Kos has a wide and spacious feel: long beaches, clear mountains, open plateaux, and—beyond them all— bright and sweeping views in all directions across the Dodecanesian Sea and into Asia Minor. Famed from Antiquity through to modern times for its gentle fertility and its gardens (which produced a type of lettuce that still bears the island’s name), its healthful climate was immortalised by the presence of the school of Hippocrates and its abundant waters were sung by the poet Theocritus.
Today Kos is inevitably less fertile, green and rural, and has suffered from rashes of indiscriminate building in re cent years. But the island holds an astonishing variety of remains from all periods of its long and important history, and there is a special beauty in the constant interlacing of ancient ruins and modern streets in the island’s capital. The town’s skyline is exotically punctuated by minarets left by the Ottoman occupation and giant palm trees left by the Italians. Above and behind everything else rise the protective peaks of the long ridge of Mount Horomedon (today’s Dikaios), the water from whose northern slopes gives life to the broad plains below. Profiting from the special qualities of a couple of these springs, the most famous medical centre of later Antiquity grew up, in memory of Hippocrates whose name is inseparable from the island. Like his contemporary Socrates, he appears to have left behind no writings that we can be certain are of his own authorship; his teachings, however—as clear as the light of the island—were to become the focus and stimulus for one of the most far-reaching revolutions in human thinking, and they constitute the foundations of Western medical analysis and practice.
Kos has always been a busy and well populated island: the extent and density of its ancient capital, the sheer number of Early Christian churches around its coast, the large areas enclosed within the castles of Antimachia in the centre of the island and of ‘Nerantzia’ beside the port, and the atmospheric deserted settlements—such as Palaio Pyli—all speak of a substantial population living off the produce supported by its many springs of water. The length of this survey is testimony to the variety and importance of the monuments left by this activity. The natural beauty of the island, mostly preserved in its mountainous areas—although under considerable threat from expanding tourism and spreading construction— may still be enjoyed for its fine beaches, hot springs, pan oramic walks, and the variety of wild orchids and rare birds. At least for a little while yet.
Kos Island is part of the Dodecanese Island group