Around the Bay of Korissia

The point of arrival on Kea is the large and well-protected inlet of the bay of Aghios Nikolaos, one of the most sheltered and hidden harbours in the Cyclades—ideal for human settlement (which goes back 5,000 years in the area), ideal as a lair for pirates, and a vital refuge in one of the most exposed seas of the Western Aegean: the waters to the north of Kea, which are exposed to the winds funneled through the Cavo Doro straits between Euboea and Andros, are notoriously unpredictable. The bay is partly closed by long promontories to north and south. The port—referred to locally as Livadi—only comes into view at the last moment on the inside western shore of the bay; the straggling and undistinguished settlement of Korissi­a stretches inland from the south shore into the valley of the Ancient Elixos river.
   The headland above Livadi, which closes the southwest corner of the bay was occupied by the ancient city of Koresia, which surveyed the whole inlet and its entrance. Not far from where the ferry stops, just above the church of Aghia Triada, the celebrated ‘Kouros of Kea’ in Naxian marble, dating from c. 530 bc, was unearthed (now in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens). The head land has two distinct rises, crowned in Antiquity with two successive parts of an acropolis: first, the Archaic acropolis on the lower hill to the north, which was originally walled and possessed four still traceable bastions; and second, an extension, undertaken in the 5th century bc, which included the higher hill to the south, whose summit is crowned by a natural fringe of rock-scarp. Climb up the path (from the road, first right, to Marades and Xila Bay) to the fringe, where there is a small whitewashed shrine, you come just beyond it to the base of an ancient temple, probably that mentioned by Strabo (Geog. X, 10.6) as dedicated to Apollo ‘Smintheus’—an odd appellation for the radiant deity, which is generally taken to mean ‘mouse-slayer’, from the word ‘σμίνθος’ (Cretan in origin) for a mouse, but more probably an aspect of cult originating from the city of Sminthi, not far from Ancient Troy. The temple was oriented north/south, with massive threshold blocks bearing the holes for the bolting mechanism of the doors: the inner threshold is a single monolith, c. 2.5m across. The line of the fortification walls can best be seen on the seaward side of the hill. Directly below the whitewashed shrine, in the north face of the fringe of rock-scarp, are many niches and cuts into the natural rock. The town itself—never of any great size, accord to Strabo—lay on the eastern slope of the northern hill, between the modern church of Aghios Savvas, on the summit, and the harbour quay. There are foundations and an abundance of broken pottery to be seen on the surface. Koresia lost critical momentum as an independent entity in the 2nd century bc, and was annexed to the city of Ioulis, in the island’s interior, for which it continued to function merely as an out-port.

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

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