Ancient Thasos had two harbours—a commercial port to the north and a military, or ‘closed’, port where the sweep of the present-day (‘old’) harbour of Limenas indents the shore. The sea has retreated an average of 50m along this stretch of coast; this means that the course of the ancient sea-walls runs well inland of the current shore (below the line of Poseidonos Street). The ancient commercial port, which was better protected from prevailing winds, lay towards the northernmost extremity of the town (where the present-day boatyards are located). It was defined and protected to the north by a mole—now submerged, but whose outline, running west 100m perpendicular to the shore, is visible under water when the surface is calm. The curve of the current ‘old’ harbour occupies the area of the ancient military port, which originally had a more quadrilateral shape, and was bordered by deep,perpendicular boat-sheds (‘neoria’) for the storage and drying of the war triremes: the foundations of these can be seen below the surface of the water at the northern end of the curve. These hangars, which measured about 38m x 19m could each accommodate three boats and were essential for keeping them dry. The boat hulls were made of pine-wood and were prone to become waterlogged if they remained afloat too long, causing the boat to lose speed dramatically. There may have been 15 such drying-sheds (five on each of the three closed sides of the harbour), accommodating a fleet of 45 warships. Protected by a mole on the seaward side, the military harbour was entered from the sea at the northern corner by a small entrance which could be closed with a chain.
Today the harbour presents a delightful ensemble of houses, trees and tavernas. The front is dominated by the long, balconied building on its eastern curve. This is a dependency of Vathopedi Monastery on Mount Athos, and is used now as an occasional exhibition space. It was built in the early 19th century as a homestead for monks, with sleeping-quarters upstairs and work-areas down stairs. Much of the pleasure of this graceful construction comes from the colours of its materials—the silver schist tiles, the whitewashed stone and the brown wooden balconies—as well as from the rhythm of the arches and hipped window-frames, punctuated by balconies. Its otherwise perfect symmetry is given a curious relief by the fact that the extent of the balcony’s protrusion increases noticeably towards the right-hand corner. Nearby, the building which housed the ex-restaurant ‘Palio Porti’, and which gives on to the agora, is another fine example of a mansion in Macedonian vernacular style.
Behind the port to the south and just across the street from the entrance to the museum forecourt, a small excavated area has revealed the Marine Gate, one of the two principal entrances to the ancient port area, constructed in large, finely-drafted masonry, typical of the late 5th century bc. The flight of steps shows support holes for railing posts. There is a series of separate storage chambers with massive frames for security doors. Just a few metres across the road can be seen a stretch of the ancient harbour wall, heading out northwards.
Thasos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.