Delos Greece


The Greek Island of Delos

At the center of the Cyclades Islands is the ancient cult island of Apollo, named Delos.  It is the chain's archaeological jewel, and is uninhabited since there is no source of fresh water.   Most visitors come here as a day trip from Mykonos, about 30 minutes away by boat.  

Legends of Delos- There are several legends about the island of Delos but they all have a similar story line about the birth of Apollo, god of light and prophesy.  It is said that the island was originally called Adelos which means invisible.  This refers to a time when the island floated around the Aegean Sea.  After the birth of Apollo columns rose out of the ground and anchored the island to its current location.  Because of this event the name was changed to Delos, which means visible.  

Another legend says that says that Delos was a nymph and Zeus was attracted to her.  Out of respect for Hera (Zeus' wife) Delos became a star and fell to the sea, becoming an island.  To punish her, Zeus made the island barren and parched.  Leto later became pregnant from Zeus and she was looking for a place to have her son.  Many islands turned her away because they feared the wrath of Hera.  When she arrived at Delos and saw how arid and barren it was she told them that she was to give birth to a god, and if they let her stay the island would be prosperous because people would bring gifts to him.  They allowed her to stay and her words became true.

History of Delos- From excavations it has been proved that the island was first inhabited about 2800 BC.  Around 1000 BC the Ionians arrived and brought with them the worship of Apollo.  Around 800 BC, Delos had become a very powerful shipping, religious and political center.  People believed that Zeus gave the island special status, and that therefore anyone was guaranteed safety at the island.  Around the 540 BC it was ordered that no one could give birth or die on the island, so sick people or pregnant women were brought to nearby Rheneia.  All graves were also dug up and brought to Rheneia.  As Romans came to power the island became less important and many of the inhabitants were killed or put into slavery.  In 69 BC a group of pirates destroyed the city and killed the remaining residents.  Because larger ports were now in Italy, the island was no longer needed.  Once again the island became invisible until 1872 when it was rediscovered and excavations began.


Delos Today- The entire island of Delos is an archaeological site that can be toured as a day trip from Mykonos.  The highlights include the Sanctuary of Apollo,  including several temples consecrated to him, the Terrace of the Lions and the Delos Museum housing finds from the island such as mosaics, frescos and pottery.


Please also see our pages about Mykonos and Santorini.


Private Guides: See Delos and learn about its history with a private guide.




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