The deserted island of Delos is linked to
one of the saddest myths. The beautiful Leto slept with Zeus and this union bore two
children, Apollo and his twin sister, Diana. According to myth, Leto was looking for a
place to give birth to her children, but she was not accepted anywhere, as people feared
the revenge of Hera. After coming to the infertile island of Delos, Leto vowed on the
sacred waters of Styx that her son would not forget his motherland and, as a god, he would
establish his first temple there. Thus, the island gave its permission to Leto to give
birth to her children there.
Another myth claims that Delos was a nymph with whom
Zeus fell in love. Delos, out of respect for Hera, became a star and fell into the sea.
Zeus got angry with her and punished her by leaving her wandering in the sea. When Leto
arrived here and asked if she could have her children, Asteria -the island's name at the
time- embraced Leto with affection. When Apollo was born, out of gratitude, he erected
four columns, the island's foundation on the bottom of the sea. The island has been called
Delos ever since, as its position was stabilized and obvious for the first time
("delos" means obvious, in Greek).
Unlike Mykonos, Delos thrived in ancient times. The first
inhabitants were Kares, but after the settlement of Iones, the island became a religious
and commercial centre.
Delos was occupied by the Athenians, the Macedonians, the
Ptolemies, the Romans, while in 88 BC it was totally destroyed by the Persian general
Mithredates, during his war against 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. However, Delos 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 nearby islands.
Excavations on Delos started in 1873 by the French School of
Archaeology at Athens (and are still carried aout). The religious, political and
commercial centre of the island has already been revealed, along with many private houses.
Additionaly, large-scale restoration work has been undertaken. In 1990 Delos was included
in the World's Cultural Heritage, protected by the UNESCO.
Overnight stay, camping and all relative activities are
STRICTLY PROHIBITED in Delos.
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