The West of the Island-Kambos to Karginagri
(For distances, Kambos = 0.0 km)
Around the bay and village of Kambos (2.5km west of Evdilos) are the remains of ancient Oenoe, whose name, cognate with the Greek word for ‘wine’, is a clue to the source of its wealth and the reason of its fame. The site is a very clear choice for an early settlement: a natural acropolis dominating a fertile estuary, and a beach and port for boats. The shoreline will have retreated considerably over the last 2,000 years through the silting up of what was probably a harbour inlet which reached some way inland along the east side of the acropolis hill. The wine—some of it the Pramnian wine mentioned above— produced on the slopes of the valleys to the south, would have been traded and exported through the port and city on this site. Prosperity from the wine trade will, in turn, have made the city an obvious choice of seat for later Ro man and Byzantine governors; and it is the evidence of their presence that remains today, clearly visible as you descend on the road from Evdilos.
Referred to locally as ‘Palatia’, the ruined complex, with conspicuous arched windows, visible on the north east side of the acropolis hill in the centre of the valley, is the principal remnant of what was probably a Byzantine governor’s residence created out of a variety of earlier Roman buildings. (Access is easiest from around the western side of the hill.) Though officially referred to as a Roman odeion, the construction method and masonry would indicate something very late if it were Roman—more probably 5th or 6th century ad, and therefore Early Byzantine. The design, furthermore, with an unusually wide and shallow cavea and scarcely much space for performers, does not preclude the building’s use as an odeion (an intimate auditorium for concerts or recitals), but suggests that it might more likely have been an audience chamber for the local governor. The window arches and the blind arcade behind the cavea (whose purpose must have been decorative) are beautifully constructed in clear white marble from Fourni, while the external quoins have been recently replaced in white concrete. The summit of the acropolis above reveals the base of a fortress tower, but little else of substance beyond the fine views.
Completely hidden out of sight from the sea, and set below the summit of the hill on the south side, is the fine 12th century church of Aghia Irini, built over part of the site of a much larger 5th century basilica, vestiges of whose once magnificent mosaic flooring are visible on the north side of the area in front of the entrance of the church and beneath the steps which lead to the museum above. The mosaics are executed in five colours (two blues, white, red and yellow): various geometric and ‘knot’ designs, and ivy-leaf border motifs. Sunk into the ground in front of the southwest corner of the church is an ancient sarcophagus—smaller, but similar in design, to the fine example in the plateia of Fourni (see p. 191). The 5th century basilica must have been a large building, stretching from just beyond the apse of the present church (where the Early Christian foundations are just visible) as far west as the rather odd monumental gateway and belfry which opens onto the area before the façade of the existing church. This gateway is a more recent assemblage of ancient marble spolia from the site, designed principally to house the church’s bell. Countless other spolia, both Classical and Early Christian, plain and in scribed, lie all around or are incorporated wholesale into the older houses and buildings of the area.
The interior of the existing, 12th century church of Aghia Irini, surmounted by a high octagonal dome, has an unusual synthronon at its east end—a memory per haps of its Early Christian predecessor. The paintings that once covered its walls may well lie beneath the whitewash: some, in very poor condition, are just visible under an arch in the northeast corner. Interestingly they appear to be an-iconic: this may indicate that the 12th structure in corporates part of the Early Christian basilica here.
Just above the church is the small museum (no regu lar opening times, outside morning openings in the summer months: the knowledgeable supervisor, Vassilis (T. 22750 31300), who holds the key, runs the cafe and shop on the main road just below and is always willing to open the collection on request). The collection contains finds from all round the north of the island, not just from Oenoe: a small number of interesting Neolithic pieces; fragments of pottery; some eroded marble statuettes from Nas; an unusual marble fragment with Dionysiac ivy-leaf motif; many inscriptions, including one (Hellenistic) declaiming Ikarians as liars, in which the word ‘Ikarians’ has been substituted by ‘Jews’ probably in Roman times. (A number of newer and more interesting finds are currently be cleaned and documented in the Archaeology Department workshop, two doors up from the cafe/shop on the main road: it is worth asking to see inside, if the door should be open.)
Ikaria Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island group
The west of the Island. Kambos to Karkinagri – general information.