Delos was the most important Panhellenic sanctuary, and, according
to mythology, the birth-place of Apollo and Artemis.
The first signs of
habitation on the island date from the 3rd millenium B.C., and important remains
of the Mycenaean period have been uncovered in the area of the sanctuary. In the
7th century B.C. Delos was already a known Ionic centre because of its religious
importance as the birth-place of Apollo.
Athenian influence was initiated on
the sanctuary with the first purification of Delos by Peisistratos in 540 B.C.
but it gradually developed into a proper domination lasting - with short
intervals - until the end of the 4th century B.C., when Delos was finally
declared free and independent (314 B.C.).
The independence of the island
lasted until 166 B.C. when the Romans gave it over to the Athenians.
The second Athenian domination started
with the definite expulsion of the Delians to Achaia, in the Peloponnese. The
declaration of Delos as an "international" harbour by the Romans led to an
influx of foreigners who became a significant element of the island's
population. The absence of taxes resulted to the concentration of trade activity
on the island and, subsequently, to its economic prosperity.
The close relations
of Delos with Rome, though, was the main reason for its decline. During
Mithridates' wars againts the Romans, Delos suffered severe damage in the raids
of 88 B.C. and 69 B.C. Since then, the island's prosperity gradually came to an
end. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. only a small settlement existed on Delos
and, as Christianity had gradually replaced the ancient religion, the island
finally lost its importance.
Delos was a sacred place with splendid buildings and
sanctuaries and as such, it was never forgotten; many references are preserved
by travellers who visited the island in the last centuries. Numerous pieces of
sculpture were transferred to Museums of Greece and abroad, while marbles from
the ancient buildings were used as building material by the inhabitants of the
Excavations on Delos started in 1873 by the French School of Archaeology at
Athens. Between 1904 and 1914, under the direction of M. Holleaux and thanks to
the donation of Duke de Loubat, the most significant sections of the ancient
site were uncovered.
Intensive excavations were conducted in the years
1958-1975. The excavations are still carried out by the French School of
Archaeology, but the religious, political and commercial centre of the island
has already been revealed along with many private houses. Restricted excavations
were also conducted by Greek archaeologists at the beginning of the
Large-scale restoration work has been undertaken by the
French School of Archaeology mainly in the sector of the private houses, but in
the recent years, the 21st Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities has
also carried out similar work. Several columns have been rebuilt and ancient
houses have been roofed in order to protect the mosaic floors (House of the
Trident, House of the Masks, House of Hermes). In 1990 Delos was included in the
World's Cultural Heritage, protected by the UNESCO.
Ministry of Culture
The photos are taken
from the collection of the photographer, Yannis Vlamos