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The traditions that the island’s former name was ‘Oenoe’, from the fame of its wine (‘οἶνος’) , and that its founder hero, Sikinos, was the grandson of Dionysos, are reflected in the excellent local wine that the island still produces from its remaining vineyards. It can be found in local tavernas and is at its freshest in the early summer months. It is not a sophisticated wine, but in its strong, orange-pink colour and salty flavour it represents a true and centuries-old tradition of wine-making in the Greek Islands which is now rapidly disappearing. It must approximate in flavour to the quasi-fortified wines which the ancients drank diluted with water. Sikinos was also praised for its figs in Antiquity: vines and figs were the only plants hardy enough to survive in its harsh, rocky landscape. Its in habitants had to be equally tenacious and hardy to survive on the island: the two known settlements of antiquity, at Palaiokastro on the island’s eastern extremity, and Ancient Sikinos in the southwest of the island, are both remarkable for the alarming perpendicularity of their sites—marvellously panoramic, but tough indeed to in habit. It is no surprise that the island, which had no good harbour and was therefore frequently rendered inaccessible for long periods by the winds, became a by-word for obscurity and insignificance in the metropolitan world of ancient Athens.
It is all the more remarkable, therefore, that one of the most interesting and best-preserved Roman monuments in the Cyclades is to be found on Sikinos—a grand mausoleum, of oriental inspiration, originally thought to have been a temple, which has survived by being converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin and is now known as the monastery of Episkopi. This singular, and in many ways moving, monument underlines the need to reassess the significance of small, island-outposts such as Sikinos in the period of Roman occupation. We know too little about their life and uses at such times.
To be so close to the pulsating life of Ios , Sikinos is a remarkably tranquil island with much of its mountainous landscape wild and scarcely accessible—ideal for walking and for observing birds of passage in spring and autumn. The island has several interesting rural churches in which fragmentary wall-paintings still survive; and a handful of secluded coves with sandy margins, clear water and a rich underwater life.
Sikinos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.