that new money is coming from some philanthropist to build a new museum that will be more in keeping with the importance of the subject.

We saw several floor mosaics. This is in the Dolphin House.
Fortunately for us, the morning rain gave way to sunshine and we were able to really appreciate the beauty and breadth of this magnificent ruin. Our guide led us through the excavations pointing out the birthplace of Apollo, several shrines and temples, athletic venues, the theater and homes of the many who lived on the island. I took the optional hike up the trail to the top of the island (only 112 meters above sea level) where Zeus watched the birth of his children and I had some magnificent views of the island and its surroundings.

We returned to Mykonos at noon where we had lunch in ‘Little Venice’ overlooking the bay before wandering the narrow maze of streets back to our shuttle. Linda enjoyed the calamari while I had an excellent Greek salad that I had expected to be a small appetizer. Streets were deliberately built in a seemingly random pattern as defense from invaders. Today, they are filled with shops selling jewelry and other items typical for the tourist trade. Another fun day in paradise.

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