Delos -- The Birthplace of the Greek god Apollo

Trip Start May 26, 2011
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Trip End Jul 19, 2011


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Flag of Greece  , Cyclades,
Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Since Mykonos is mostly about just relaxing, I only booked one excursion during my time here and that is a return trip to the island of Delos. I went before as an excursion from a cruise and loved it so didn't hesitate to book it again when I knew I was going back to Mykonos. Yes, it's MORE ruins, but what makes it unique is it's basically a deserted island where no one is allowed to live unless they are involved with the excavation and preservation of the island and that number right now is only 14 people.
 
Delos is a short 20 minute boat ride from Mykonos taking you from the Mykonos harbor and dropping you at a small marina in front of the entrance to the archeological site. They do the tour in many languages so when you check-in you're given a colored sticker to wear and when you leave the boat you are grouped with a guide that takes you around for a couple of hours before giving you free time and you get to choose one of three boat times to return to Mykonos. On the island there is also a small museum protecting some of the more important discoveries but amazing reproductions have taken their place within the actual ruins.
 
From archeological findings, they date civilizations being on the island since 3000 BC. and Delos is one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece. The excavations on the island are among the most extensive in the Mediterranean. From the diggings they have learned there were some of the very rich living on Delos gaining great wealth from their trade.  The buildings uncovered tell a lot about the society and give hints as to who may have lived or worked in the various areas. Buildings with a marble threshold were thought to likely be merchant businesses similar to 5th Avenue in New York or Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. One building is thought to have belonged to someone of Syrian decent that ran the island's bank and likely the first teller window with bars (see picture). Like in all Greek cities, there was a large theater seating over 5,000 people where they had competitions similar to the film festivals we have today.
 
The island is most famous for being the birthplace of the god Apollo. Zeus had had yet another affair with a Titaness called Leto.  Pregnant with twins and being chased around the world by Zeus' angry wife, Hera, Leto hid on Delos to give birth to Apollo and his twin sister Artemis. Delos is very dry with little greenery but at one time there was a small lake with a palm tree and under this tree is where Leto supposedly had her children.   Being one of the most important gods of the Greek pantheon, Apollo was recognized as the god of light and the sun, truth and prophecy, medicine, healing, music, arts, poetry and more. Being the birthplace of Apollo, people from around the ancient world came to Delos as a pilgrimage. Large temples were erected in Apollo's honor and many gifts were bestowed on the city including great buildings, statues and other offerings. Many people coming to the island caused the need for commerce and Delos grew to be one of most important commercial centers in the world. At one time, this 11 square mile island had 30,000 plus inhabitants of many religions and cultures living together.
 
A number of "purifications" were executed by the city-state of Athens in an attempt to render the island fit for proper worship of the gods. The first took place in the 6th century BC, when it was ordered that all graves within site of the temples be dug up and the bodies moved to another nearby island. In the 5th century, the entire island was purged of all dead bodies. It was then ordered that no one should be allowed to be born or die on the island due to its sacred importance and also preserve its neutrality in commerce, since no one could then claim ownership through inheritance. Somewhat cruelly, pregnant women and the very ill and elderly were shipped to a neighboring island to give birth or live out their last days.
 
The island has no productive capacity for food or timber so it was imported. Limited water was exploited with an extensive cistern and aqueduct system, wells, and sanitary drains. Various regions on the island operated agoras (markets). The largest slave market in the larger region was also conducted here.   Twice attacked within 70 years by enemies of the Greeks and Romans, the defenseless island (no fortified walls here), quickly was deserted. The ruins remain well preserved as few others ever came to the island to live nor build over the Delos ruins thereby harming them in the process. The island has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990.
 

Several more pictures below.  

Now back to the margaritas...
 




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