Greek Travel Guide: Greek Islands & other wonders. Welcome to Hellas! is a cultural & travel guide to Greece and the Greek Islands based on Nigel McGilchrist's awarded books * enriched for the web with additional content.
* "...delightful, well-observed, literary accompaniments to the Greek islands, by a British scholar." The Economist "Books of the year"


Discover Greece

Sights not to miss
Archaeological museums

Archaeological Museums in Greece

Vathi of Samos
Goulandris, Museum of Cycladic Art
National Museum of Athens
Acropolis Museum, Athens

UNESCO World Heritage List

UNESCO's World Heritage List for Greece

Archaeological Site of Aigai
Archaeological Site of Olympia
Archaeological Site of Mystras
Acropolis, Athens
Old Town of Corfu
Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessalonika
Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos
Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus
Monasteries of Daphni, Hosios Loukas and Nea Moni of Chios
The Historic Centre with the Monastery of Saint-John the Theologian & the Cave of the Apocalypse on the Island of Patmos
Medieval City of Rhodes
Mount Athos
Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae
Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns
Archaeological Site of Delphi

Travel ideas
Temple of Haphaestus, Athens Greece

The 7 - Day Jewels of the Cyclades

TRAVEL IDEAS * The 7-Day Jewels of the Cyclades * The best of the Aegean Islands 8 day cruises from Athens. Experience a harmonious balance between conventional cruising and private yachting, along with an exciting voyage of discovery, unraveling the wonders of the Greek Islands. Each day you will discover a new port of call, a hidden cove with…

Jeep Safari Adventure Trips

TRAVEL IDEAS * Jeep Safari Adventure Trips * Join the team on a Jeep Safari Adventure who promote the Mountains of Crete, the Cretan Culture, the History, values and traditions. Vist plast that are far from mass tourism to enjoy beautiful panoramic views where only a four wheel drive Land Rover Defender can reach.We are pleased to offer all year…

Wine experience

TRAVEL IDEAS * Wine experience * Greece is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world thus a great destination for this kind of special interest tours. The earliest evidence of Greek wine has been dated to 6,500 years. In ancient times, as trade in wine became extensive, it was transported from end to end of the Mediterranean; Greek…

Yoga Cruises

TRAVEL IDEAS * Yoga Cruises * Over the last couple of years, Star Clippers has offered guests free daily yoga and meditation on selected Yoga-themed sailings.With spectacular settings as a background, yoga classes take place in the open air, on Star Clippers’ ships’ sun-warmed teak decks, under thousands of square feet of billowing sails – the…

Mykonos, a week in the most fabulous Cycladic island

TRAVEL IDEAS * MYKONOS, a week in jet-set's top destination island * You need to relax and at the same time be near where there’s constantly a party going on and you're thinking about the Greek Islands? You love a sandy beach but can’t say no to the swimming pool? The half of you worships the night sky full of shining stars and the other half is…

Manna Gea, seaside Eco houses

TRAVEL IDEAS * Manna Gea residential complex* in Paliambela Vonitsas, Aitoloakarnania region Welcome to the residential complex Manna Gea, that in Greek means "Mother Earth." The complex is located at "Manna" in Paliambela Vonitsas next to Amvrakikos gulf, a few kilometers away from Lefkada Island. It consists of 3 houses and 2 studios facing the…

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History of the Island and its festivals

Early history and geography In common with a number of other places in the Greek world, Delos was also called Ortygia, or ‘Quail Island’, in remote Antiquity. Later ancient writers created a play (based on a specious etymology) on the name ‘Delos ’, suggesting that the island was formerly ‘a-delos’ (‘invisible’) until the birth of the resplendent Apollo made it ‘delos’ (‘visible’). The island is only c. 5km long by c. 1.3km wide, and is formed of granite and gneiss. The landscape is eroded and treeless: the only seasonal torrent is the ancient Inopos which drains the plain to the north of Mount Kynthos into the Bay of Skardana (northwest), forming a small circular lake along the way where once the sacred grove of palm-trees grew. The island’s two harbours in the middle of the west coast are protected by the two reefs, Megalo and Mikro Rhevmatiari.
   The remains of a prehistoric settlement on the top of Mount Kynthos indicate that Delos was inhabited at the end of the 3rd millennium BC. The Mycenaean period saw the first organised settlement in the harbour area and the establishment of a cult of Artemis which was to continue on the same site in later times, later as the sister of the new god, Apollo. The Ionians who began to colonise the Cyclades around 950 bc brought to Delos the cult of Leto, a possibly Lycian mother-goddess in origin, who was now described as having given birth to both Artemis and Apollo on the island. Festivals called Delia in honour jointly of Apollo, Artemis and Leto then began to be celebrated on the island.
   In the 7th century BC, Delos , under the protection of Naxos , became the head-quarters of a league of Aegean Ionians. In this period the island was notably embellished first by Naxos —the giant Kouros statue of Apollo and the ‘Terrace of the Lions’—and later by the island of Paros. Polycrates the 6th century bc tyrant of Samos , having conquered the Cyclades, is said by Thucydides (III.104) symbolically to have attached Rheneia to Delos with a chain and dedicated it also to Apollo.
   From early on, the Athenians took advantage of their kinship with the Ionians to enter the league of which they soon became the presiding element, sending religious embassies annually to the sanctuary led by ambassadors called ‘Deliastae’, and later termed ‘Theoroi’. Latterly, as the uncontested masters of its religious affairs, they ordered a ritual purification (catharsis) of the sanctuary on more than one occasion. The first purification (only of the area of the island which was visible from the sanctuary itself) was orderd by Peisistratos, tyrant of Athens, in 543 BC.

