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The Archaic sanctuaries
Returning again to the agora and the theatre, we follow the Sacred Way to the southeast, down the ridge of the mountain, to the panoramic promontory where the sacred centre of the Archaic city was built. This area, with its unearthly setting, was the Sanctuary of the Dorian cult of Apollo Karneios. It spreads over a series of terraces, part cut into the rock, part constructed on massive retaining walls which are visible even from Perissa below. All around this platform of rock, is the sea; above, is the sky; ahead, the rising sun, and the island of Anaphi or Anaphe, ‘the apparition’. The area is overlooked from the northwest by the base of a temple dedicated to Ptolemy III, from which the lay-out can be ob served: the humped ridge stretches ahead, with the rectangular base of the Temple of Apollo to the left side, and the larger rectangular Terrace of the Ephebes to the right. The latter is where the Gymnopaidiai (see below), ritual dances and dis plays performed by ephebes in honour of Apollo during the Karneia festival, took place in the heat of August.
The base of the Temple of Apollo Karneios is cut into the rock of the hillside, with an orientation about 25 degrees off an exact east/west axis: the temple proper is preceded by a pronaos, a courtyard and further rooms, in all occupying a space of approximately thirty two metres by ten metres. The threshold and the door-post slots of the temple entrance can be seen cut in the rock at the southeast corner. The tem ple is preceded by a court, with a large cistern below at the northeast side, roofed with limestone beams, which collected the water which, by virtue of falling on the temple’s roof and precinct, was sacred. To the right side is possibly a priest’s residence: to left, the front of the temple. Two door ways, still intact, lead in from the side of the naos through the southwest wall into small rooms that probably functioned as treasuries.
The Terrace of the Ephebes, also referred to as the ‘Square of the Gymnopaidiai’, is the long rectangular platform to the south of the temple across the ridge of rock, built out over massive retaining walls of the 6th century bc, repaired in later periods in the upper areas. These are best seen from be low, from where a fine stretch of polygonal masonry can also be seen higher up and further to the west. In this exposed area the Gymnopaidiai were held in honour of Apollo from at least as early as the 7th century bc. The rocks in between the temple and the terrace, where the male spectators of these performances sat, are covered with a wealth of scratched inscriptions and graffiti, ranging in date from the 7th century bc to later Classical and Hellenistic times. Amongst them are some of the earliest examples of the Greek alphabet in the Aegean. The inscriptions, some of which are quite long, are written all over the rocks in a variety of Archaic scripts: they record names and erotic appreciations of the boys who per formed dances and martial displays here during the festival. There are drawings of heads, abstract patterns, and engraved outlines of feet.
The presiding divinities of the ephebes as they reached adulthood were Hermes (for mental faculties and quickness of wits) and Hercules (for bodily strength and development): on a level below the south corner of the terrace is a deep cave, penetrating the mountainside, which was the sacred grotto of Hermes and Hercules. Here, too, there are inscriptions all around: from the Archaic period on the left door jamb; two later, Classical ones, higher up; and many more, of Hellenistic times, against the rock face to the left as you look in towards the cave. The surface of the external wall is beautifully finished by hand, with a mason’s point. The doorway to the left (west) of the cave leads into the remains of Roman baths. The rock-cut esplanade in front of the cave constituted the heart of the Gymnasium of the Ephebes, a structure added in Hellenistic times to the sanctuary.
As you return from the Gymnasium, climbing back up towards the Agora, the view opens out over the coast at Kamari: on the hillside below, in the foreground, about 150m to the north of the Temple of Apollo Karneios, is the base of a Hellenistic heroon to an unknown figure. The clear lines of isodomic masonry in its base and walls can be seen below the modern chapel of the Annunciation which has been built into it.
Santorini Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.
By air: Santorini is wellconnected with four daily flights to Athens with both Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines, and three to Thessaloniki with Aegean. Aegean also operates a once-weekly direct flight to and from Milan and Rome, from July to September. The airport takes large aircraft, and is four and a half kilometres from Chora.
By boat: At Santorini the (new) ferry port (Athiniós) is seven and a half kilometres from Chora. There are generally two or three daily boat connections to Piraeus, taking nine hours by car-ferry and five hours by high-speed vessel; most stop at Paros and/or Naxos en route.
There are links to Anaphi, Folegandros, Sikinos and Ios , and with Crete, five or six times weekly (these drop to twice-weekly in the winter).
There are direct links to Milos twice-weekly throughout the year.
