The Hellenistic Tower of Chimarrou

South of Filóti, on the road to Kalandós, one can visit an interesting ancient tower from the Hellenistic period (3rd century BC). It lies at 340 m altitude on the low hills southwest of mount Zeus, in a hilly landscape that seems dry and barren in the summer, but in spring is covered with lush green. It can be assumed that the whole area was used for agriculture in antiquity; since the Bronze Age, this area of ​​Naxos was particularly densely populated.

The Tower of Chimárrou stands on a low elevation surrounded by higher hills.

The area seems dry and barren in the summer. In spring, however, many valleys and slopes are covered in a surprisingly lush green.

The architecture of the tower

The Tower of Chimárrou has a round shape as most of the other Hellenistic towers of the Cyclades. Its inner diameter is 7.2 meters. The walls are about one meter thick, which results in an outer diameter of over 9 meters. Towards the top, the tower gets a little thinner. It is preserved up to a height of 15 meters (about 40 rows of stones of 30 to 50 cm height). Originally, it was probably made up of five floors. The top floor and about half of the next one have collapsed, presumably due to lightning. We don’t know whether the tower once had a pointed roof or a roof terrace.

The Tower of Chimárrou dates from the 3rd century BC. It served as a place of retreat and defense for a small settlement to which the residents could withdraw during an attack.

The walls of the tower are about one meter thick and consist of an outer wall of larger stones and an inner wall of smaller stones. Both walls are connected by transversal stones (every third or fourth row consists alternately of running and transversal stones, the latter being almost square or a bit wider from the outside).

Here on can see in some of the rows approximately square stones lying between the oblong “running” stones: These are the transversal stones that connect the inner and the outer wall. The tower has been encased in a scaffold since 2004; the picture dates from the time before that.

The entrance with its thick lintel is located on the weather-protected southern side of the tower.

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The Bronze Age Acropolis in Panormos

Near the bay of Pánormos at the southeastern tip of Naxos lies on a low hill called Korfári ton Amygdalión (= hill of the almond trees) a small Bronze Age acropolis (= fortress). It consists of about twenty tiny rooms and is surrounded by a wall which is reinforced by small bastions. The walls of the houses and the protective wall are preserved in most places only up to about knee level. The acropolis was excavated in the 1960s by Greek archaeologists under Chr. Doumas.

The Acropolis of Pánormos is probably the oldest building on Naxos. It dates from the Early Bronze Age (about 2,300 BC) and is thus almost four and a half thousand years old. The acropolis lies on a small flat hill which offers only little natural protection. The environment is quite fertile and was cultivated until very recently with wheat and barley. The acropolis is located very close to one of the island’s bays that are best protected from the predominating northern winds. Due to its location behind a hilltop it can hardly be seen from the sea. Around the Acropolis grow wild almond trees (Prunus webbii), after which the hill is named (amygdalo = almond).

The wild almond trees that grow here gave the hill Korfári ton Amygdalión its name.

The small size of the rooms of the Acropolis of Pánormos (1.2 x 1.4 m to 2.5 x 3.5 m) suggests that it was only a refuge and not a permanent settlement. This is confirmed by the fact that no tools of domestic use were found in the fortress during the excavation. (However, the acropolis was destroyed during an assault – any tools could also have been taken away by the fleeing inhabitants or by the conquerors.)

The layout of the Acropolis is irregular and depends on the structure of the underground. The small rooms and the narrow passages in between are only approximately rectangular. The surrounding wall is one to two meter wide and forms seven irregular bastions, which protect especially the flatter northern side. The single entrance is only 80 centimeter wide. A series of steps leads up to it. The walls, as far as they are preserved, consist of unprocessed stones which are put together without much care using a mortar made of earth. The whole complex is built of stones from the immediate vicinity. The roofs are believed to have been simple constructions of wood, reed and stamped earth.

Die Acropolis von Panormos
The Acropolis of Pánormos is located on a small, flat hill of only 63 meters height that lies amidst abandoned crop fields.

Die Acropolis von Panormos
The entrance is protected by two small bastions.

Die Acropolis von Panormos
The outer wall is reinforced by several irregular bastions of this kind.

Die Akropolis von Panormos
The the fortress is made up of about 20 small rooms with narrow passageways in between.

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The ancient inscription at Apollonas

The village of Apóllonas was named after an antique inscription which lies on a marble cliff on the southern side of the hill with the ancient marble quarry in which the famous Kouros, a gigantic, unfinished marble statue, lies. The inscription reads: “OROS CHORIOU IEROU APOLLONOS” (border of the sacred district of Apollo). The whole hill with its marble quarry was thus dedicated to the god of light and the arts.

View towards Apóllonas; the hill with the marble quarry can be seen on the left. The inscription is located at the top of the hill.

