Our tour today took us to the island of Delos. Our experience there will be one of the highlights of our trip. That is the kind of remark you often hear and discard, but in our case it is very true.
The tender ride in to the dock in Mykonos gave us our first clue that this was going to be an adventure. It was moderately rough. We transferred to a local ferry for the trip out to Delos. The ferry boat kept us dry, but we bounced around a lot. Patricia needed her wrist bands and ginger on this leg of the trip.
Delos is only a short distance away but it took us 30 minutes. One can see some of the ruins for a long way and as soon as we disembarked we were close to the excavations. Our guide, who is a native of Mykonos and who has worked on the site for many years, gave us a lot of background as we walked to the first main street. I couldn’t possibly repeat everything he told us, but I will pass some of it along.
Delos is about 3 square miles in size. It has been inhabited since at least the 3rd millennium B.C. By 88 B.C., the city virtually covered the island and as many as 50,000 people lived there. It was a major trading port as well as a major religious site. It was reputed to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. As George, our guide, pointed out, the person who thought that up was a marketing genius. It brought lots of travelers—and their commerce—to Delos. The city / island was undefended perhaps because they thought that no one would ever disrupt the trade that went on.
In 88 B.C. the city was attacked and nearly completely destroyed. More than 20,000 people were killed. The Romans tried to revive the city, but it never approached its former glory. It lay nearly abandoned (but not forgotten) for almost 2,000 years until the French began to work in the mid-1800s. In the intervening 150 years, less than one fifth of the island has been excavated. But what has been done is impressive. We saw shops, houses, temples, the theater, the water capture system (really important), and municipal areas. Further out we could see more temples and houses. We were able to walk all over and to peer into many spaces. George was full of information and was good at separating fact from speculation.
Much of the work that has been done has simply uncovered what time and man have buried. The archeologists have tried to leave what they have uncovered alone as much as possible. They have made sure that the walls won’t fall over, but they haven’t done much
rebuilding. Knowing that makes the site feel much more “real”. Although George didn’t say so, it seemed to me that an exception to the rule was that many columns which have fallen have been made upright again.
The museum on the site contains many of the pieces of statuary that have been found here. However, a lot of what was recovered has found its way to European museums.
If you look at the pictures of Delos on pictures you will get a taste of what we saw. As I have said before, the pictures don’t do the reality the justice it deserves.
The ferry ride back was quite rough. It was difficult for Patricia but she made it. There was a lot of pitch and roll and the waves were sometimes higher than the widows.
Rather than return directly to the Odyssey, we walked around Mykonos for a while. Its streets are narrow and winding and were supposedly designed to confuse pirates. [Are we sensing a pattern?] We didn’t see any confused pirates, but there were plenty of confused tourists. We wandered (but weren’t confused) and found a very nice open-air restaurant where we had a good lunch. The trip in the tender back to the Odyssey was nearly as rough as the trip in from Delos.
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Kate Jacobs30 Sep 2011
This has been one of my favorite posts! I’m going to have to read the story of the birth of Apollo and Artemis again. Glad you and Mom made it through the rough seas – glad Mom had her sea-band bracelets and ginger!