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PAROS-DESPOTIKO

Paros belongs to the insular complex comprising Antiparos, the small unpopulated islands Despotiko, Stroggylo and other smaller rocky islets.

It was first inhabited at the end of the Neolithic Period, as demonstrated by the settlement on the Saliagkos islet, between Paros and Antiparos. Many settlements were founded in 3000 BC, whose existence is mainly certified by the discovery of cemeteries.

The ancient quarries were a significant source of wealth for Paros, through the extraction of the noted Parian marble, known as lychnites, cause of the establishment of an eminent sculpture school of nationwide reputation. The ancient marble quarries are located in Marathi and Lakkoi.

 

The modern town – Paroikia – is built on the remains of the ancient town.

The area covered by the ancient town was large and extended around the Castle. Some of the most significant sites at the perimeter of the town are briefly presented.

The remains of a large arched building of the Late Antiquity are located at the “Krios” site, opposite to the Paroikia port.

At the top of the hill hanging above the port with a view to Delos, is a sanctuary dedicated to Delius Apollo and Artemis, dating back to the 5th century BC.

Three churches built in the 17th century on the remains of a large Late Christian Basilica of the 6th century AD, which had been built over, and using architectural members from, the Archilochus monument of the 6th century BC, were located at the “Treis Ekklisies” (Three Churches) site.

At Aghia Anna, there are the sanctuaries of Pythian Apollo and Asclepius. Only the foundation of the Pythian Apollo sanctuary is rescued today. The Asclepius sanctuary was built in the 4th century BC, close to a water spring.

The ancient town of Paros has been protected, since the Archaic Period, with a wall. The eastern gate of the wall was visible in the past at the Dyo Plakes (Two Plates) site, made of two gigantic single-slab pilasters.

The temple of the Patron Saint Athena, built in 525 BC, predominated in the posterior Venetian Castle. A distinctive example of the wealth of the buildings in the ancient town is the castle built in 1260 by the Venetian Duke of Naxos. A marble canopy built in the 4th century, devoted to Hestia, is still rescued in its tower.

The workshops of the town were located at the Tholos site. A sculpture workshop and a well-organised pottery workshop dating back to the Hellenistic Period have been discovered.

Five building complexes of the Hellenistic Period, with atriums featuring mosaic floors, have been discovered at the “Kastrovouni” site. The remains of a two-storey house built in the 2nd century BC have been discovered at the "Floga" site.

The area of “Aghios Panteleimon” is particularly interesting. The following discoveries have been made there: a large temple of the Archaic Period and significant sculptures, such as the torso of a marble Archaic Kouros (young male figure), together with its inscribed basis.

Moreover, the torso of an Archaic sculpture of Gorgo, a part of a temple and the torso of a naked young man, perhaps an athlete or warrior, dating back to the Classical Period (460-460 BC), have also been found.

However, the most significant finding is the exceptional big relief representing a standing female figure wearing a veil, which probably comes from the temple of Demetra, and a young woman that matches the above mentioned large outdoor sanctuary.

In the 6th century BC, a far-reaching building plan starts in Paros, under which a great temple of Apollo is established on the island Despotiko.

Despotiko is located to the west of Antiparos and was linked in the Antiquity to the Tsimintiri islet by an isthmus. The Stroggylo islet is located west of Despotiko.

The first archaeological researches in Despotiko took place in the late 19th century, revealing graves of the Early Cycladic Period and a part of the relevant settlement.

The long excavation works resulted in the discovery of a big Archaic temple dedicated to Apollo. Twelve buildings have been unearthed to date.

The temple core constitutes the so-called North Shrine which comprises Buildings A, D and E. The South Complex, to the south, consists of the buildings I and J.

Buildings B, C, G, H, K and L cover a large area, extending almost from the coast to the headland of the temple, and are found along the path the believers would follow heading from the port to the Holy Shrine. Building C consists of two big rooms. South of Building C is Building G that consists of four rooms with a common cobblestone atrium.

Building B is located to the east of the above buildings. It is a big construction consisting of seven spaces, potentially used as a warehouse. Building H, at a close distance, consists of six rooms and a semi-circular space. It dates back to the Late Archaic Period. Buildings K and L, two small constructions potentially used as observatories, are quite close to the other buildings.

 

Building A is the place of worship in the temple, comprising five parallel rooms. The building plan view is divided in two sections, the north section, consisting of rooms A1 and A2, which coincide with the temple, and the south section, consisting of rooms A3, A4 and A5, which coincide with the restaurant of the sanctuary.

 

Underneath the slabs at the floor of room A1 were hiding 600 items of Cycladic, Corinthian, Eastern-Ionian, Cypriot and Egyptian origin. Most of them dated back to the Archaic Period (7th-6th centuries BC).

A large number of imported pottery, mostly from Corinth and Ionia, were also unearthed.

Several ceramic idols of sitting women with pole, coming from Eastern Ionian workshops of the Archaic Period, and many items imported from Egypt were found.

Intact eight-shaped ivory agraffes.

The most important finding in Room A1 is the top part of a Daedalic female idol, which is the first worship idol of the temple and dates back to 680 BC…

Three big marble bases were found in the second room of the "temple", one of which is the basis of the statue worshiped in the temple, which dates back to 500 BC.

The parvis that protected the shrine was built in several phases. First, Building A, the North Gate, was built.

The temple-shaped Building D was added in 550-525 BC, north of Building A.

At the same time, the North Arcade was attached to the parvis.

The southern side of the parvis features the South Gate and South Arcade.

Building E is located outside the parvis, dating back to the second half of 6th century BC.

A so-called semi-circular construction that matches the temple altar stands approximately at the centre of the parvis.

In front of Building A, there is the square grate of Isthmian Hestia, dedicated to the Goddess Hestia.

The South Complex, consisting of Buildings I and J, is located south of the parvis. The “square building” and the “bath” are located at the northern part of Building I.

Building Jconsists of eleven rooms.

Underneath the “bath” and Building J, deeper inside the earth, six older walls were revealed…

In the Late Antiquity, the temple ceased operating and, in the 17th century, was completed destroyed by pirates.

The fate of the marble statues that decorated the shrine as glorious oblations, an incontestable proof of the prestige, glory and wealth of the temple, is particularly interesting. Many fractures of mostly Archaic statues of Kouroi have been found.

 

According to the tradition, there were 22 sanctuaries in Cyclades dedicated to Apollo, one of which was the sanctuary of Despotiko, founded by Parians on the island to establish their domination over the Aegean Sea.

It is speculated that Despotiko was destroyed because of the contention between Paros and Athens in the early 5th century BC.