To get to the inscription, you have to climb a fence and then mount this slope.

The ancient sculptors always made their inscriptions on vertical or slightly overhanging marble surfaces, preferably protected from the rain.

ΟΡΟΣ ΧΟΡΙΟΥ ΗΕΡΟΥ ΑΠΟΛΛΩΝΟΣ (the right spelling is actually “ΙΕΡΟΥ” – an error?)

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The ancient marble quarry at Apollonas

Close to the small village of Apóllonas, at the northern tip of Naxos, lies the island’s main antique marble quarry. It is located on a small hill to the southwest of the village that consists of very good, white, fine-grained marble from which many statues have been made. One of these statues lies unfinished in the quarry, the gigantic Kouros.

im antiken Steinbruch bei Apollonas
view from the quarry towards Apóllonas

The quarry of Apóllonas was probably in use as far back as the Mycenaean period, and marble was mined here for many centuries. It may be the oldest marble quarry in Greece. Mineralogical research has revealed that numerous statues come from this quarry, not only those found on Naxos, but also in Delos, the Acropolis of Athens and even in Delphi. Certainly material from this quarry has been used for the temples on Naxos and Delos. Especially in the Archaic period large quantities of marble must have been mined here. The tyrant Lygdamis (from 538 BC) ensured that the quarry was nationalized; however, after that its importance soon diminished as, with the development of technology, the underground quarries in Paros and Pendelis near Athens could be exploited more effectively, whose marble was finer and thus more suitable for sculpturing.

im antiken Steinbruch bei Apollonas
The whole hill is covered with big boulders of good quality marble.

Here a block has been removed for instance for a statue.

Of particular interest is a rock just above the Kouros (to be reached unfortunately only by climbing over a fence and many thorny bushes). Here one can see clearly how the ancient masters removed larger blocks of marble.

From this rock, the ancient builders removed several large marble blocks.

To remove a block, first a long line of deep, narrow holes were drilled in its “back” into the rock. Then from the front, that is the “free” side, at the lower edge wedges were driven into the marble until the block broke off as a whole.

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The Kouros of Apollonas

In an ancient quarry near the village Apóllonas in the north of Naxos lies a large, unfinished marble statue, the Kouros. On the whole hill many traces of the marble quarrying are still visible today, and another smaller statue lies inaccessibly in the scrub under the road.

der Kouros von Apollonas
the Kouros of Apollonas

beim Kouros von Apollonas
view from the Kouros to the village of Apollonas

The quarry in which the Kouros is located is one of the most important marble quarries of the early Archaic period, not only on Naxos, but also in the wider area. It was in use probably from the Mycenaean to the Classical period and it might well be the oldest marble quarry in Greece. Marble blocks and statues from the quarry of Apóllonas are not only found on Naxos, but also on Delos, in the Acropolis and even in Delphi.

der Kouros von Apollonas
All over the hill lie outcroppings of good white marble, some of which still show traces of processing.

The Kouros is an extraordinarily large statue: It is over 10 meters long, and thus even slightly larger than the Colossus of Delos, a statue representing the god Apollo, the largest marble statue ever erected in Greece, which also came from Naxos.

The Kouros lies on his back and has been roughly shaped: Head, legs and arms are clearly visible. The finer carving was probably made only when the statue had been transported to its destination, so that damage during transport could be avoided as much as possible.

der Kouros von Apollonas

Most likely the statue should depict the god Dionysus, the main god of the island (recognizable, for example, by the beard).

der Kouros von Apollonas

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The Kouroi of Melanes

Close to the village of Mélanes lies a hill with marble of high quality that has been quarried since antiquity. The marble was used for the construction of buildings as well as for statues. Not too far away, marble is still being quarried today on a large scale. The area of Mélanes was inhabited since the Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC), and its marble may have been used since then. Right next to the area of the antique marble quarry an excavated Sanctuary of the springs and the protector gods of the quarry can be visited.

The peak time for the use of the quarry was during the 7th and 6th centuries BC (archaic period), but marble was also mined during the rest of antiquity. This quarry is one of the oldest in Greece. The island of Naxos was one of the first places in Greece to develop monumental marble sculpturing. From here techniques of marble processing and temple architecture were exported to the neighboring islands and to other parts of Greece. Today the area of the ancient quarry is most known and visited for the two unfinished antique kouroi (plural of gr. Koúros = statue of a young man) that still lie in the quarry. The colossal, 9 meter high marble statue of Apollo in Delos, the largest kouros ever erected, also came from here.

View over area of ​​the ancient quarry. One kouros lies in the middle of the picture in the small incision in the vegetation, the other to the upper left in a small brown area on the slope.

part of the ancient quarry

One can still see traces of the marble quarrying.

