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Delos, Greece
Delos, Greece (Image from

Delos, Greece

Just south of Mykonos, tiny Delos is a site of great archaeological Importance. This was, in legend, the birthplace of Apollo and his sister Artemis, and in the 8th century BC a four-yearly festival in his honour was established, followed in the early 7th century BC by the building of the Sanctuary of Apollo. The island grew in religious and commercial importance. Athens formed the Delian League against the Persian threat, and its treasury was sited here. In Hellenistic times Delos was one of the most important religious centres in Greece. with pilgrims from all over the Mediterranean. Merchants, bankers and mariners also settled here. Rome declared Delos a free port in 167 BC and trade overtook religion — Delos was the largest slave market in the Mediterranean.

But the island was sacked in 88 and 69 BC and stripped of its treasure: ancient religions lost significance and trade routes changed. Delos’s long decline began. Almost deserted, it was part of the Ottoman Empire, then a pirate base.

Now, visitors are not allowed to stay on Delos. The Romans decreed that no-one should die or be born here; the only hotel has been ruined for 1600 years. Starting from two separate harbours, the sacred and Commercial, the site divides into two corresponding areas. In the huge expanse of rubble that is the Sanctuary, there are temples to Apollo and Artemis, a sanctuary of Dionysus, the dry Sacred Lake and much more. In the Theatre Quarter are streets of the remains of artisans’ houses and merchants’ mansions and a large but fragmentary theatre. The Slave Market lay in the partly excavated Maritime Quarter.

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