The area of Inopos
The stepped path which descends to the west leads down to a large public cistern—the Inopos reservoir—cut into the rock, and now filled with fig trees, terrapins and frogs. At the north end marble steps led down to the water level which was regulated by a series of overflow holes. It collected the fugitive and variable waters of the Inopos tor rent which drained from a source on the slope of Mount Kynthos and flowed intermittently down to the Sacred Lake and the Bay of Skardana. A curious Delian tradition imagined that its waters came from the Nile, an association perhaps endorsed by the resemblance of the local agama lizards to small crocodiles. A small terrace lined with bench-seats overlooked the cistern from the north and must have constituted a cool and pleasant meeting place to sit and converse.
Detour. On the opposite side, south of the reservoir, are the ruins of the ‘Samothrakeion’, dedicated to the Samothracian Cabiri, who became increasingly identified with the Dioscuri twins in the late Hellenistic mind. The sanctuary is built on two terraces. On the upper level stood the 4th century bc Temple with a curiously asymmetric Doric portico. On the lower level was a circular altar of the 2nd century bc for offerings. To the right hand side are the foundations of a monument to Mithridates Eupator, king of Pontus (120–63 bc), with two Ionic columns and a frieze of medallions depicting his generals and allies.
A street runs between the Inopos Reservoir and a row of shops to the east: between two of the shops is an alley, with a bench carved with dedicatory inscriptions to Serapis, Isis and Anubis on its front edge. At the end of the alley is a staircase leading to the ruins of ‘Serapeion B’, marked by several small ‘horned’ altars. The small temple is placed in the northwest corner of the court, facing south.
The main street continues, bearing left in front of the House of the Inopos (see below). On the left beyond the reservoir and the Shrine of the Nymphs to its west— a small circular building in marble, dedicated by the Pyrrhakides family—is ‘Serapeion A’, the oldest and most intimate sanctuary of Serapis on the island. Its temple stood facing west on a stepped basement in a paved court, between two small porticos; under its naos is a rectangular crypt, reached by a staircase and supplied with water by a conduit. Opposite the temple front is a meeting room with marble benches, on carved supports, round all four sides bearing inscriptions of dedication to Serapis, Isis and Anubis. On the surface of the bench on the west side has been carved a 12×12 chequer-board for playing games.
In this area are three of the finer Delian houses: to the north of Serapeion A is a house of curious design with a simple, perfectly preserved mosaic floor in three colours, on which stands the one and only column the house appears to have had, set at an odd angle to the floor-plan suggesting that it may belong to an earlier phase of the building than the floor. To the east, behind a street façade in beautifully dressed marble, is the ‘House of the Inopos’, built around a central court with peristyle on two sides. There are eleven large, unfinished, monolithic marble columns which lie, where they were found, in an adjacent room. These can perhaps only be explained by some interruption in the construction or redesigning of the house which was never again resumed. The method of delivery of these massive columns into this very circumscribed space is a mystery. Further downhill to the east the pathway passes the ‘House of Hermes’, an elaborate, four-storey dwelling of the late 2nd century bc, partially restored: only a part of three storeys exists today. The house takes its name from a number of herms found on the site.
The entrance is by a narrow hallway; immediately to left are the latrines, with carefully sloping water channels for drainage; at the end of the hall on the left is the bathroom proper with a terracotta bathtub still in place. The Doric peristyle court surrounds a marble impluvium: in the blank south wall is a cut made into the live rock with a slit deep into the left. There must have been a weak water source here in Antiquity which drained into the cistern, and was marked probably by a domestic shrine to the nymphs in the aedicule to the right. In the opposite (north) wall a wide marble doorway leads into the main reception room with two subsidiary rooms leading out from it. On the east side of the court a small dining-room still preserves a painted plaster decoration, imitating marble plaques. Steps lead up to the upper floor, with similar configurations of interconnecting rooms.
Further to the west is a small, late 4th century bc sanctuary of Aphrodite, consisting of a temple surrounded by a number of smaller, ancillary sacred buildings. Beyond this point, paths return either to the museum (right) or to the embarkation mole (left).
Delos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.