The Kouros has a size of over 6 meters and was probably commissioned by a major figure of the then aristocratic society, who wanted to erect a lasting monument of himself. It was probably made around 570 BC. Such statues were roughly shaped in the quarries, so as to reduce the weight but keep the possibility of damage during transport low, and then finished at their final location. The transport was achieved with wooden sledges on ramps of marble chippings. The graceful posture and the fine, “meatless” design of the body is characteristic of the Naxian marble sculptures. The Kouros was presumably left in the quarry because one leg broke during transport.

the Kouros of Mélanes

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The Sanctuary at Flerio (Melanes)

Near the well-known Koúros of Flerió (Mélanes) an ancient sanctuary has been excavated, in which the patron gods of the marble quarry and the nearby springs were worshiped. It is one of the oldest sanctuaries of the island, dating back to the Geometric period.

The valley near the sanctuary is rich in water and huge plane trees and oleander thrive here.

The sanctuary of Flerió was dedicated to the goddess of the nearby springs, a fertility goddess. Also the two most important heroes of the island, the demigods Otos and Ephialtis, were worshiped here as guardian deities of the marble quarries. Near the sanctuary an ancient inscription with their names has been found.

view of the excavated sanctuary from the opposite hill

The site of the sanctuary was an olive grove before its excavation. Many of the olive trees have been preserved.

A large marble block on the site was apparently considered to be particularly sacred; it symbolized the chthonic powers of the heroes Otos and Ephialtis who were able to move rocks. Next to this rock in the 8th century BC (Geometric period) a first temple building was erected. It was made of roughly carved stones and had a size of 5.4 x 6.4 meters with a flat roof supported by two wooden pillars; these stood on carefully crafted marble bases, which are the first known pillar bases of such kind. To the west of the temple building lay an open terrace where the sacrifices were made. To the north the territory was surrounded by a wall. In the southern part of the site lay another small building with three rooms that was used to prepare the ritual meals.

The holiest place of the sanctuary was this marble block. To the left and to the front one can see the eastern wall of the first temple building; on the left in the back the enclosure wall.

Directly next to the sacred rock a small building from the 8th century BC served as a temple. The building was damaged in the 6th century, when the upper part of the marble block slipped towards it, and was repaired provisionally. The easternmost part of the building was then separated by a wall that is visible in the right part of the picture.

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The temple of Apollo and the Portara

The best known symbol of the island of Naxos is the gigantic ancient portal of the Temple of Apollo in Naxos-Town, the Portára. It stands conspiciously on a small island that is connected by a pier to the Chóra (“Palátia”) and greets every visitor already at the arrival at the port.

view of the island of Palátia from the harbour

View from the Portára to the Chóra with the Venetian Kastro; in the background you can see mount Zeus.

The Portára, the monumental temple gate, “The gate” as one might say, consists of four marble blocks of about 6 x 1 m, each weighing just under 20 tons. It belongs to an archaic temple (around 530 BC), of which only the foundations are preserved. The temple was dedicated to Apollo, the god of arts and sciences, but also of agriculture and vegetation, as well as oracles, medicine and light. Apollo’s main sanctuaries lay on the nearby island of Delos and in Delphi. The Naxians had erected important buildings and statues on Delos;(the Terrace of the Lions, the Oikos and Stoa of the Naxians, the statue of Artemis and the 9-meter-high marble statue of Apollo, the largest ever erected kouros). Until the year 540 BC the Naxians ruled over the island of Delos; after that, they lost their supremacy to Athens, which was governed by the tyrant Peisistratos. Perhaps that was the reason why the Naxians now decided to build a monumental temple on their own island, on Palátia island next to the main settlement in Chóra, where probably since the early archaic times a small sanctuary of Apollo had existed. The construction of the temple was started under the Naxian tyrant Lygdamis (who reigned from 538 till 524 BC). The temple was never completed; its construction was probably abandoned with the fall of the tyrant.

Only a few remnants of the temple are preserved except the gate.

Built in the Ionian style the temple building was unusually large (15.4 x 36.85 m) and meant to demonstrate impressively the strength of the island of Naxos. The interior was similar in size to the largest Greek temples except that they often were additionally surrounded by a colonnade (peristasis). For the Temple of Apollon on Naxos it has also been suggested that it had a peristasis, or that one had originally been planned, but a more thorough survey could not confirm that opinion. The roof of the inner hall was supported by two rows of 4 pillars each, which carried the 4-meter long marble roof beams. The side walls projected on both sides of the temple, forming a porch which was supported by two columns each.

Here one can see the foundations of the temple building; in the foreground the remains of the southeastern porch.

