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
The Odeion; the sanctuaries of Artemis, of Dionysos
and of Poseidon
Not far from the south corner of the agora area, but reached by the modern asphalt road south from the town centre which leads round the back of the agora, is the Roman Odeion (late-2nd century ad). Not as well preserved as the odeion in Kos, because it has been bisected by the modern street, it nonetheless gives a sense of the intimacy of such small, covered halls, which were used for recitals, concerts of song, or simply for special meetings. The building has a core in brick and cement, and is finished in marble: a dozen or more rows of seats are missing from the upper cavea.
As you continue north along the modern street, above and to your right are the remains of the terracing of the sanctuary of Artemis. (Scarcely accessible any more be cause of the growth of vegetation, the exiguous remains still visible today can best be reached by continuing along the street as far as the Dionysion, taking the path to the right, and then right again back through the olive grove.) This sanctuary, which is mentioned by Hippocrates in relation to his stay on the island, has yielded a richness of finds (both statuary and votive offerings) but a paucity of comprehensible building. The area was entered from the small square with the wells beyond the Passage of the Theoroi by means of steps and an elegant covered pro pylon which, according to an inscription recording the gratitude of the municipality, was extensively restored by a rich Thasian lady in the 1st century bc. The base of a substantial rectangular altar has been identified, as well as a large artificially constructed upper terrace and the foundations of a portico.
A hundred metres further along the same road are the remains of the sanctuary of Dionysos (a divinity of great importance in Thasos ), hemmed in by modern housing under which the main temple itself perhaps lies undiscovered. The principal foundations visible today belong not to a temple, but to a splendid choragic monument of the mid-4th century bc, whose form was nonetheless very similar to a tetrastyle, pro-style temple. Steps led up through the columns into a square interior in which nine large statues were arranged in a shallow hemicycle—Dionysos in the centre (the head of which is in the museum), flanked by figures symbolising eight different forms of drama and performance, amongst them: Comedy (also in the museum); Tragedy; Dithyramb; Nikterinos (or ‘Nocturn’) etc. An inscription relates how some of the most renowned musicians, actors and dramatists of the age attended the dedication of this monument. Note, once again, how two small altars are huddled into the left of the foot of the central stairs, at uncomfortable angles: both of these predate the monument, and their precedence and sanctity has been respected by the later Hellenistic builders.
Fifty metres further north, between the sanctuary of Dionysos and that of Poseidon, the modern street passes by one of the ancient gates from the port into the city, the so-called Gate of the Goddess on a Chariot, from the beautiful but worn *relief it bears on one of its massive door-jambs. The construction dates from the very beginning of the 5th century bc, and the relief from shortly after. Originally one relief each side was planned, but the pendant image was never begun: only the un-carved panel remains, curiously at a higher level on the jamb than its pendant on the other side. The relief shows a goddess—almost certainly Artemis—in the chariot, her hair tied back in an elegant pony-tail which is still just visible, and accompanied by Hermes who holds the bridle of the horses. Elements of the securing mechanism of the doors are well-preserved and visible in the threshold.
The late-5th century bc Poseidonion, a little way beyond, is another sanctuary of which today we see perhaps no more than half; the remainder—including possibly the temple—is interred under the buildings which border the area to the east. A meticulously constructed stone wall runs across the line of vision, with the entrance to the temenos in the centre. To the left of the entrance a water spout led off the rainwater which fell in the sanctuary into a well; to the right stands a small rectangular altar to Hera Epilimineia (Hera ‘of the port’), which displays holes for the fixing of a wooden or metal superstructure. An inscription found here forbad the sacrifice of goats to the goddess. The entrance is also partly bounded by two dedicatory bases bearing inscriptions. The monolithic threshold which bears the fixtures for doors, led through a short colonnaded porch into an open area with an altar ahead (in front of the present escarpment), a statue base to the left, and the rectangular base of a shrine (dedicated perhaps to Amphitrite) to the right. Beyond this at the far southern end of the temenos is a series of six hestiatoria, or banqueting rooms, used principally during the mid winter Feast of Poseidon. At the opposite (north) end, outside the enclosure, are the remains of houses, some with storage pithoi still in place.
Thasos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.