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.