In and around the sanctuary of Apollo

The harbour area

The ancient Sacred Harbour, where visitors and pilgrims arrived in antiquity, lies to the north of the disembarkation mole and the former Commercial Harbour to its south. Both have filled with sand and no longer possess their original outline. They were protected by a breakwater of granite blocks, 160m long, built in Archaic times, most of whose remains are now underwater. The modern mole, made of debris removed during the excavations, projects into the water between the two. The Commercial Harbour, extending to the south, was divided by moles into five basins. Some of the mooring stones are still visible.
   Functioning like an entrance-vestibule for the sanctuary at the landward end of the modern mole, is an irreg ular open space called the Agora of the Competaliasts (see below). Its wide space was articulated by a circular shrine in its centre and (to south) a larger, square based Doric structure, both of which were offerings of another association—the ‘Hermaists’—to their patron god Hermes and his mother, Maia. The same association probably also built c. 150 bc the Ionic Naiskos, or shrine on the north side of the square, in front of which stands a marble offertory box adorned with a relief of two knotted snakes on its upper face. The metal fixture for the box is still visible.


Some of the names—‘Competaliasts’, ‘Hermaists’, ‘Posei doniasts’—which are associated with certain buildings on Delos are unusual. The names refer to what are in effect ‘guilds’, and they date from the arrival of foreign merchants from the Levant and from the Italian peninsular and Sicily who, though present on Delos from as far back as the 3rd century bc, settled in increasing numbers from c. 125 bc onwards. These foreigners, both citizens and freed men as well their slaves, organised themselves in societies or groups of a combined social, religious and commercial nature under the patronage of particular divinities—Poseidon, Hermes, or the Lares Compitales (Roman ancestral guardian-spirits of the crossroads). Yearly officials were appointed for the societies. The buildings or agoras which bear their names, were constructed either with communal funds or occasionally with the specific benefaction of a member, and they represent the last developments in the city’s urban design. They constitute an entirely new kind of civic focus, and are often constructed over the site of earlier buildings of a different nature.

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

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