The Tower of Heimaros and the south
(From Filoti (20km) a road branches west then south to the coast at Kalados, which lies at a distance of 24km to its south (44km from Chora). The same road must be taken to return, and there are no fuel facilities en route.)
This is perhaps the island’s most scenic stretch of road, beginning in the well-watered and protected valley of Aries, populated with oak trees of great age and magnitude. There are Byzantine churches scattered amongst the trees and fields. Of greatest interest is the Panaghia Arion (Y), a delightful, ruined 11th century church in a bucolic setting (east of road, 1.7km after initial junction at Filoti; path doubles back to church in middle of field). The en trance is framed by a finely carved Byzantine, marble lintel; elsewhere (by the doorway) ancient blocks have been incorporated. Thirteenth century paintings survive on the outside of the west wall, formerly enclosed by a (now ruined) domed narthex. Further along the main road, the churches of Aghia Anastasia (2.2km) and Aghios Eustathi os (3km) at Mikraria, are also probably 11th century, but do not show paintings in the interiors; in the corners of the cupola of the latter, immured ‘acoustic’ pots are visible.
After crossing a panoramic watershed, the Hellenistic *Tower of Heimaros (33.5km), standing to a height of over 15m, appears on a low ridge with sweeping views both to east and south.
The impressive circular tower is comparable in its good state of preservation with the Hellenistic towers at Aghios Petros on Andros and at Drakanon on Ikaria. The courses of rectangular masonry, shaped perfectly to the curve of the build, are thinner and finer here than at either of the other two towers: they would suggest a date of the late 4th century bc. To the right of the door as you enter, an area of masonry is missing, and shows how the tower was constructed with both an inner and outer shell. The upper wooden floors were reached by a spiral, stone staircase.
The tower was the centre of a large complex of agricultural buildings of the same (Hellenistic) period, as is shown by the extensive ruins to its west and southeast: querns, oil press stones, sedimentation, filtration and settling tanks, etc. can all be seen, pointing to an installation of impressive scale. There are over a dozen separate chambers dedicated to different agricultural functions.
Two early Byzantine churches, on the foundations of an Early Christian basilica, have been built into a corner of the enceinte to the east of the tower. The north church, dedicated to the Zoodochos Pigi, has fragments of an Early Christian templon screen to the right of its altar, bearing the words: ΦΩΣ—ΖΟΗ, ‘Light, Life’. In the exterior of its west wall, a shaped block from the tower has been incorporated, and bears the ancient mason’s marks in its top right corner: ‘i Σ Μ’.
At 37km, a turning leads south to Spedos, site of the Early Cycladic cemetery which has given its name to one of the most prominent styles of marble figurine. At 38km, at ‘Pirnia tis Farlas’, the road makes a final descent by hairpin bends. On the hill to the right is the church of Aghios Ioannis Theologos Kaminos (Z), partially hidden in the trees: this is also built on the site of an Early Christian Basilica.
The road descends beside a torrent bed, thick with oleander and reeds, to the shore at Kalados (44km), looking across to the island of Herakleia. The shore, today, basks in sunny ignorance of the designs which developers in Athens have on its innocent tranquillity.
Naxos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.