Ancient Arkesine

The northward branch of the asphalt road from Kamari ends after 1km at the village of Vroutsi (17.5km), from where it is a steep, 30-minute descent by foot to the site of Ancient Arkesine. On the descent, the path passes below the large, modern church of Aghios Ioannis Apokephalisti­s (‘St John the Beheaded’); it is dramatically sited on a prominent bluff on the hillside which is believed to have been occupied in antiquity by a sanctuary of Athena Itonia (an unusual epithet for the goddess, associating her cult here with that in the city of Iton in Phthiotis).

Arkesine, founded by settlers from Naxos in the 8th century bc occupies an exposed and panoramic promontory of the north coast: Donousa lies directly ahead; Naxos , Keros and Herakleia to the west; and the long extent of the rest of the island, to the east. The natural site provides a promontory, capped with a limestone outcrop ideal for fortification as an acropolis; but it offers little that could have functioned as a protected harbour nearby. The city’s main out-port must have been at some distance—perhaps even as far as Kato Kambos Bay to the west. As you descend the path, the best preserved stretch of fortification wall can be seen below and to the right of the acropolis rock, in large isodomic masonry with later walling built on top. Further well-conserved elements of the bastions and fortifications lie further round the steep, eastern side of the promontory and are best seen from the summit above. In spite of the city’s importance in Antiquity, little remains visible other than fortifications and gates. The acropolis today is occupied by the remains of a fortified, mediaeval kastro: the cisterns and millstonesly around are mediaeval; most of the potsherd-scatter is mediaeval, too; but some of the constructions, such as that opposite the front of the church of the Panaghia Kastriani­, incorporate ancient blocks bearing inscriptions. The site awaits proper excavation.

Amorgos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.

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