Delos, Greece

Considered to be “the most sacred of all islands” in ancient Greek culture, where Apollo and Artemis were born

Delos (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

First settled in the third millennium BC, the tiny island of Delos is located in the Cyclades archipelago, to the southeast of mainland Greece in the Aegean Sea. According to Greek mythology, it was the birthplace of Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto.

Apollonian sanctuary (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

As one of the most important gods in the Hellenic pantheon, pilgrims travelled from all over Greece to visit his sanctuary. Established as far back as at least the 9th century BC, it was made up of three different temples, the largest one being the Temple of the Delians.

The Terrace of the Lions (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

The Terrace of the Lions, created in around 600BC, was also dedicated to Apollo. The monument originally comprised nine to twelve snarling marble lions, facing towards what is known as the Sacred Lake of Delos. 

Original lions in the Delos Museum (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

Today, only seven of the original lions remain and they have been relocated to the island’s archaeological museum, where they are now protected from the elements. They have been replaced by cast replicas at the approximate original location outdoors.

Delos (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

The island of Delos bears unique witness to the civilizations of the Aegean world from the 3rd millennium BC onwards. From the 7th century BC up until it was attacked by enemies of the Romans in the 1st century BC, Delos was one of the principal Pan-Hellenic sanctuaries.

Temple of Isis (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

There were an unprecedented number of sanctuaries dedicated to foreign religions. One such example, the Doric Temple of Isis, was built on a hill, at the beginning of the Roman period in the 2nd century BC, to venerate the familiar trinity of Isis, Sarapis, and Anubis.

Koinon of the Poseidoniasts (Building) (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

Another example, the Establishment of the Poseidoniasts was built by Syrian merchants and ship owners from Beirut and was used as a guildhall or clubhouse. Baal, their main object of worship, was identified with Poseidon, hence the name, Poseidoniasts.

Ancient Greek theatre in Delos (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

The Feast of the Delians was celebrated in May and took place every four years, up until 316 BC. It included gymnastic, equestrian and musical competitions, Archaic Age dances, theatrical productions and banquets, and it was one of the major events in the Greek world.

Sacred Way (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

The Roman period of Delos began in around 167 BC when it was declared by the Romans to be a free port. Despite measuring only five kilometres from north to south and around one kilometre from east to west, it became the centre of commercial activity of the eastern Mediterranean.

House of Dionysus (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

Rich merchants, bankers and ship-owners from all over the world settled on Delos, drawing to the island many builders, artists and craftsmen, who built for them luxurious houses that were richly decorated with frescoes and mosaic floors. 

House of Dionysus (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

The House of Dionysus was a luxurious private house named for the floor mosaic depicting Dionysus riding a panther. The tesserae materials – glass, faience, terracotta and natural stone – were fashioned into 1 mm² pieces, allowing for sharp detail and an elaborate colour scheme.

House of Dolphins (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

The House of the Dolphins was a classic peristyle house with excellent mosaic floors. One design features a square outline with a large central rosette which is surrounded by floral motifs and concentric decorated circles.

House of Dolphins (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

In each of the four corners of the mosaic is an image of Cupid riding a dolphin. This piece of work bears the name of its artist, which is quite unusual considering that mosaics were usually left unsigned.

House of Cleopatra and Dioskourides (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

The archaeological site of Delos provides an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble that presents the image of an extremely important cosmopolitan Mediterranean port that began to prosper from 314 BC, reaching outstanding levels during the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. 

Delos’ Museum (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

Delos had considerable influence on the development of architecture and monumental arts during the Greco-Roman period and, as one of the first Greek sites to catch the attention of archaeologists, has played an important role in furthering our knowledge of ancient Greek art.

Delos (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

The entire island is an archaeological site, and excavations which began here in 1872 are still in progress. They have unearthed the Sanctuary and a good part of the town, and a great many of the treasures that have been uncovered are on display in Delos’ museum.

Buste of Hermes (1990) by DelosUNESCO World Heritage

The island of Delos was granted World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1990. 

logo cycladesUNESCO World Heritage

This exhibit was created by the Aegean Islands Tourism Board:

Credits: Story

More on Delos and World Heritage:

Photos: Byron Howes, Raffaele, Patrick Janicek, Robin Dawes, Carlo Guarneri, Bernard Gagnon, Ben Ramirez, EnKayTee, Geoff dude, Felipe Tofani

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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