The 5th and 4th centuries bc, and the greater and Lesser Delia

The inhabitants of Delos took refuge on Tenos at the out break of the Persian Wars in 490 bc; but the Persian commander Datis, who had sent his fleet to Rheneia, left sacred Delos untouched. After the Persian defeats in 480/479 bc, the island acquired further honour and importance as the home of the Delian League, or ‘First Athenian Con federacy’—the maritime league founded in 478 bc under the leadership of Athens. The League’s treasury was established on the island until it was transferred to Athens in 454 bc. A new temple of Apollo was built in Athenian, Pentelic marble between the two pre-existing temples to the god. In 426/5 bc, following an outbreak of plague, the Athenians ordered a second purification of Delos on the instigation of the Delphic Oracle, this time of the whole island (Thucydides, III, 104). They exhumed all but the most sacred burials which were on Delos and transported them to Rheneia, passing at the same time a decree that thenceforward no one should die or give birth on Delos , and that all who were near the time of either should be carried across to Rheneia. Strabo adds that it was unlawful even to keep a dog on the island (Geog. X. 5. 4).
   After the purification, the Athenians restored the Delian Festival which had lapsed in the course of years, and they instituted the Delian Games which were held every four years and comprised athletic sports, horse-racing, and musical contests. As acknowledged leaders of the Delian Confederacy, the Athenians took the most prominent part in the ceremonies. Even though the islanders and others participated in providing choruses and animals for the sacrifices, the leader, or Architheoros, was always an Athenian. For the festivities, the Athenians sent the Theoris—a sacred vessel believed to have been used by Theseus—eve ry year to Delos . During its absence, the city of Athens was also purified and it was forbidden to execute criminals. Before the vessel’s departure, sacrifice was offered in the Delion at Marathon in order to ensure a safe voyage. On arrival in the island, the embassy from Athens processed to the temple, singing the ‘Prosodion’—the hymn recounting the story of Leto and the birth of the divine twins, and intoning chants in honour of Apollo. The ‘Geranos’, or sacred ‘dance of the flight of the crane’, was performed before the altar of Apollo. The Delia ended with theatrical plays and banquets. The ‘Lesser Delia’ were a smaller but annual festival.
   Athens further increased her grip on the island by actively settling it with her own citizens, and in 422 bc she banished the remaining Delians on the pretext that they were impure and unworthy of the sacred island. She allowed them to return later at the bidding of the Delphic Oracle. Athenian overseers, called Amphictiones, administered the temple with the nominal concurrence of the Delians. An interesting account by Plutarch (Nikias, 3) tells how in 417 bc Nikias, at the head of an Athenian em bassy, disembarked in Rheneia and crossed to Delos in procession on a temporary bridge of wooden barges that he had constructed. He brought with him and dedicated beside the Temple of Apollo a life-size, bronze palm-tree. The tree later fell over and in the process toppled the giant marble Kouros statue of Apollo which had been erected by Naxos over a century and half earlier.
   Delos tried repeatedly to shake off Athenian control. First, after the defeat of Athens at Aegospotami in 404 bc, the island appealed to Sparta and, from 401 to 394 bc, en joyed a short period of independence. But Athens soon regained possession of the island and in 378 bc instituted the ‘Second Athenian Confederacy’, substantially different from the first Confederacy in that it was purely defensive and not an instrument of imperialism, as the latter had ultimately become. Only two years later the Athenians again had to reassert their authority when the Delians attempt ed to regain control of the sanctuary for the second time.

