The Sacred Way

Ignoring for the moment the wide avenue (to the left of the naiskos) which heads north, we follow the Sacred Way from the northeast corner of the paved area, whose course is still lined with exedrae and statue-bases between two colonnaded porticos. These porticos, which probably housed shops and stalls, provided shade and respite from heat, rain or wind. They furnished a grand approach to the sacred area, and above all glorified the power of the dynasties who built them. To the seaward side was the Portico of Philip V of Macedon, who was master of the Cyclades until his defeat at the hands of the Romans in 197 bc. His dedicatory inscription to Apollo in vast letters on the architrave (now resting on the ground) has survived: below is a frieze of triglyphs, while above is the cornice with rows of water spouts in the form of lions’ mouths. The thickness of the building was doubled some thirty years later by the addition of another (slightly long er) stoa that faced the sea. On the outer face of the south end of the portico is a marble stele, inscribed with a 3rd century inscription regulating the sale of wood and carbon. To its right there is a curious, mediaeval graffito in Arabic.

Detour to right. To the opposite (east) side of the Sacred Way is the South Stoa, built in the 3rd century bc by the kings of Pergamon. In front of its southern end once stood the equestrian statue of Epigenes of Teos, general of Attalos I of Pergamon (241–197 bc): its inscribed base survives. A narrow pas sage led through the middle of this portico into a wide court, known as the Agora of the Delians which lies immediately to its east. It is another irregular, paved space, once bounded to north and east by porticos; originally there was a second storey with Ionic pilasters—accommodating the offices of the market. The south side is formed by an earlier portico of the 3rd century bc standing at a slightly oblique angle. The pattern of irregular stone foundations are from Imperial times when Roman baths were installed here. Stretching to the south and east are the ruins of houses; while beyond the southeast corner of the agora, at a higher level, are the ruins of the 5th century, apsidal Basilica of Aghios Kirykos. This is one of the few Christian survivals on Delos : others were lost in the earliest excavations. Two steps of the synthronon and fragments of the ambo and templon remain. In the open triangular area between the agora and the basilica are the re mains of the circular Shrine of Tritopator, mythical ancestor of the Attic family of Pyrrhakides. (End of detour.)
   The two parallel porticos framing the Sacred Way, formed a grand passage leading into the sacred area. Monumental Propylaia were constructed by the Athenians in the mid 2nd century bc at its north end to mark the entrance proper; their base is clearly visible today from the three stepped platform in blue-gray Tenos marble on which the Doric structure in white marble stood. It had four columns defining three gateways. It appears to have replaced at least two successive, earlier propylaia. In front, immediately to the right, stands the eroded figure of Hermes Propylaios, guardian of the entrance, dedicated in 341 bc.

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

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