Archaeological Sites and Museums in the Greek Islands


The modern port of Aegina has been built over the site once occupied by the ancient commercial port to the north of which was the ancient naval arsenal. Its northern flank was protected by a promontory fortified since Neolithic times. On the summit stood the temple of Apollo, in the Doric style, but only one of its columns remains standing. It belonged to the 6th century B.C. There are also the tombs of the founders of the town, Aeakos and Phokos, the remains of a theater, a stadium and the Attaleion.

Temple of Aphaia

The temple stands on a height overlooking Aghia Marina Bay and was dedicated to the Aphaian goddess Athena. The building is in Doric style and is one of the best examples of early classical architecture. The interior was divided by two colonnades with a second row of smaller, superimposed columns and housed the gold and ivory statue of the goddess. The pediments depicted two Greek expeditions against Troy (those of Hercules and Agamemnon) in which heroes from Aegina, such as Telamon, Ajar and Tefkros had gained distinction. Fragments from older pediment are displayed in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Apart from the terraced perivolos and the propylaea, there was a large altar, baths and living quarters for the priests.


The entire island is one large archaeological site with monuments dating back to various periods, but, for the most part dedicated to the lonic worship of Apollo, which superseded the pre-historic cult of the Kynthian Zeus. For a thousand years the island figured as the political and religious center of the Aegean~an and it was the home of the “Delian” religious festivals held in honor of Apollo. The sacred city with the Sanctuary of Apollo and the lesser temple of the goddess Artemis, as well as the area of the Sacred Lake (in which swam the Sacred Swans and Geese of the god) developed in the area overlooking the Sacred Port. A stately Sacred Way led from the port to the sanctuary of Apollo. It contained temples, altars, votive offerings and miscellaneous buildings. Remains of four temples, built in the name of Apollo lie in the area, the oldest of them being the “House of the Naxians” (7th century B.C.), then came the temple called “Porinos Naos”, followed by the “Temple of the Athenians” (5th century B.C.) and finally the only peripteral temple of the Delians (4th century B.C.). To the east stands the sanctuary ol the Bulls, a long, narrow building, while to the north are the treasuries and the long narrow arcade of Antigonos. The N.W. corner is the site of the smaller temple of Artemis in the Ionic style and the tomb of the two “Hyperborean Maidens”. Further north still, is the area of the Sacred Lake guarded by the lions along the Lions Way (of the nine superb archaic statues of lions, only five survive), the Letoon, the Agora of the Italians and the Institution of the Poseidoniasts of Verytos (Beirut) which was an association of merchants and shipowners who worshiped Baal, a god they identified with Poseidon. Further on there are some fine specimens of houses and a “palaestra”. The Stadium and the Gymnasium lie about half a km to the N.E. of the Sacred Lake.

In the days of the Ptolemys (3rd and 2nd centuries B.C.), when Delos became an important trading center in the eastern Mediterranean and a world market for that period, a commercial port was built alongside the Sacred Harbor. The shopping and commercial center grew up around this port and, overlooking it, spread the residential area of the Hellenistic town clearly defined building blocks in excellent state of preservation, narrow streets and one high street which began from the shore and ended at the S.E. extremity of the town where the theater was located. Fine mosaic paving was discovered in some of the houses, showing Dionysus riding a panther, a dolphin and a trident, comical and satirical masks. On the summit of the hill called Mount Kynthos, are the remains of a sanctuary dedicated to the Kynthian Zeus and to Athena, as well as ruins of pre-historic buildings. On the N.W. slopes of Mount Kynthos there are ruins of temples dedicated to foreign deities which had been built by foreigners residing on the island.


Ancient Thera
The ancient Doric town flourished mostly in the times of the Ptolemys who reigned in Egypt in the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C. and converted the island into an advance naval base in the Aegean. The town is divided longitudinally by the Sacred Way which led from it to the temple of Apollo Karneios at the S.E. extremity. Apart from the clusters of houses belonging to various periods, it includes market places, baths, theaters, temples (dedicated to Egyptian deities, to Apollo, Dionysus, etc.), the House of Ptolemy the Benefactor (the House of the Vasilists), the billets of the garrison of the Ptolemys, tombs of the archaic and classical times, early Christian relies, etc. Important festivals were held at the Apollo Karneios sanctuary with dancing by naked youths, known as “Gymnopaedies”. The monument of the ancient colonizer of the island, who was called Theras, stands here. In addition, among the remains are the Gymnasium of the “Epheboi”, and the Roman baths. On surrounding rocks, names have been carved in the ancient alphabet of Thera mentioning the god Apollo and various men and youths.

Excavations at Akrotiri
Ruins of a Minoan city were found. It had been destroyed around the year 1500 B.C. by an eruption of the volcano of Thera. As in the case of prehistoric Pompei. two and three- story buildings, city squares, shops and workshops were buried under the lava. Marvelous frescoes were found in some of the houses and they can be seen in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Vases and utensils in everyday use were also found.

The exhibits are pre-historic finds (mostly pottery), a large collection of vases of the 7th and 6th centuries B.C. known for the most part as “Theraic” vases, a small number of archaic or classical sculptures, some Hellenistic and Roman sculptures and some portrait statues.


The City Walls
The powerful fortifications which surround the old city with their bastions, battlements, gates and moat are fine examples of the art of fortification in the 15th and 16th centuries A.D.

