Plaka

The main road north from Adamas leads inland to the contiguous settlements of Plaka, Trypiti­ and Triovasalos. Immediately before the road begins to wind steeply up a scarp, an unmade road to the right leads to a house, after 70m on the right, where there are the medicinal hot springs called ‘Tou Charou’. Their temperature—a surprising 85°C—might explain their name, which means the baths ‘of death’. Inside, the proprietress prepares a tub in which the hot sulphurous water is mixed with cool water to a tolerable temperature.
   The main road subsequently climbs onto a plateau and after 4km reaches the centre of Plaka, officially called Milos, the island’s capital. Standing above the main square is the Milos Archaeological Museum, itself a fine neoclassical building with wide views from its portico (open daily 8.30–3 .30 pm, except Mon). It occupies only four rooms, but is an unusually rich collection, with emphasis on pre historic artefacts from Phylakopi­.

Room 1 contains (left on entering) a case with objects in obsidian—the island’s primary resource in prehistory— which range from ‘axe-heads’ to rudimentary tools and very finely fashioned blades (see ‘Obsidian’ above). The room also exhibits a beautiful Late Cycladic pithos. (By the entrance is a plaster cast of the Venus de Milo, found on the island in 1820 and now in the Louvre in Paris.) The acme of the collection is in Room II (left), which displays a magnificent variety of the pottery from Phylakopi­.
Foremost is the cult figurine, called the * ‘Lady of Phylakopi­’—a decorated wheel made piece of the mid-14th century bc (LH III A2), which stands 45cm high—comparable in size and conception with female figurines found at Mycenae and Tiryns. Only stumps remain of her arms which were probably raised, as if in an epiphany. The face, too, is very clearly raised heavenwards; the varying intensities of red with which she is decorated are particularly beautiful. Her decoration is abstract; whereas on the vases of a slightly later period, LH IIIC or 12th century bc, there are several elegant motifs of plants and marine animals, and a great many rhyta in the form of animals—frequently of wide-horned oxen, some times yoked in pairs, with a diversity of designs on their ‘hides’; there are also beakers with painted nipples, jugs (with the neck pulled back in a manner similar to those found on Thera), and bowls with woven basket designs. The designs pass interestingly to and fro across the thresh old between the figurative and the abstract. Artefacts in other materials are also exhibited: bronze figurines (12th century bc) and a minuscule gold mask—less than 2cm across—which is not dissimi lar in design from the large death-masks from Mycenae; incised seal-stones and beads of cornelian and other stones. Of particular interest are the two * models of a house and a boat—the former found in an Early Cycladic cemetery at Rivari.
   Room III (right) exhibits several interesting inscriptions in the 21-letter Melian (Doric) alphabet, in which some of the symbols are quite different from the canonical alphabet and the composite consonants (Ξ,Φ,Χ and Ψ) are written as pairs or threesomes of consonants. These 6th century bc examples of bold and beautiful Archaic lettering are early examples of their kind. The room contains a nearly complete, 1st century herm representing Marios Trophimos, priest of Dionysos: the solemn head is wreathed in vine-leaves. The base bears the dedicatory inscription above a rather crude design of acanthus leaves which is of a lesser level of craftsmanship.
   Room IV (to rear) displays later pottery: fragments of a relief-designed pithos; some unusual terracotta moulds for medicinal sulphur ‘cakes’; and fine terracotta figurines still bearing some of their original colour. Outside the building, an area of Hellenistic mosaic has been preserved, surrounded by inscribed pedestals and architectural fragments.

The town of Plaka is simple and unaffected, with a net work of delightful streets and wide views, a few fine stone houses of the 19th century, some later neoclassical builds on the perimeter, and a majority of relatively recent Cycladic houses often with wooden balconies. When the former capital of the island at Zephyri­a had to be abandoned supposedly because of malaria in 1767, a new centre was created here. Many of the houses on the western side of Plaka, which have good views over the entrance to the harbour, were built by the boat-pilots for whom Milos was renowned, and who had operated during the preceding centuries from the heights of Kastro, directly above. Boats arriving from the east and bound for the Cyclades would pick up a pilot at Milos and then drop him off on the return journey. Plaka’s small Folklore Museum (open daily July and Aug 10–2) is partly dedicated to memorabilia of this small but important maritime community; it also exhibits looms, agricultural and domestic items, local furniture and textiles, in two well-displayed rooms. The museum is at the western edge of the habitation near the church of the Panaghia ‘Korphiatissa’ (1910), dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin, in whose interior is a fine carved, painted and gilded 18th century epitaphios in a case on the north side of the entrance. Just to its north is the older Roman Catholic church of the Rosary, referred to as the ‘Katholiki’ (1823), whose simple interior is now bare. A canopied, monumental grave standing by the entrance, inscribed on the west architrave, conserves the re mains of the wife of Louis Brest, the French Vice-Consul to Milos who removed the Venus de Milo to Paris and had the church of the Rosary built.
   The view from the esplanade beside these two churches encompasses Milos bay, the entrance to the harbour and the precipitous island of Anti­milos, which rises steeply from the sea to its summit of 671m. Below is an apron of patchwork fields covering a ledge above the harbour entrance: this was the site of Ancient Melos (see below).

Milos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.
Plaka and Milos Archaeological Museum.

 

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