The Ancient Acropolis
A delightful climb up a stone pathway (starting between some houses just south of Aghia Aikaterini), winds through terraces of olives, oak, figs, almonds and flowering cactus, and brings you to the ruins of Palaiokastro in just under half an hour, passing occasional ancient relicts (marble column bases, etc.) along the route. On the plateau, the ponderous fortification walls of the acropolis– come into view—unexpectedly massive and well conserved, and standing to a full height of 7m in places. These are among the finest ancient walls anywhere in the Greek world. They consist of two parallel curtains of perfectly dressed blocks, with massive rock in-fill in the centre. This can best be seen at the western extremity where a breach in the walls makes this method of construction visible. Solid rectangular bastions project, which served effectively to cover the areas of wall in between from attack: their external corners are meticulously drafted with admirable precision. These bastions were accessible by broad staircases in the interior, of which three are still extant. The dark, red-tinged stone is a dense basaltic an desite which, along with the granites and porphyries, is one of the hardest of all stones to work by hand. One of the quarry areas for this rock may still be seen a little way to the north of the walls.
A perfect horizontality of parallel courses is maintained in the exterior curtain, while the interior curtain— no less robust and well-constructed—is generally more irregular and polygonal in method. This might suggest two campaigns of construction: an earlier period (early 5th century) for a single wall structure (inner wall), later reinforced as a double curtain, 50–100 years after, by the addition of an outer wall and solid in-fill. It is strange that a city as apparently insignificant as Ancient Nisyros should have felt the need to defend itself with walls of such magnitude. What is visible today, however, does not constitute a complete enceinte, and it is not clear how far the walls may have extended to the north, or what protected the western side other than the natural drop of the land: if there were other extensions of walls of comparable size, their remains have very successfully vanished.
The monumental doorway had double doors, whose imposts, fixing-holes in the threshold and bolt-holes in the jambs are all clearly visible. Any approach was well marked by the projecting bastion opposite. A revealing 4th century bc inscription- carved on the wall prohibits the erection of any building in proximity to the exterior surface of the walls. This is to be found north of the gate at eye-level on the south-facing wall of the east bastion and on the adjacent stretch of the main, east wall, written across the corner: it reads to teiche‘Damosion to ch/orion pente podes / apo [os]’, ‘Five feet from the walls belongs to the municipality’, i.e. no building within five feet (1.5m). Any such building would be considered as compromising the security of the fortifications. Inside the walls, excavations are underway in the southeast corner revealing the neat masonry and steps of an earlier building campaign. Further inside, among the trees, are the remains of the Early Christian basilica of Aghios Ioannis. A half-buried row of white marble columns from the nave (some with fine crosses carved on them, similar to the columns re used in the church of Aghios Ioannis Prodromos in Mandraki, see above) are being brought to light by excavation, as well as a number of fine Byzantine Corinthian capitals.
Nisyros Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.