Palace of the Grand Masters of the Order of Saint John
The castle is located in the old city and is separated from it by an internal wall. The main functions of the Order of Saint John were organized within this medieval group of buildings. There was the Palace of the Grand Master, the Hospital and the Inns of the various “Tongues”, as they were known, meaning the billets of the various nationalities of Knights forming the Order. Most of these were in the Street of the Knights. The Inn of Auvergne is a magnificent 15th century building set in the Square of the Amory The Palace of the Grand Master, now fully restored with its fine wooden ceilings and floors paved with marble in various colors or with ancient mosaics brought over from Cos and alabaster windows, contains an interesting collection of furniture of 16th and 17th century West European craftsmanship.

Archaeological Museum
The Museum is housed in the Hospital of the Knights and displays a collection of coins, pottery and sculpture among which the Kneeling Venus and Rhodes is of particular note (Ist century B.C.) and the stale from the tomb of Timarista and Krito (5th century B.C.). There is also a Decorative Arts Museum, containing folkloric exhibits from all over the Dodecanese and a Byzantine Museum.

The Citadel of Rhodes
On the eastern slope of Smith's Hill, there is a restored stadium of unusual shape in that it is square. There are also traces of two ancient temples dedicated to the Pythian Apollo and to the goddess Polias Athena.

The Citadel of lalissos (Filerimos)
The foundations of the temple of the lalysian Athena (3rd century B.C.) are visible while excavations along the slope of the hill revealed a burial ground with 500 graves of the late : Mycenaean, Geometric, Archaic and Classical periods. In the archaeological site there is also the monastery of Panaghia of Filerimos, built by the Order of Saint John.

This is regarded as the Pompei of Rhodes. There is a 3rd century B.C. sanctuary with remains of a temple in the Doric style. This was the starting point for the road which led to the ancient city, built amphitheatrically. Excavations uncovered dwellings, an Agora, ruins of a temple of Athena, etc.

The Acropolis of Lindos
A spacious arcade marks the beginning of a stately flight of steps which leads to a raised terrace on which stand the remains of 5th century B.C. Propylaea. Past this, the way leads to the sanctuary of the Lindian Athena with its charming 4th century B.C. amphiprostylon temple perched on the edge of the cliff.

Crete (Kriti):

The first palace buildings were constructed at Knossos, Phaestos and Malia around the year 1900 B.C. but, some two centuries later, they collapsed in an earthquake and were rebuilt more stately and luxurious. Their final destruction came in 1450 B.C. when the volcano on the island of Thera erupted. However, the palace at Knossos continued to be inhabited for more than 50 years after this event until it was finally gutted by fire. In Minoan times, the palaces were not only the royal residence but also served as the administrative and religious center for the entire district.

At Knossos, the ruins of the Minoan capital comprised the palace of King Mines, the houses of the state officials and priests which surrounded it (the Small Palace, Royal Villa, Caravanserai, the House of the Frescoes, etc.), the dwellings of the ordinary citizens and cemeteries. The palace was an intricate structural complex, built around a central core (or courtyard) from which the various apartments extended. This multi-story grouping which occupied an area of 21,000 square meters (with stairways, light shafts, corridors, balconies, windows and colored columns supporting the roof), contained not only the official quarters such as the Throne Room, the Royal Suites of the King and Queen and sacred places of worship, but also the Treasury, artists' workshops, food stores, the arsenal and a theater. Excellent frescoes contributed towards the interior decoration of these buildings.

The palace buildings at Phaestos which was the second palace-city in order of importance in the Minoan world and the citadel of the mythical Radamanthes, are similarly the core of a city inhabited since Neolithic times. The architectural layout is the same as at Knossos. The palace rooms are likewise grouped around a central, paved courtyard. In contrast, however, to the Knossos palace, mural decoration was relatively poor but this shortcoming was amply compensated for by the flooring and the lining of the walls with slabs of snow-white gypsum stone.

The Heraklion (Iraklio) Museum
This Museum is unique in the world in that it contains a concentration of almost all the discoveries which have been made on Minoan civilization. The exhibits are classified into the following main categories:

Ceramics. Vases belonging to the Vasiliki style, the multicolor vases from the Kamares Caves, the vases of plant and marine style and those of the palace style are especially notable.
Stoneware. Mainly vases made of marble or semi-precious and precious stones. Those which come from the sacred treasuries of the palaces at Knossos and Zakros are outstanding. A special category is formed by the stone utensils used in religious ritual which carry various representations in relief.Seal stones.These have been usually carved out of semiprecious stones.
Miniature sculpture. Clay figurines.and others made of stone or precious materials.
Goldsmith's work and ornaments in general.
Metalwork. Household utensils, tools, weapons and ceremonial axes.
Frescoes from the large and the small palaces, villas of the wealthy classes and mansions. Mural paintings combined with reliefs form a category of their own.
Sarcophagi. The one from Aghia Triada, made of stone, is unique.
A small section of the Museum has been given over to the finds which cover Greek civilization up to Early Christian times.

Other Archaeological Sites which can be visited are:
The Archaeological Sites at Gortis, Tilissos, Malia, Gournia, Aghia Triada, Arhanes, Lissos, Zakros, Late, the Archaeological collection at lerapetra, the church of Panaghia Keras Kritsas Merambellou, the Psychrou Cave-Dictaio Cave.