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The south coast, east of Aghios Kirykos
Two kilometres east of Aghios Kirykos, the small settlement of Therma lies at the foot of a steep and airless gorge, dotted with tamarisk and palm trees. Old-fashioned and a little frayed at the edges, this is a thermal spa frequented by Greeks from all over the country. The average age of the visitors is predictably high, but this means that it is possible to meet here with a rare and vanishing courtesy and at times eccentric cordiality, making it an unusual place to stay: both the landscape and its nature as a health spa, effectively cut the village off from the vulgar passage of time and the concerns of the rest of the world. There are several springs at Therma—‘Asklepios’, ‘Apollon’, ‘Artemis’, ‘Pamphilis’ and ‘Kratsas’—but a number of them are now closed. All contain radium, in addition to a wide variety of mineral elements, and have been used mainly in the therapy of cardiovascular problems. They are also effective for rheumatic and arthritic conditions, and a variety of other disorders. The principal ‘Apollon’ Spa opposite the shore (open 7–1, 5–8) provides 20-minute immersions in individual bath-tubs and cubicles, in which the hot water can be mixed with cold and the temperature regulated as desired. The water is clear and soft, but with a high salt content: its temperature is around 48Β°C and its radiation level high. It does not gen erally take long to feel its beneficent effects. The hot waters also flow out into the harbour, and their warmth can be felt in the sea at places, while swimming.
These springs were well known in Antiquity and formed the nucleus of an ancient cure station and Asklepieion. Little remains to be seen in Therma itself, but by taking a path 400m east along the coast to Chalasmena Therma, the vestiges of a later Roman and early Byzantine thermal establishment can be seen. (Take the path from the east end of Therma bay, up to the Agriolykos Pension; pass through the terrace in front of the pension, up behind its far side and continue along a footpath for 10 minutes until it begins to descend to the rocky shore.) Just before the path drops to the coast it passes (to right) a couple of chambers with small blind arches which formed part of the ancient thermal establishment. The masonry here would suggest an Early Byzantine date (c. 5th century ad); but the rock-cut channels and the square piscina of thermal water cut into the rock by the shore below, are probably much older. The complex was destroyed by earthquake, and never rebuilt. The south east coast is largely empty and covered in low maquis. At 9.5km from Aghios Kirykos the road divides: left, to the island’s small civil airport served now by almost daily flights to and from Athens; right to Pharos, a small, quiet coastal village with a pleasant shore-side taverna and a long sandy beach. One hundred metres be fore the road ends at the sea, at a poorly signed turning to the left, a track leads off to Ieros Bay and Drakanon. The last 500m of the footpath to the latter is heavily scented with myrtle: the path passes beside an unusual outcrop of rock—possibly once of ritual significance—with a flat face looking due east, and a minute cave underneath.
The ancient site of *Drakanon at the eastern extremity of the island is doubly impressive, both for its dramatic situation, and for the magnificent state of preservation of its Hellenistic tower, incorporated here into an enceinte of walls. The city guarded the Samos –Fourni channel to the east, with Mount Kerketeus rising directly from sea to clouds in front of it; it also watched the main sea routes from Ephesus and upper Asia Minor to the Cyclades and western Aegean. The site offered a number of advantages for settlement: a natural rock acropolis on the north side, with a further summit and look-out post (controlling the western approach) directly behind and above (Mt. Vigla); two harbour inlets below, with two more distant anchor ages and beaches for boats, both to the north (Ieros Bay), and south (Pharos Bay). It is known from inscriptions that the city of Drakanon was particularly associated with the cult of Dionysos—an important divinity on an island celebrated for its production of a prized wine.
The magnificently preserved 4th century bc *tower stands to nearly 30 courses of stone in height, and has no equals of its kind outside the towers at Aghios Petros on Andros and at Heimaros on Naxos . It would have survived in yet better condition had it not been used for naval target practice in the 19th century. Its blocks are of a visibly finer and more compact quality of marble than is found in the fortification walls of this site, and their faint bluish tinge would suggest that this might be marble brought from the Petrokopio quarry on Fourni (see p. 197).
The tower is constructed in exactly parallel courses, but with varying length and shape of block: each block is a perfect piece of craftsmanship, with concave rustication, drafted edges, and precisely dressed sides for snug fitting. The tower is entered by a beautifully arched doorway which faces due east. The interior is spacious, with a diameter of c. 6.5m. The fixing holes for two wooden floors can be seen clearly. What is particularly interesting in the case of this tower is its integration into the system of fortifications; it is situated at the narrow corner of a triangle of walls, the bases of whose bastions to north and south are also clearly visible. The south bastion is particularly well preserved with its internal en trance doorway still intact. Excavations are currently under way which are making the layout of the settlement clearer: they have also revealed to the east of the tower the foundations of several buildings, their thresholds visible as well as the bases of votive statues. A further excavation to the south, just within the walls, is bringing to light a hearth or altar base of the early Classical period, beside a small embrasure in the walls just south-east of the south bastion. A significant quantity of everyday objects, such as lamps and figurines, have been unearthed in the excavations.
A path leads down the hill to the east, through an area with a ground-cover of marble fragments and evidence of collapsed buildings, to the small chapel of Aghios Giorgios, where a fluted antique altar has been incorporated into the interior wall of the apse. Further below are two natural, narrow harbours formed by projections of rock, whose sides show evidence of ancient port installations.
The only turning off the track between Drakanon and Pharos, skirts the airport runway and leads north to the Bay of Ieros, a generally protected cove with a pleasant beach. A large cave in the hillside on the south side bears the evidence of ancient use. The whole inlet must have been an integral part of the Drakanon settlement, and used as a secondary harbour especially when the wind precluded use of the small harbours on the promontory.
Ikaria Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island group
Aghios Kirykos and the South coast, Εast of Aghios Kirykos.