Delos from A to Z

All its secrets in alphabetical order.

This pure land possessed the power to not only build its own legend using mosaics and marble masterpieces but to become synonymous with the unique light of the sun, the sea and the landscape of the Greek islands. Right next to Delos, Mykonos remained for many years just a humble stop for mesmerised travellers who would spend the night on the then unimportant island of Mykonos yearning for the moment the small boat would lead them to the illuminating light…

Archaeological Museum of Delos –The museum’s building was erected in 1904 by the Archaeological Society of Athens to house the excavation findings.
B.C. –It seems that the earliest signs of habitation on the island are in the second half of the 3rd millennium BC (2500-2000 BC) on Mount Cynthus.
Cosmopolitanism –It’s true that Delos was the first hub of authentic cosmopolitanism in the world. This was where various peoples lived in harmony, each respecting each other’s confessions and cultures.
Delos Or Dhilos –In Greek, it means “clear” or “brought to light”.
Excavation –The French School of Archaeology began digs on Delos during the reign of King George I of Greece, in 1873. The first excavations were to continue until 1894, when they were interrupted due to the temporary shift of the French School’s attention to Delphi.
Forbidden –Today, overnight stays and swimming are strictly forbidden on Delos, as is docking boats. Back in time, though, ancient historian Thucydides wrote that in approximately 425 BC, the law stated that pregnant women and moribund people had to leave the island. In other words, the inhabitants of Delos could not die on their island, and neither could they be born there.
Grypari Amaryllis –She’s recognised as one of the best certified licensed tour guides of the island, born and raised in Mykonos. Find her at
Heritage –In 1990, UNESCO added Delos to the World Heritage List, describing it as “an exceptionally extensive and rich” archaeological site.
Island –Delos, a rugged granite mass about 3.4 km2 in surface area, is one of the smallest islands in the Cyclades. Also known called Lesser Delos, it lies between Rhenea – or Greater Delos – to the west and Mykonos to the east.

In 1990, UNESCO added Delos to the World Heritage List, describing it as “an exceptionally extensive and rich” archaeological site.

Jewish community –You might be surprised to hear that this is where the oldest synagogue of the Diaspora, in the world, has been found up until today, dating back to the 1st century BC. This is another archaeological find closely linked to the cosmopolitan era of the island during Hellenistic times, where people from different cultures coexisted peacefully for about 100 years.
Kouros –Apollo’s Kouros, the Colossus of the Naxians, used to stand at the northwest corner of the House of the Naxians on Delos. Today, only its large marble base remains, in place, on which used to tower over the island an enormous statue of the god Apollo approximately 9.5 metres in height. To the west of the base, remain
another two pieces of the statue’s body.
League –The Delian League was a political and military association of approximately 150 ancient Greek city states during the 5th century BC, united under the influence of the city of Athens.
Mosaics –We find mosaics on the floors of the houses of Delos. Their designs have given the surviving houses their name – house of Dionysus, of the Dolphins, of the Masks, of the Trident, of Triton… Featuring simple or geometrical designs, or even or devoid of patterns, the Delos mosaics impress especially when religious or mythological (Dionysus, Athena, Hermes, Punic goddess Tanit), natural (dolphins, tigers, panthers, fish), sea-themed (anchor, trident), or theatrical (masks, satyrs).
Naxos –Near the end of the 7th century BC, the people of Naxos dedicated the so-called Terrace of the Lions to Apollo. Marble lions stand in line facing east, towards the Sacred Lake. Many archaeologists beleive that, there were originally 16 lions, but only five and parts of three remain today, while the headless body of one more adorns the Arsenal of Venice in Italy.

A trip to the sacred island of Delos from A to Z reminds us how ancient travellers arrived here not for Mykonos, as we do now, but solely for the energy that Delos exuded.

Oikos –“House” in Greek. The well-preserved houses on Delos have given archaeologists information about life in that era. A corridor led from the main door to a court, where some homes featured a peristyle (roofed corridor) and mosaic floor. Many of the wealthy houses were equipped with cisterns to store the rainwater.
Purification –Following an oracle, Peisistratus, the tyrant of Athens, proceeded to a partial purification and “purified” the island for the first time. As Thucydides wrote, “not all of it, but what can be seen from the sanctuary”. That is to say, Peisistratus had the graves in this part of Delos removed. This event took place during Peisistratus’ third reign, so probably in 540-528 BC.
Quarters –Three important city quarters, the Quarter of the Theatre, Lake/Skardana Quarter and the Stadium Quarter have been found. The former is the oldest, and that’s why it does not follow urban planning patterns. On the contrary, the latter two have wider streets leading from north to south and east to west, following a grid plan. None of the quarters appears to have been segregated according to race or wealth. The rich lived next to the poor and Greeks next to foreigners.
River –In ancient times, rainwater formed River Inopus, which flowed down the slopes of Mount Cynthus. Streaming down to the lowest part of the island, north of the shrine, the same water also formed the Sacred Lake.
Sanctuary of Apollo –The most important spot on the island.

The island is uninhabited, with the exception of Greek archaeologists, some French archaeologists from the French School of Archaeology, workers and security guards.

Tanit –An apotropaic symbol found at the main entrance of the private home of the Dolphins. It is the sign of Punic-Phoenician goddess Tanit, believed to protect from bad luck.
Uninhabited –The island is uninhabited, with the exception of Greek archaeologists, some French archaeologists from the French School of Archaeology, workers and security guards.
View –Head up the path starting at the southeast corner of the Theatre Quarter to reach Mount Cynthus, a 113 metre hill at the centre of the island. From here, the view is impressive. On a clear day you can see most of the islands of the Cyclades.
West coast –Small boats carry visitors from Mykonos to Delos’ commercial port, on its west coast.
Xenophobia –Five years ago, the ancient theatre of Delos came back to life after 2,100 years to house the show “Hecuba, a Refugee on Delos”, based on the monologues of the queen from Eurupides’ tragedies “Hecuba” and “Troades” and directed by Nikos Karageorgos. Prominent Greek actress Despoina Bebedeli played the lead, sending a powerful message against xenophobia and linking the cosmopolitan past of open-minded Delos with the xenophobic present of the refugee crisis.
Young blood –According to Greek mythology, Delos was revealed (in Greek, “revealed” shares the same root as “Delos”) when Poseidon touched his trident on the surface of the sea, after the island had been sailing the archipelago for years. Zeus chained it to the bottom of the Aegean with a chain made of diamonds so that Leto could find refuge there, beneath a palm tree, to give birth to the two new gods: first Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, and then Apollo.
Zone –A special economic zone and arguably one of the first examples in history of the economic model of the SEZ. The unique historical value of Delos also comes from the fact that it was the first Free Zone. Located at the heart of the Aegean and the trade routes of the time, it was exempt from taxes. It was pronounced a free port by the Romans in 166 BC, which greatly contributed to the impressive development of the island.