Boats for Therasia leave from the port of Oia at Amoudi (12 km from Chora), daily at 8 am and midday, to Riva. A connecting local bus to Potamos and Manolas (Chora) – 10 mins. Sometimes the boat route includes Korfos harbour, directly below Manolas, in addition to Riva
Santorini Travel Guide
Between the twin traps of the expensively pretentious and the indifferently touristic, there are still a few good places to eat on Santorini.
Ta Delphinia the water’s edge in the Bay of Akrotiri is a family run fish-taverna, which largely serves its own catch of fish accompanied by its own local wine (from March to August), and an array of traditional mezés, which include a delicious Santorinian fava and tomatokeftedes. The taverna Aktaion (often known as ‘Roussos’) at the very beginning of Firostefáni (as you arrive by foot from Chora), though small, serves local food, including a good prassopitta – a pie made with mixed greens and leeks.
50m north of it, is the best and most genuine Italian eatery in the Aegean (run by Italians), called Il Cantuccio. For a more highly-wrought cuisine, still based on Greek ingredients, Selene at the southern extremity of Chora offers peace and a beautiful view in addition to some interesting dishes.
Franco’s Bar in Chora merits mention as a historic institution: one of the first bars of the 1970’s on Santorini, it still serves (expensive, but wellprepared) cocktails to the accompaniment of classical music, in front of one of the most dramatic sunsets in Europe.
On Therasia, Taverna Panorama in Manolas, at the top of the steps from the harbour of Korfos, has an excellent view, passable food, but wayward prices.
Santorini Travel Guide
Ferdinand Fouqué, whose book Santorini et Ses Eruptions was first published in French in 1879, and reissued in an English translation by Alexander McBirney in 1999 by Johns Hopkins university Press, is the first comprehensive study of the island’s geology and volcanic history. J.V. Luce, The End of Atlantis (first published by Thames & Hudson, London, 1969; reprinted by Efstathiadis & Sons, Athens, 1982) is indebted to Fouqué, but follows the theme of Plato’s legend of Atlantis and its relation to Santorini. Nanno Marinatos, in Art & Religion in Thera: Reconstructing a Bronze Age Society (Athens, 1984) lays out a clear and cogent explanation of the paintings from Akrotiri. The Wall Paintings of Thera (Athens, 1992) by Christos Doumas,the current head of excavations at Akrotiri, is also authoritative and clear on the subject – as are all his many excellent articles and writings on Theran matters. For the lat est debate on the dating of the eruption of Thera, see: Acts of the Minoan Eruption Chronology Workshop in Sandjberg, Denmark in november 2007, published by the Danish Institute in Athens in 2009 as Time’s Up! Dating the Minoan Eruption of Santorini.
Santorini Travel Guide
On Santorini, the Kavalari Hotel (T.22860 22347, fax 22603, www.kavalari.com) is one of the older hotels on the island, centrally placed, with magnificent views, created from traditional Santorinian houses cut into the native lava at the top of the cliff above the caldera. It is simple, friendly, unpretentious, and beautiful: there is no elevator, however, and the rooms are reached down precipitous flights of steps.
For greater ease of access (also near the Metropolitan Church) is the Theoxenia Hotel (T.22860 22740, fax 22950, www.theoxenia.net): panoramic and very pleasant, with a good breakfast served in the rooms. The island’s oldest hotel, the Atlantis (T.22860 22111, fax 22821, www.atlantishotel. gr) is practical, straightforward, welcoming and superbly sited; it is one of Santorini: practical informati on 97 the few hotels open all year round.
The Aressana Hotel (T.22860 22860, fax 23902, www.aressana.gr), opposite the Atlantis, is also comfortably appointed and convenient. On one of the highest points of the cliff, with views directly over the caldera, Anteliz Apartments Hotel (T.22860 28842, fax 28843, www. anteliz.gr) is modern and attractive, with spacious rooms and a pool. For ‘boutique chic’, Homeric Poems (T.22860 24661, fax 24660; www.homericpoems. gr) offers a luxurious and rarified atmosphere.Oia is generally more tranquil than Chora; it also has the most delightful place to stay on the island – Chelidonia Villas (T.22860 71827, fax 71649, www. chelidonia.com),which combines simplicity with good taste, friendliness and a perfect position (T.22860 71827, fax 71649, www. chelidonia.com), which combines simplicity with good taste, friendliness and a perfect position. On Therasia there are rooms to rent at Zacharo, just above Manolas to the south, T.22860 29102.
Santorini Travel Guide