The Chóra, the main settlement of Naxos, has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, i.e. for over 6,000 years. During the Bronze Age and in ancient times an important settlement existed in the area of the Chóra, of which numerous remains have been found in excavations. In the Archaic period, a water pipe was built that lead from the springs at Flerió, near the village of Mélanes, to the Chóra, to supply the inhabitants with water.
The water pipe was in use from the 6th century BC to the 8th century AD. During the Roman period, the old water pipe consisting of clay tubes was replaced by an open canal. The water pipe starts at about 200 meters above sea level and has a length of 11 kilometers. The average gradient of 2% is quite large for an ancient water pipe. Similar, albeit much longer and more elaborate water pipes were built at the same time in other areas of Greece, such as Athens and Samos. Lygdamis, the tyrant of Naxos, who ruled the island towards the end of the Archaic epoch, knew the tyrants of the two cities mentioned – so it seems likely that the Naxian water pipeline was built under Lygdamis.
From Flerió to Chóra
The springs of Flerió lie in the vicinity of the Koúros of Mélanes. Even today the adjacent valley has plenty of water all year round and high plane trees and oleander grow here.
Nearby lies a recently excavated sanctuary where the deities of the springs and the nearby quarries were worshipped.
The springs of Flerió lie a little to the left outside of the picture, behind the chain of hills in the middle of the picture. The water pipe runs from there through a tunnel into the valley in the middle of the picture and then along the hills to the Chora, which lies behind the hills on the right in the background of the picture.
Today’s water pipeline
Today, the valley of Flerió is still cultivated, albeit much less than in the past. The water from the springs is still used to irrigate the fields. It is directed to the fields through an open conduit that partly follows the ancient route.
This old paved path leads to the cultivated valley.
Today the water is distributed to the fields through an open conduit.
Water conduits of this kind have been in use all over the island for centuries.
Fresh water snails live in the stream.
The ancient water pipe
The water pipe was built during the Archaic period in the 6th century BC, when the sanctuary and the quarries of Flerió were in use. The pipe consisted of carefully manufactured clay tubes of exactly the same size, which were stuck into each other; the joints were closed with mortar. Over the centuries, the clay pipes became clogged with lime, so that in places a new pipeline was built just above the old one. During the Roman period, the clogged clay pipe was replaced by an open brick canal that followed the same route.
Along the road to Kourounochóri several sections of the ancient water pipe are encountered; above the clay pipeline traces of the later open canal can be seen.
Here a long section of the water pipe is preserved.
The water pipe consists of clay tubes of exactly the same size.
Here you can see how the clay tubes are plugged into each other.
After centuries of use the clay tubes became clogged with lime deposits, so that in the Roman period the clogged pipe was replaced by an open brick channel.
Not far from the springs the ancient water pipe leads through a tunnel into the next valley to the north, possibly because in that way some curves in the valley of Mélanes could be avoided and the Chóra was reached by the shortest route. Also in this way the fertile northern valley could be supplied with water as well. The pass to the north of Flerió was pierced by a 220 m long tunnel.
The water pipeline including the tunnel was built in the 6th century BC. The tunnel had to be dug into the rock. It is about one and a half meter high. The gradient is minimal with a difference of only 6 cm between the entrance and exit of the tunnel. In Roman times, the canal was covered with a stone vault of a few meters length at both the entrance and the exit, in front of which was placed a deep, shaft-like basin in which material (sand, earth, etc.) carried with the water was meant to settle down.
From the springs in the left part of the valley in the background, the water pipe runs along the slope to the pass from where the picture was taken. In the foreground on the left you can see the covered entrance of the tunnel, which pierces the pass.
The excavation site of the tunnel entrance with the pass in the background.
The shaft in front of the tunnel entrance dates from Roman times.
Here you can see the shaft with the basin and the entrance to the tunnel.
at the tunnel exit
The tunnel exit is designed in the same way as the entrance.
Here, too, there lies a basin in which the sand carried along could settle down.
Myrtle bushes grow in the valley. They bear flowers and fruits at the same time.
Even today, some fields are cultivated here; the water pipe, by which the water is led to the fields, still runs along the ancient route.
Not far from the road junction to Mélanes near Aimasós, the water pipe bridges the small valley over an aqueduct that is about one and a half meter high.
At the roadside the ancient clay pipe has been uncovered. A bit above the original pipeline a later branch can be seen, which led past a clogged part of the pipeline.
Here you can see the aqueduct that bridged the small valley.
The aqueduct had a height of about one and a half meters and in Roman times carried an open water conduit.
You can see that in places a second, higher channel was built above a lower, open pipe when the previous one had clogged with lime deposits.
Such bricks were used in the construction of the Roman open conduit.
The mortar for the wall was made with fragments of potsherds. A special, waterproof mortar was used for the actual pipe.
A piece of the open water pipe; the lime deposits are well preserved, while the stones of the conduit are mostly missing.