The steps down from the castle lead into the heart of Platanos, the island’s capital which is given elegance by its many stately neoclassical houses, often finished in unusual and attractive colours. From the town’s roof-scape stand out the narrow high-shouldered churches perched on the steep slopes. The finest houses and gardens are in the area of Od. Asklepiou which climbs the slope opposite that of the castle: some of these were the island residences built by the rich businessmen of Leros who had emigrated to work in the Greek communities of Cairo and Alexandria after the island reverted to Ottoman rule in 1830 after a brief flirt with independence. To the right, at the beginning of the street is the church of the Stavros, with a fine row of columns in Rhodian marble surmounted by Byzantine capitals in its south porch. The street is named ‘Asklepiou’ because it is believed that the spring towards which it leads on the northeast slopes of Mount Meravigli behind, and known as ‘Palaiaskloupi’—itself a corruption of ‘Palaion Asklepieion’—was the site of an ancient Sanctuary of Asklepios. A small statue of Hygieia, daughter of Asklepios, in the Archaeological Museum was found in this area. The ruins of a large aqueduct carrying water from this spring into the town of Platanos were demolished in 1887.
The road down from Platanos to Aghia Marina passes the Archaeological Museum (open daily 8.30–3, except Mon) newly accommodated in a former School Building of 1882, originally built by the emigre Leriot community in Egypt. The collection is small, but its explanatory material is particularly clear and helpful in understanding the wider context of the pieces exhibited.
In the courtyard outside, to the left of the entrance, is the mosaic floor of the Early Christian Basilica at Partheni. The single exhibition space of the interior is subdivided chronologically, beginning with one of the museum’s strengths— the presentation of prehistoric Leros. The quantity of obsidian found near Drymonas in Gourna Bay and exhibited here is not only evidence of Neolithic workshops on the island but also of a marine trading communication between Leros and Giali, near Nisyros, and the much more distant island of Milos. A curiosity also from this period is the ‘cheese pot’ type of Late Neolithic vase—low, foot-less, and with a row of perforations around the rim—used for cooking or cheese-making. One of the museum’s other strengths is its collection of Hellenistic artefacts: fragments of the base of a bowl with feet in the form of applied shells; votive terracotta masks with singularly beautiful detail; and, from the year 107 bc, a long, clearly inscribed stele, found in 1886, setting out the honours to be accorded to an alien resident, Aristomachos, for his public services especially in maritime affairs; it was to ‘be recorded in stone at the Deme’s expense’. A votive inscription of a different kind is preserved amongst a group of Byzantine floor mosaics in the collection, which reads, ‘Lord, Remember your servant, Eutychias’. There are also fine examples of transparent blue and green Byzantine glass.
Leros Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.