The environs of Chora

The lower Chora, reached by taking the path down hill from just above the church of the Pende Martyres, stretches in a chain of tiny squares and spaces along a gracefully curving main street. In the valley below the town to the west lies the River Kifissos—named by the Athenian occupants of Skyros of the 5th century bc after the river of the same name that flowed through the Attic plain in Athens. This valley soon leads out of the town to the west through olive groves and into a beautiful hilly landscape, with old stone houses and bridges. The area is pleasant for walking and there are good views back to wards the town and the acropolis.
   Below the south precipice of the acropolis of Kastro is the modern cemetery, and behind it to the south rises the hill of ‘Fourka’ (in effect an extension of the acropolis hill), named after the gallows erected here by the Turks. On the summit are the remains of the platform of the Archaic Temple of Apollo (6th century bc), which would have been a landmark clearly visible from the sea. The bed-rock has been cut around its podium, and the stone for the temple’s construction will have come from the quarried area just to the right of the path as you climb up. The temple is oriented on a north/south axis, and was unusually broad (17.5m) in relation to its length (24m). This hill could be the ‘place which had the appearance of a mound’ mentioned by Plutarch as being the site of the tomb of Theseus from which Cimon took the hero’s bones, returning them triumphantly to Athens in 476 bc.
   The fertile plain of the Kampos which stretches to the north of Chora up the coast has been the scene of many archaeological finds, showing that the area had been an important place of continuous settlement and burial from pre-Mycenaean through to Hellenistic times. At its easternmost point is the fascinating landscape of the ancient sandstone quarries of Pouria. The road ends by a windmill on the promontory in front of a large rectangular outcrop of stone with a white-fronted church cut into its lower right-hand corner: the simple chapel is dedicated to St Nicholas and is hewn out of the last remaining piece which has survived un-quarried from the soft poros stone stone which once constituted the whole prom ontory. From here to the south, the entire waterfront is cut away in regular rectangular shapes and declivities. This is a type of stone which was easy to cut and shape, and could be loaded here directly onto shallow barges for transportation.
   The stretch of the coast extending an equal distance to the south of Chora, has also been rich in early archaeolog ical finds: a late Mycenean cemetery at Basales; an earlier Neolithic settlement at ‘Papa to Chouma’ (on the coast directly south-east of the town); and even earlier Mesolithic finds in a cave in the bay of Achilli. According to tradition this wide bay was the point of Achilles’ fateful departure for Troy. It is more than likely that there was an important altar somewhere here in Archaic and Classical times, since Achilles early on came to be worshipped as a chthonic divinity on Skyros.

Skyros Island is part of the Sporades Island Group, Greece.

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