Hellenistic and Roman Delos

The Hellenistic era brought a fundamental shift in the island’s character, as its commercial significance became almost as great as—if not greater than—its religious importance. On the strength of this, it entered the most prosperous and cosmopolitan period of its history, now with substantial resident communities of Egyptians, Syrians, Phoenicians, Palestinians and Jews. Rich offerings continued to flow into the sanctuary, and the number of honours decreed to foreign benefactors underlines the variety and importance of the island’s diplomatic and commercial relations. The contemporary inscriptions that have survived give a detailed picture of the temple’s administration and of the island’s constitution. Delos was a democracy with an archon, a senate and an assembly. The care of the sanctuary was in the hands of four annually elected hieropoioi, who combined the offices of priest and administrator. A significant development for the island was the arrival of the first Roman settlers on Delos around 250 bc. It did not take long for the Roman merchants to predominate over other foreign communities. As a calculated correction to the commercial power and dominance of the island of Rhodes , which had irked Rome by its ambiguous behaviour in the Third Macedonian War, the Roman senate allowed the Athenians to reoccupy the island in 166 bc and made Delos into a tax-free port. This gave the island a crucial competitive edge. In the process, the Delians were expelled from their home yet again and the island became a clerurchy under the control of an Athenian Epimeletes (manager), even though the Romans still remained the true masters of the island and its trade. Strabo (Geog. X. 5, 4) points out that, after the razing of Corinth by Rome in 146 bc following a diplomatic incident, the merchants of Corinth moved to Delos and ‘were attracted both by the immunity which the sanctuary afforded, and by the convenient situation of its harbour’ right at the hub of the Aegean trade routes. He adds that the religious festival had by now become a commercial affair dominated by the Romans. It was under Roman control that Delos was to be come the slave-market of Greece, with as many as 10,000 slaves changing hands in a single day. As commercial gain replaced religious importance the urban landscape of the town was also transformed by the grand buildings and market-places constructed by the various guilds of foreign merchants. Italian merchants, with the backing of Rome, formed an association under the title of ‘Hermaists’, and commercial syndicates of merchants from Tyre, Beirut, Alexandria, and elsewhere formed similar trade associations. The fine houses of a prosperous, mercantile bourgeoisie multiplied in the area to the southeast of the harbour.

Decline and destruction

After the island was comprehensively sacked in 88 bc by Archelaus, the general of Mithridates VI, Delos was never again to recover her former greatness—even though it was retaken for Rome the following year by Sulla, partially re built with Roman aid and put once again under Athenian control. In 69 bc the island was again sacked by pirates. This led to the building of a wall round the city by the Roman legate, Triarius, to protect it from further attacks. Delos had by now become a by-word for conspicuous decline in Roman literature. In the 2nd century ad Pausanias observed that the island would remain virtually uninhabited if the temple guard were withdrawn. Philostratus (3rd century ad) even claims that the Athenians put the island up for sale and that there were no offers. The grand structures of Delos were used as a quarry for ready-cut building material by the Venetians, the Turks, and even the inhabit ants of Mykonos and Tinos.
   In 1445 the Italian antiquarian, Cyriac of Ancona, visited the island and was particularly impressed by the colossal Naxian Kouros of Apollo. Under the Turks, who took Delos in 1566, the island—now named ‘Sdili’—was largely abandoned. In the 17th century Sir Kenelm Digby removed marbles from the sanctuary for the collection of Charles I of England. The first excavations by French and Greek archaeologists date from as early as 1873 and have continued with only occasional interruption until the present day.

Is it your next destination !? :-)
Greek Islands Travel Guide : Month's Island
AEGINA ISLAND, Argosaronikos Islands.
    The memorable profile of the island with its conical peak at Mount Oros to the south, becomes familiar long before you ever visit Aegina: it is visible from the Acropolis of Athens, from Piraeus, from the road to Corinth, and from virtually any side by land, air or sea, as you leave or arrive in Athens. That was Aegina’s problem: it was too near to Athens. And its early commercial strength, marine power and economic wealth—in some respects, greater than that of Athens in the 6th century bc—had to be eliminated if Athens were to grow as she wished to do. The island was, in Pericles’s memorable phrase, ‘the eyesore of the Piraeus’. Already by the middle of the 5th century bc Aegina had been reduced by Athens to a clerurchy with no independence and only the faint memory of its past pre eminence. In modernity—as if by an irony of destiny— Aegina once again preceded Athens as the capital city of a partially liberated Greece in 1826, minting the first coins of modern Greece, just as it may have been the first to mint silver coins in Ancient Greece in the 6th century bc.
   That a place as lovely as Aegina should be so close to Athens (a little over 20km as the crow flies) comes as a surprise. And there is much on the island to detain the visitor. Its archaeological remains—the well-preserved Temple of Aphaia and the ancient site of Kolona—are amongst the most interesting and important in the Aegean; there are also impressive later remains of a sanctuary of Zeus below Mount Oros. Deliberately hidden from the unwanted attentions of piracy in the centre of the island is the deserted site of Palaiochora, which was the capital of the island during the Byzantine period; its many scattered churches with painted interiors constitute a treasure house of Byzantine painting.
   Equally hidden— this time in the outskirts of the main town—is the tiny painted church of the Aghii Theodori. Even the town centre of Aegina itself is lively and interesting, and has some elegant streets with neoclassical houses.
   The cultivated landscape of the island is also quite particular—characterised by the many groves of pistachio trees for which the island is famous: in the valley of Kondos where they combine with olive trees and with dense pines above, the effect is of great beauty. A more rugged beauty is offered by the climb to the summit of Mount Oros (531 m) which provides the best all-round panorama anywhere of the Saronic Gulf and the mountainous coasts of Attica and of the Peloponnese. Aegina may be small, but it is full of variety. Communications are quick and easy between the island and Piraeus and Athens: the contrast with them could not be greater...more @ Greek Travel Guide


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On their way: Athens, Thessaloniki, Delphi, Mycenae, Olympia, Epidaurus, Monemvasia, Meteora, Korinth, Bassai, Knossos.

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