Mount Kynthos

The horizon to the east of the House of the Dolphins is dominated by the abrupt rise of Mount Kynthos. An ancient stone path, partly stepped, leads up to the east before turning south to the summit. To the right of the pathway is a curious shrine known as the ‘Antron’ or ‘Cave of Hercules’. It is in the form of a grotto with an entrance (facing due west) and a pitched roof formed by ten granite slabs of very large dimensions, placed against one another in pairs, in a fashion reminiscent of the Sybil’s Cave at Cumae, near Naples. The massive blocks of the bound ary wall in front are beautifully engaged with the natural bedrock. Earlier visitors can be forgiven for seeing in this impressive construction a pre-Classical shrine, possibly a ‘birth-place of Apollo’. The fact that nothing earlier than Hellenistic finds have been recovered here, however, hasled archaeologists to suggest that this deliberately archaic method of construction was self-consciously adopted as part of a fashionable revival of the ancient, mythical worship of Hercules—a phenomenon not infrequently found in Hellenistic times. Inside, a base of reddish granite supported a Hellenistic statue of the hero, fragments of which are in the museum. This was illuminated by light from above, as if through an open ‘oculus’. In front of the entrance is the marble base of an altar, also Hellenistic. Although the appurtenances are later, the cultic use of such a natural cleft in the hillside is likely nonetheless to be far more antique than the remains that have been found.
   In the corner of the first sharp turn in the stepped pathway is a sanctuary attributed by the Athenians to Agatha Tyche (Good Fortune), which later served as a ‘Philadelpheion’, dedicated to the cult of Arsinoe, sister and wife of Ptolemy II Philadelphos, who was deified after her death in 270 bc. From here the summit of Mount Kynthos (112m) is easily reached; the mountain’s name was used as an epithet for both Apollo and Artemis, who must have been worshipped here in the 7th century bc. The pathway passes numerous ruined monuments, aedicules and shrines. The site has yielded remains of Cycladic dwellings of the 3rd millennium bc, but was abandoned for long periods and be came an important sanctuary only in 281–267 bc when the existing buildings were rebuilt and a rectangular peribolos constructed. On the flattened summit stood the Sanctuary of Kynthian Zeus and Athena, with niches for votive offerings, statue bases, and a dedicatory mosaic. One hundred metres to the southeast, on the south summit, are the remains of a small Sanctuary to Zeus Hypsistos (the ‘highest’—possibly here a Greek appellation for Baal). To the east, on a barely accessible terrace, has been excavated the 5th century bc Sanctuary of Artemis Locheia, with the foundations of a temple having a doorway in the middle of the longer, south side. On the way down the north side are the ruins of over a dozen other tiny sanctuaries dedicated to unknown and oriental deities. A large, protruding rock, 100m north of the summit, bears the 5th century bc inscription, ‘the boundary of Leto’.

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

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