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A largely restored flight of steps leads to the Second Terrace which constituted the sacred focus of the sanctuary. In the centre, at the top of the stairs, are the ruins of the main altar, which was enlarged at least twice during its history. The original altar of 350 bc was replaced by a 3rd century bc structure which would have had a form not dissimilar to the Altar of Dionysos in the town: a stepped platform, with a central offering table, open to the skies, surmounted by a colonnade, which was broken on the west side to allow ac cess by a ramp of steps. The colonnade may have contained sculptures by the school of Praxiteles, as mentioned by theAlexandrian poet, Herondas, in his 4th Mime. The altar would have been sacred to both Apollo and Asklepios; but an inscription found on the site mentions other lesser divinities also— Helios, Hemera, Hecate and Machaon (son of Asklepios and suitor of Helen).
Looking onto the altar from the west, stood the (first) Temple of Asklepios—an Ionic temple, distyle in antis, erected around 300 bc. The building was simple and refined: different colours and qualities of stone were used—a grey-white lime stone in the stylobate, a blue-grey, veined marble in the lower level of the naos, and a lighter ‘travertine’ used above. There are grooves in the south side of the lower level of the platform for the channelling of rainwater from the roof: water which fell on a temple roof was considered sacred. The two columns of the portico remain in reassembled fragments: only the right hand (north) one still stands on its original base. Clearly visible in the interior, to the south side, is a large stone-built coffer in the floor, referred to as the thesauros, or treasury: its monolithic lid has a hole in the centre for the depositing of offerings to the god. Strabo implies (Geog. XIV.2.19) that a number of great paintings were to be seen in the temple, amongst which he mentions Apelles’s painting of Aphrodite Anadyomene. It was later removed to Rome in the 1st century by Augustus. Behind the temple is a building generally referred to as the ‘abaton’, i.e. a place of restricted access, or ‘holy of holies’, which appears to have been rebuilt more than once after earthquake damage. The presence inside it of enkoimeteria, or dormitories, has led to the suggestion that this was a residence for the priests. In some way, its function and existence must be linked to the spring in the far southwest corner, where steps lead down to a pool in a deep cavity beneath the retaining wall of the Upper Terrace.
Across, to the east of the altar, is the base of the small, Roman, peripteral Temple of Apollo which, for no apparent reason, is oriented obliquely to everything else. The re-erected columns have only two small fluted fragments which are original to the 2nd century ad building. The rest is all reconstruction: the pastiche capitals on top of the columns, carved in the 1930s, do the building no favours. Wholly original, however, are the elaborately decorated fragments of the ornate entablature and ceiling of the temple’s peristyle which lie on the ground to the east. The displaying of important vo tive gifts to a sanctuary such as this was a visible manifestation of its prestige and importance, and the building whose foundations are visible further east of the Temple of Apollo (also referred to as a Lesche, or meeting room) probably served this purpose. The hemicycle of niches just to the east of the next flight of stairs may have had the same function of display, and the small, semicircular rostrum in front of it, a related ceremonial function.
Kos Island is part of the Dodecanese Island group
Akslipieion. Middle terrace.