The area of the sanctuary of Hercules
To the south of the modern town centre, and at the south western end of the area covered by Ancient Thasos , is a group of excavated sites clustered around the sanctuary of Hercules. The cult of Hercules was of great antiquity and importance in Thasos ; Herodotus says it was brought here by the Phoenicians. The sanctuary therefore formed a complex of commensurate grandeur: a large, paved court surrounded by buildings on three sides and with the principal altar, facing east, in the centre. The earliest temple remains here are from the 6th century bc; but what is visible today dates from a 5th century bc rebuilding on a much larger scale. As you stand at the entrance to the area from the street that leads to the Gate of Silenus, the temple was at the opposite end of the area (northern extremity) on the raised platform. It was originally just a single chambered naos ; but at a later date it was embellished with a wide colonnade on all sides, giving it a form more square than oblong. To the west of it, and in front, was the stepped and porched entrance to the temenos, the latest element to be built here, probably in the 2nd century bc. It opened onto a paved court with the stepped altar in its centre, and a long gallery hall forming the opposite border (along to the right from the current en trance). The last side (south), opposite the temple, is the side partially obliterated by the road, and was occupied by a porticoed building containing official administrative offices for the sanctuary and the hestiatoria (banqueting rooms) where the important early summer feast of the Heracleia was celebrated. These are below you to the left. It was here that the Spartan general Lysander, after defeating the Athenians at the battle of Aegospotami in 405 bc, deceived the Thasian allies of Athens with promises of pardon, and then slaughtered them to a man inside the sanctuary.
Across the road to the west little now remains of what was a large and ambitious marble building, known from an inscription as the monument of Thersilochus. This was a gift to the people of Thasos from a rich citizen of the city in the late 4th century bc. The building was a closed and roofed hypostyle hall, square in plan and with an imposing porticoed entrance on its north face. It was probably used for celebrations, banquets and meetings. Facing the entrance, less than 100m northeast of here, to the left-hand side of the road that leads towards the odeion, are the four ruined bases of an Imperial Roman monumental arch of the late 2nd century ad, but known as the arch of Caracalla because of the dedicatory inscription applied to it at a later date commemorating the reign of that emperor.
Across the road is the Demarcheion (Town Hall). The open space behind it is used by the Archaeology Department as a deposit for large, excavated material, constituting a fascinating collection of sarcophagi and other material of all periods and styles. One large stone lid, carved in a strongly Ionian style, immediately attracts attention; its upper surface is sculpted in the form of tiles which finish in handsome, but outsized, corner volutes. Its greatest refinement is the pair of beautiful apotropaic Gorgon’s Heads carved in its pedimented ends.
Thasos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.