Delos – Birthplace of Apollo and Artemis
Near the popular island of Mykonos in Greece, lies a group of islands known as the Cyclades. Close to the centre of the Cyclades is an island that is as much historic as it is mythical – Delos. This is more than just an ancient sacred island; it can almost be described as an outdoor museum. Excavations and research have been ongoing on Delos, discovering its greatness and its secrets that lie scattered amongst the ruins of the once magnificent city.
According to the mythology of Greece, it is believed that Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis on Delos Island. Zeus’ wife banished Leto from earth, but being pregnant, Poseidon offered Delos to Leto as a safe place to give birth and rest. Delos became the religious capital of the Ionians by the year 1000 BC and slowly became home to a number of sanctuaries and temples. The Delian League was established on Delos after the Persians were defeated in 478 BC and even though it became a wealthy city, it only really rose to its full potential after the Romans conquered the island and used it as a free port.
The Mithridates attacked the islands in 88 BC, which symbolized the beginning of the end for Delos, as thousands of its inhabitants were slaughtered or sold as slaves and later attempts to revive the city failed. By 70 BC, Delos was all but abandoned, leaving behind one of the largest ruins of its kind in the world. Excavations started in 1872, but due to the magnificent size of the ruins, work still continues to catalog and preserve what has remained of Delos.
The museum on the island is home to the legendary marble lions and various other breathtaking items and is a good place to start exploring Delos. When walking through the ruins, visitors will be absolutely dumbfounded at the monuments, residential areas, streets, temples and sewers that await discovery. Some of the homes are still in relatively good condition, while other structures have been destroyed through pirating. Exactly how many precious pieces are missing from the island will never be known. Sketches, spectacular mosaics, sculptures, cisterns, theatres and water systems allow visitors to travel back in time through their imaginations and visualize the splendor of the magical city that once thrived on Delos. There is so much to see on Delos that anyone visiting the island should ensure that they set aside enough time to walk the entire site, which is endless in wondrous discoveries and historical significance.