Paros - Lefkes and the central and southern loop - Parium marmor

Parium marmor

No marble in antiquity found greater favour with the sculptor’s craft than Parian marble: it is the white marble par excellence. It excels even Naxiot marble in both transparency and in the fineness of its crystal line structure. Whiter marbles such as Carrara marble—marmor Lunense as the Romans called it—have since been used and were the staples of Michelangelo, Bernini and Canova; but they do not approach Par ian in warmth and softness. The quarries on Paros in fact produce more than one kind of marble: the most valued quality was referred to as ‘lychnites’, from "λύχνος", a lamp. According to Pliny (Nat. Hist., XXXVI, 14) and Varro, this was because it was ‘quarried by the light of oil lamps’. Hesychius, on the other hand, said the name referred to the celebrated translucence of the marble which could transmit the glow of an oil lamp. It is lychnites which was extracted in the underground galleries here at Marathi. But it could be obtained only in smaller blocks, large enough for most sculpture, but not in the quantities or dimensions necessary for construction. Sometimes even a statue in lychnites would have to be composed of two pieces from the start: this is the case with the Venus de Milo for example, which is joined at the upper rim of the garment. In Roman times, only the head of a statue might be executed in Parian marble, while the rest would be in another marble. Lesser qualities of Parian marble were quarried much more easily on the surface further up the same valley, but these were less transparent, had a coarser grain and were veined with grey. This quality of marble can be seen in the walls of the Kastro in Parikia.
   The physical characteristics of Parian marble were significant. The transparence was particularly important because the majority of ancient sculpture of the Archaic and Classical periods was coloured—latterly by the application of pigment in a warm wax which penetrated the marble and increased its potential translucence almost two-fold. The artist who coloured a statue was often different from the sculptor: Praxiteles said that he trusted only one person, the painter Nikias, to colour his statues with sufficient sensitivity. The regular, fine-grain, crystalline consistency of the marble was also important, since this meant that it could be polished with emery to an extraordinarily smooth surface. Much of the tactile and formal appeal of the Early Cycladic figurines is owed to this quality.
   All marbles handle differently and respond to the artist’s tools in a different manner. With a natural monopoly on the finest material, the Parian sculptors were swift to exercise a monopoly on its crafting. There were important schools of sculpture on Paros, and Parian sculptors often travelled with their material to superintend its sculpting at its destination. The greatest sculptures on the Archaic acropolis of Athens and those at Delphi, such as the frieze of the Siphnian Treasury, are in Parian marble. Praxiteles’s Hermes, as well as his lost, Cnidian Aphrodite, the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Nike of Paionios—are all in the same lychnites of Paros, even though each has acquired a different patina with the passage of time and the circumstances of its particular history.

Travel Guide to Paros & Greece

Rating: /5 ( Votes)


Paros Island, the Cyclades.
By air: Olympic Air operates two 35-minute flights between Athens and Paros daily. The airport is 10.5km from Parikiá.
By boat: There are generally two daily car-ferry connections (4hrs 30mins) to Paros from Piraeus (most regularly with Blue Star Ferries) in the summer, with frequency drop ping in the winter. This is augmented in the summer months (late June– late Sept), by up to four high-speed services daily (minimum 3hrs journey), divided equally between the ports of Piraeus and Rafina for Athens. These services provide an average of three onward connections daily to Naxos , Ios and Santorini.
Paros Travel Guide


Paros Island, the Cyclades.
Paros, -Levantis, on Agora Street in Parikiá, is one of the best places to eat in the Cyclades, for food that is refined and yet still Greek: the setting is simple and unpretentious, the cuisine sophisticated and delicious, and the service attentive and pleasant. More expensive and with a refined menu which offers nonetheless some excellent dishes, is Daphne in Gravari Street. Amongst the myriad eateries around the three harbours of Náousa, the easternmost taverna on the north shore, Glafkos, has excellent seafood and welcoming service. Le Sud is also good for more var ied and sophisticated cuisine. In Léfkes, "I Pezoula tis Lichoudias", is tiny, and undoubtedly a little artificial, but some of the home-made Greek dishes are nonetheless traditional and of local inspiration.
Paros Travel Guide

further reading

Paros Island, the Cyclades.
Thomas Hope’s Anastasius, or Memoirs of a Greek, first published in 1819, is partly based on Nicholas Mavrogenis (see p. 34–35) of Paros and his world and times. The book caused a sensation when it was first published in London; Byron privately admitted that he wished he had been its author. A paperback edition was reissued in 2001, by Elibron Classics. Paros: History, Monuments etc. by Yannos Kourayos (Athens 2004) is an exemplary guide to the island’s antiquities—clear, authoritative and to the point. For the remarkable figure of the Marquis de Nointel and his Christmas mass in the Cave of Antiparos, see: Henri Omont, Relation de la visite du Marquis de Nointel à la grotte d’Antiparos (1673), Bulletin de géographie historique et descriptive, 1892 (4), pp. 4–33, and Albert Vandal, L’Odyssée d’un ambassadeur. Les voyages du Marquis deNointel (1670–1680), Paris, 1900. Theodore Bent, The Cyclades, or Life among the Insular Greeks (1885), reis sued 2002 by Archaeopress, Oxford in the ‘3rd Guides’ series, contains his descriptions of making the earliest excavations of prehistoric Cycladic remains on Antiparos.

Paros Travel Guide


Paros Island, the Cyclades.
Paros has no shortage of smart places to say: but for simplicity and unpretentious comfort, the following can be recommended. The intimate, family-run Hotel Dina in the heart of Parikiá, could not be more central, and is inexpensive, comfortable and quiet (T. 22840 21325, fax 23525, On the edge of Náousa, Yades Studios provide tasteful accommodation with help ful management (T./fax 22840 51072, www.yades. gr). Beautifully appointed, and with full facilities, is the excellent Hotel Petres (T. 22840 52467, fax 52759,; open Easter– mid-Oct). The hotel is set back in the hinterland to the south of Náousa, but with beautiful views north over Plastiras Bay.
Paros Travel Guide

Book your Trip to Greece