When one thinks of the Greek islands, often the inner Cyclades or outer Cyclades come to mind, and rightly so. Most everyone has heard of Santorini….
, or the party island Mykonos , but frankly neither of those islands are anywhere near as important for classicists as the island of Delos, which is a 20 minute or so ferry ride from Mykonos. Why is it so important? Because according to Greek myth, this is where Apollo and Artemis were both born, and it is the only place where there were three distinct temples to the god Apollo. The island was once quite inhabited and with many wealthy persons building villas there, and much commerce and trade on the island. Alas, no more today it is all ruins and museums, but they are well worth the visit.
It was a thriving metropolis, and a major destination. Delos was the ancient equivalent of Holy Island off the coast of England. The ancients came here and built shrines and temples, all the way back to Philip of Macedon…. Here for example is a schematic of what Philip built…
Briefly what you are looking at is of course the sacred bull with garlands, which was reserved for major sacrifices to the gods. More important there is the faint image of Apollo himself and the sacred palm tree, which according to the story is where Apollo was born on this island. Notice also the image of the python, as Apollo was the god of prophecy, and the Python was associated with prophecy (hence the Pythia at Delphi). You can still get a sense of the grandeur of the marble buildings from some of the ruins…. We will see what was in museum on Delos, and some of the household ruins in the next post, but here, I leave you with a shot of the island from off shore. Today, all three of these islands, especially Delos and Santorini, are very barren— no rain! They are brown….. especially Santorini. Don’t believe the touristic photos of these places being green and beautiful. Not really most of the time.