Even apart from the impressive size, the construction of the Portára remains an puzzle for the archaeologists. For example the function of the protrusions of the stones remain unclear; according to newer results they could not have been necessary for the transport. On the invisible side facing away from the passage, the stones are indented rectangularly, perhaps to keep the weight a bit lower. On the outside, the stones were to be decorated with unfinished fascia (protruding decorative bands). The gate was thicker than the wall protruding on the inside for about 24 cm, which is very strange. Most astonishingly, the threshold stone was over a meter higher than the level of the floor, so that on both sides a few steps had to be built to lead up to it. When the temple was later converted into a church, the middle part of the disturbing threshold stone was sawn out. The characteristics of the Portára can hardly be explained simply from its function as an entrance. The elaborate and strange design suggests that the gate fulfilled a special function in the cultic procedures.

The central part of the threshold stone, one meter above the floor level, was sawed out when the temple was turned into a church.

The stones of the gate are indented on the invisible side, probably to keep the weight down.

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The Temple of Dionysus at Iria

The area around the capital of the island of Naxos, Chóra, has been inhabited for millennia. Excavations show that from the Early Bronze Age (Cycladic culture) on a significant settlement (excavation Grótta) existed in the same place as today’s city, which was also densely populated during the Mycenaean era. In the following Archaic period (about 8th till 6th century BC), just as today, the settlement in the Chóra was the largest settlement on the island. The significance of the Chóra during the Archaic period is emphasized by the erection of the large temple dedicated to Apollo with its gigantic temple gate. The ancient historian Herodotus reported the existence of a second large temple near the Chóra, which was said to be dedicated to the main god of the island, Dionysus, and located near a river called Byblos.

The plain of the Livádia. In the background you can see the airport area and the peninsula of Stelída. The Temple of Íria is located just to the left of the center of the picture.

For many decades, attempts by archaeologists to locate this temple of Dionysus remained fruitless. An important clue for the search provided a small Byzantine church situated in the middle of the Livádia, the plains next to the Chóra. When the archaeologists mapped the lintels of Byzantine churches on the island in the late 1960s to find the missing lintel of the temple of Demeter near Sangrí, they discovered an ancient lintel in this church, which however did not fit the temple of Demeter. The name of a field near this church attracted further attention: Íria. It was assumed to be an abbreviation for “Jyrotychía”, that is boundary wall (the name of the location of the temple in Sangrí, Jyroula, has the same origin). Test drillings in the field quickly reveiled the remains of the missing temple of Dionysus.

From 1986 to 1991, the temple area was excavated by Greek and German archaeologists (from the Technical University of Munich). No standing remains existed, but only a labyrinth of pillar bases and wall foundations. These could be assigned to four different temples overlaying each other for a few decimeters each (plus a Christian church into which the temple had been transformed around 500 AD). The excavators managed to reconstruct the architecture of the individual temples except for a few details with the help of parts of the temple that had been used in church constructions in the area.

Only the foundations of the temple, but no standing remains were preserved, and these as well were covered by a several meter deep layer of earth.

Next to the temple complex lie these remains of a “dining room”, where presumably the ritual feasts were held.

The area of the temple of Dionysus had been used as a sanctuary since the Mycenaean period (about 1300 BC). In the lowest strata the excavations revealed a large, carefully smoothed marble bowl with a feed channel and a large gneiss plate together with potsherds from the Mycenaean period. The marble bowl and the gneiss plate were filled with fertile mud during the floodings caused by the nearby river (the Byblos of antiquity).

The four successive temples lay closely on top of each other. Today some of the remains of the columns have been erected.

The panel shows the location and layout of the four temples (the first in brown colour, the next two in brownish red and grey, and the last one in yellow).

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The Temple of Demeter in Sangri

The Temple of Demeter at Sangrí is one of Naxos’ main attractions. The temple, which dates back to the Archaic era, is small in size, but of great significance for the development of Greek temple architecture. It is built according to the Ionian order of the islands, which originated on the Cyclades, especially on Naxos, and which was used also by the Athenians after they had conquered Naxos. The temple was built around 530 BC, at about the same time as the temple of Apollo, during the reign of the tyrant Lygdamis.

The Temple of Demeter is undoubtedly one of the most important monuments of Naxos.

Around 1990 scientists from the University of Athens in collaboration with the Institute for Building Research in Munich carried out a thorough investigation of the entire area in order to gather all the components necessary for a complete reconstruction of the temple. Parts of the temple were rebuilt from old and newly cut stones. Important findings from the excavations as well as a partial reconstruction of the roof and the sanctuary of the Christian basilica are exhibited in the very interesting museum on the temple grounds.

The Demeter Temple was partially rebuilt in the early Nineties. Both old components and newly cut stones were used for the reconstruction.

Many interesting finds from the excavations on the temple grounds are exhibited in the award-winning museum next to the temple, as well as a partial reconstruction of the roof and of the sanctuary of the Christian basilica.

In front of the temple the remnants of an older use of the sanctuary are visible.


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