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 Gates of Hercules, and of Zeus and Hera
(The path following the line of the walls at this point is not always passable if the vegetation has not been cut away. At such times the next gate is best reached by means of a detour, via the sanctuary of Hercules, and then back out to the walls at the Gate of Zeus and Hera, from which the intervening Gate of Hercules is more easily accessible.)
At this point the walls are preserved to a considerable height, and their in-filled, double-curtain method of construction can be easily appreciated in their current state of ruin. They are running level along the floor of the plain and are therefore frequently enforced with projecting, square bastions so as to increase the cover provided to either side during an attack. Such bastions were few and far between on the stretches over the steep acropolis hill, but are frequent on the level here. The Gate of Hercules appears to have had a double dedication both to Hercules and to Dionysos—both deities of the greatest importance to the city. Reliefs figuring them were carved on either side of the gate entrance: that on the east side (now in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum) showed a kneeling Hercules of pronounced muscularity drawing a bow—an image that was to appear on Thasian coinage of the 4th century bc; that on the west (now lost) showed Dionysos and a procession of Maenads.
Although not the best preserved example, the next en trance—the Gate of Zeus and Hera—shows the plan of its beautifully proportioned and constructed gate-tower particularly well. In the original construction of the walls the gate was a simple aperture, similar to the Gate of Hermes near the port. It was adorned with two beautiful early 5th century reliefs, of which one, the *relief of Hera enthroned, attended by Iris (her principal lady-in waiting), remains in situ. Fragments of the pendant image of an enthroned Zeus are in the museum. Only Zeus and Hera were commonly seen seated in images: here the queen of Olympus holds a long sceptre in her left hand, and—also symbolic of her royalty—rests her feet on a foot-stool. In a campaign of reinforcements to the walls undertaken at the end of the 4th century bc, the external tower was added to protect and embellish the gate: its meticulously cut and bolted blocks clearly show its plan. The expense of this addition appears to have been met by a prominent Thasian citizen, by the name of Pythippos who was archon in 290 bc, and theoros in 288 bc. Part of the inscription which bears a fragment of his name can be seen on the left as you descend the steps into the area. His addition to the gate had the customary elegance of Macedonian Hellenistic architecture of the time: pilasters to either side of the entrance and an architrave with triglyphs, bearing the inscription below, surmounted above by a broad Ionic colonnaded entablature below a pediment: the whole designed with almost Palladian perfection of proportion.
From here, the walls continued north to the waterfront and then turned east to the port. The city was thus entirely surrounded with a girdle providing not just physical security to the inhabitants, but also an all-important spiritual security as well, imparted by the different divinities who protected every coming-in and going-out.
Thasos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.