THASOS



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Thasos - Thasos town - Limenas - In the town - The Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum
This is one of the finest and most comprehensive museums of antiquities in the islands. It has recently been enlarged and refurbished. Both because of the quality and variety of exhibits as well as for the intelligence of the display and didactical material, it is a collection that should not be missed. (Open 8–3, closed Mon.)
  
Magnificently confronting the visitor on entering the museum is the treasure of the whole collection and its largest exhibit—the *colossal Kouros holding a ram—3.5m high, sculpted in Thasian marble, and dating from c. 600 bc. This is one of the masterpieces of monumental Archaic sculpture. The piece is manifestly unfinished and was abandoned because of the fault and split in the marble which appeared through the left ear and neck of the figure. It was subsequently broken up into five pieces and used as building material in the northeast terrace-wall of the sanctuary of Pythian Apollo on the acropolis of Thasos : this was common practice since a sculpture, once begun, belonged to the god to whom it was to be dedicated, and burying it in the foundations of a temple or its walls was therefore a way of rendering it to the divinity nonetheless. The work has been substantially roughed out, and bears the clear marks of bronze tools (pick, point and chisel) on its surface: its face, hands, feet and limbs are still mostly un-worked; but the hair on the back is beautifully finished, with only the crown and the knot of the hair-band still incomplete. The artist takes a delight, typical of Archaic taste and design, in the clear outline of the ram’s haunches and the vigorous spiral of the horns which form the focus of the image: it is these pure and stylised lines which give such power to Archaic sculpture. In similar fashion to the Moscophoros (the ‘calf-bearer’) in Athens, the statue—perhaps unconsciously—evokes the close interdependency of man and animal. The presence of the animal has led to the suggestion that, in spite of its colossal size, this statue represents not the deity himself, but a figure bringing an offering to him—as in the case of the Moscophoros. But the question of size cannot be explained away so easily: it might be preferable to see this magnificent piece as the divinity (probably Apollo) simply receiving the offering, and taking it to himself. The image nonetheless is unusual: the only comparable subjects derive from an artistic tradition, found in particular in Boeotia and Arcadia, which depicted the god Hermes as Kriophoros, ‘carrying a ram’.
   To the left of the Kouros in the main hall, is exhibited the beautiful fragment of a relief depicting a seated goddess in a framed aedicule with women bringing votive gifts. The piece was returned to Thasos in 2006 from the Getty Museum in California, where it had been the subject of a judicial inquest.
   A room (to the right on entering) exhibits an interesting and nostalgic photo graphic reportage of the early excavations undertaken on Thasos , inviting the visitor to participate in the excitement of the uncovering of so many ancient pieces.
   The itinerary begins in the room to the left of the Kouros, where the finds from prehistoric Thasos are immaculately exhibited. Especially noteworthy are: the displays showing the wide variety of prehistoric decorations for pottery; the anthropomorphic stelai or monoliths from Skala Sotiros; and the fine reconstructions of the interior of an Iron Age dwelling from Kastri Theologos and of a burial-place from the cemetery there.
   The main area which fol lows and which is articulated in zones on different levels, gives a rich sense of the sophistication and prosperity of the city of Thasos , as well as of the quality of its architecture and sculpture—something which was fuelled by the presence of the quarries of its own excellent native marble. Here can be seen copies of the magnificent reliefs of crouching lions (7th century bc; originals in the Louvre) which marked the entrance to the Archaic sanctuary of Apollo Pythios, and the superb craftsmanship of the architectural fragments collected from the temple—soft and pliant Ionic capitals, and intricately-carved sections of friezes. There is also an interesting section dedicated to the public areas of the city, exhibiting the inscribed lists of theoroi from the ‘Passage of the Theoroi’ (see pp. 29–31), and some examples of the fine statuary which adorned the area of the agora. Also displayed in this area is the boustrophedon dedication (c. 600 bc) from the monument to Glaucus (see p. 28), who was a friend of Archilochus.
   Passing (up a shallow flight of stairs) through a small collection of Roman portraiture, with a particularly well-pre served statue of Hadrian from the city’s agora, you come at the next level to the core of the upper area which is formed by the general sculpture collection. The first piece you encounter—the stylised ‘Wix’ Sphynx (6th century bc)— would probably have stood on top of an Ionic column to mark the grave of a hero or warrior. Facing it, against the wall, is a piece from a very different age, but of grandly dramatic design: it is a *large, fragmentary sculpture-group from a funerary stele in which the life-size figure of the deceased is seen in what are perhaps her last moments in life, supported under her arms by a figure who bends over her from behind, while another figure looks on possibly pre paring to veil her head. The head of the sick lady, turned dramatically to one side, gives the whole scene a sense of foreboding, reminiscent of entombment scenes in mediaeval and Renaissance art.
   Many of the other pieces in this area are of funerary art with carved reliefs of mourning figures and funeral banquets. Note especially the Pancarpos stele (2nd century ad), which possesses elements which seem to presage future Christian iconography—a serpent entwined around a tree (Genesis), and a solitary lancing rider on a horse (St George), above a woman seated nursing a new-born baby (Nativity). In a show case in the centre of this area is a perfectly conserved *bronze hydria, probably of Attic origin, with a small medallion-sized relief depicting a somewhat effeminate figure of Dionysos beside a pacified lion. The form and the restraint of the piece is exemplary. It contained the ashes of a middle-aged man. What comfort it must have been to know that the ashes of the deceased might be conserved for eternity in such beautiful objects.
   The unfinished pieces in the statuary collection are, as always, revealing of the ways sculptors worked: the half finished, Hellenistic sculpture depicting a helmeted warrior in one corner of the gallery, still preserves the ‘knobs’ on the surface used for the three-point transfer method of copying from a clay model into stone.
   There follows a series of thematic displays. A small and select collection of pottery artefacts and architectural elements in terracotta: note the fine 7th century bc Cycladic (? Parian) platters with intricate designs of animal and mythological scenes (another of these is exhibited on the ground floor). An exhibition relating to the important trading of wine on the island, including the inscribed 5th century bc laws regulating the wine trade, and the standard measures for liquids which were kept in the agora.
   The rest of the upper area is divided topographically, with each zone displaying the artefacts of a particular sanctuary of one of the gods. The large Hellenistic sculptures from the votive monument to Dionysos are exhibited here. The placid and effeminate head of Dionysos, of c. 350 bc, whose elegiac gaze belongs to the age and influence of Praxiteles, could not be more in contrast to the terrifying, 6th century bc *head of Silenus (on the opposite wall), emphatically carved with deep-cutting point-work. The original appearance of this minuscule piece—which is one of the jewels of the collection—would have been further intensified by the addition of bright colour.
   Some of the finest sculptural pieces are from the sanctuary of Hercules: these include the front portion of a *winged horse or Pegasus, (c. 500 bc) whose rhythmic carving is of decidedly oriental style; and the beautiful head of another horse, whose slightly later date has endowed the piece with a greater and more graceful sense of movement.
   Other points of interest in this area include a collection of portable artefacts and marble carving from Byzantine Thasos , and a small display of coins found in excavations. For the design of its earliest coins, in the 6th and 5th centuries bc, Thasos chose the theme of Silenus (sometimes seen carrying off a Maenad); the island turned to the more ‘orthodox’ theme of the head of Dionysos or of Hercules in the 4th century bc.
   On leaving the upper floor, the visitor is rewarded with a vision of the colossal Kouros in the vestibule from a balcony above, which reveals the fine carving of the hair and the back of the figure.
   The finds displayed around the external courtyard are mostly Hellenistic sarcophagi and funerary monuments, bearing inscriptions or—as in the case of one family of stone-masons—showing the tools of their trade. The inscriptions make instructive reading: they speak of ‘the fortune of being happily married for 50 years’, of ‘being as blessed in death as in life’. In the world of grave-stone sentiment, it appears little has changed over the millennia.

