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Principal points of interest
The best preserved stretch of the 4th century bc walls, built in rusticated, isodomic blocks and provided with regular runs of steps leading to the top from inside, is visible heading southeast into the corner (back left) of the site. These walls originally continued west along the right-hand side of the central, axial pathway of the area. The wide angle of the turn here indicates that these walls in their entirety must have enclosed a very large area. Immediately within the walls (the area to the left, between the axial pathway and Ippokratous Street) was a dense conurbation of stores, workshops, taverns and bakeries, typical of the activity that would be expected in proximity of the port. The six barrel-vaulted storage warehouses, which stand higher than anything else, have survived destruction because their internal spaces easily served the purpose of churches in later centuries. The logical division of the area into insulae or blocks divided by streets is clear: at important points, such as on the corners of the blocks, the foundations of a bakery or tavern, and a food shop are visible, with the base of a brick oven and buried pithoi for storage of food-stuffs.
Further west, at the edge of the site, the corner of the agora square proper is visible, cut across by the modern street and a projection of unexcavated land around the tiny church of Aghios Konstantinos. This would have been an extensive, marble-paved space with colonnades of Doric columns fluted only in the upper half of their height; it would have stretched more than 200m to the south from here. A couple of its columns and entablature have been re-erected. The agora was badly damaged in the earthquake of 142 ad, after which it was rebuilt with a monumental entrance in a style and building technique which was typically Roman: the bulky vaulted arches in opus caementicium (Roman cemented brick), still with vestiges of stucco decoration, which are heaped in ruins just to the north, come from this gateway building which stood atop a flight of steps. Further to the north lie carved decorative elements—the size, clarity and depth of the drill-cutting, typical of work of the 1st and 2nd centuries ad. There are a number of column drums, some completed and some obviously just delivered, still with the architects’ section incised on them to guide the masons where and how to cut the fluting. These are interesting and highly informative pieces.
The remains on the north side of the axial pathway, i.e. outside of the original north city wall, are of a different, predominantly sacred, nature. Beginning again at the eastern entrance, and taking the path to the right in the direction of the Mosque of the Loggia, there is visible to the left the base of a small, 2nd century bc, temple to Hercules—a popular semi-divinity in port-areas as the protector of stevedores and those involved in hard manual labour. The temple (7.20m x 4.80m) would latterly have stood in a cramped enclosure of buildings which further encroached on its space in the 3rd century ad, amongst which is a small fountain (with some of its marble revetment and terracotta water-pipes still in evidence) to the east. The temple was oriented north south, and the neat masonry of the base on its west side shows careful attention to the decorative effect of two colour-tones of marble.
At the extremity of this path (below and in front of the Mosque of the Loggia), are the remains of a very large brick structure at a higher level than the surrounding buildings, whose orientation is visibly at odds with everything else. This was an Early Christian basilica, built in the 5th century ad—perhaps after this area had been levelled by the earthquake of 469 ad—consisting of three aisles, which appear not to be interconnected and are separated by solid walls; its dimensions are an indication of the size of the Christian community on the island in this early period. A baptistery (again at higher level) with cruciform font stood just to the south. The basilica’s ap sidal east end has a raised floor, possibly to accommodate a crypt or martyrion below. At an obtuse angle across its west end and narthex, marches a row of columns which have been re-erected, with their acanthus leaf capitals, in the position they would have occupied before the basilica was built over the area. They constituted the front colonnade of the late 4th century bc, Harbour Stoa, which would have extended another 30 or 40m in both directions. The marble of the columns is cipollino from Euboea; when polished, it would have been of a veined and translucent blue-green colour, reflecting the water of the harbour which it embellished.
To the west of the Temple of Hercules, marked by a raised stone stylobate and erected column fragments, was a 2nd century bc sanctuary of Aphrodite, another divinity found often in proximity to ports because she was the protectress of sailors and the goddess of the love and sex for which they pined when away at sea. Here the sanctuary comprised two identical temples to different attributes of the goddess: Aphrodite Pandemos (Protectress of the City as a whole) and Aphrodite Pontia (Protectress of Sailors). The twin temples were pro-style, with four columns supporting a pediment, set in the middle of a colonnaded courtyard (62 x 45m), with altars in front of them, and preceded by two axial entrance gates with columns and steps. They faced north across the harbour, i.e. the back side of the sanctuary virtually abutted the north city wall which runs along the line of the pathway in the centre of the archaeological area. This fact makes it hard to explain the purpose of the platform of mosaic floor, with ivy-leaf border and insets of birds, which is seen half way along the central path as it heads west, and which projects into the space between the back of the sanctuary of Aphrodite and the city walls. It belongs perhaps to a later, public building which was entered from the perimeter street inside the walls.
Kos Island is part of the Dodecanese Island group
Ancient Cos. Principal points of interest.