Just to the east of the museum is the broad, low structure of the church of Aghios Nikolaos, which was substantially restored in the last century. In its pleasant interior, the nave is lined with re-used ancient marble columns (some fluted) supporting Early Christian capitals. The remains of wall-paintings can be seen in the sanctuary and apse, but these are much blackened with candle soot and are consequently hard to date.


Thasos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.


access

Thasos Island, Greece.

Access to the island is by car-ferry from two harbours close to Kavala—(Nea) Péramos to the west, and Keramoti to the east—and from the port of Kavala itself.
   The service from Keramoti is now the most practical and reliable, and is the only one that serves Thasos town/Liménas itself with departures approximately every 90ms (crossing time, 40mins);
   The other connections are all to Prinos Skala which lies 16km to the west of the main town of Liménas. In the summer there are generally 6 car-ferry services (90mins), daily from Kavala to Prinos Skala. All these services are reduced in the winter. The service from Nea Péramos to Prinos Skala runs only April–end Sept and takes c. 75mins: its schedule is currently being renegotiated (2010).
All the above are operated by Thassos Ferries: T. 25930 24001/2, www.thassos-ferries.gr, from whom information on costs and schedules can be obtained. Kavala ("Megas Alexandros") Airport is served by three daily flights from Athens (Olympic Air and Aegean Air lines), and is close (c.10km) to Keramoti for the crossing to Thasos .
Taxi transfer from the airport to Keramoti costs in the region of €10.

Thasos Travel Guide

eating

Thasos Island, Greece.

In Limenas, the Taverna Mouses by the modern harbour has well-prepared local dishes and welcoming hospitality. The plateia of Kazavíti is one of the most picturesque places on the island to dine, though it has recently become popular with tour groups: the family-run Taverna Vassilis on the square takes appropriate care with both food and setting.
At Theologos, both Kleoniki and Stelios serve a variety of good dishes prepared with locally-raised meats. Nowhere especially recommends itself in Liménas but the Taverna Platanaki be side the "old harbour" provides a pleasant setting and a good selection of fish dishes.

 

Thasos Travel Guide

further reading

Thasos Island, Greece.

Yves Grandjean & François Salviat, Guide de Thasos (Paris/Athens 2000)—an exemplary account of the ancient city which will long remain unsuperseded.
Thasos Travel Guide

lodging

Thasos Island, Greece.

In spite of its size, Thasos still has no truly ‘simpatico’ places to stay and little that seems satisfactorily to combine comfort with tastefulness. In the main town of Liménas, the best and most genuine hospitality is offered by the Acropolis Hotel (T. 25930 22488, fax 58118, www.acropolis-hotel.com). At Panaghia is the pleasant Thassos Inn, in a traditional style building (T. 25930 61612, fax 61027); below, at Chrysi Ammoudiá, is the Hotel Dionysos (T. 25930 61822, fax 61823, email: dionyso1@ otenet.gr), an unpretentious and comfortable hotel just above the beaches of Potamiá Bay. All of the above are moderately characterful and of good value, in the medium price range.Thasos Travel Guide

practical info

Thasos Island, Greece.

640 04 Thasos: area 383 sq. km; perimeter 116km; population 13,447; max. altitude 1,206m. Port Authority: 25930 22106 Travel and Information: www.gothassos.comThasos Travel Guide

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