1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Melos

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MELOS (mod. Milo), an island of the Aegean Sea (Cyclades group), at the S.W. corner of the archipelago, 75 m. due E. from the coast of Laconia. From E. to W. it measures about 14 m., from N. to S. 8 m., and its area is estimated at 52 sq. m. The greater portion is rugged and hilly, culminating in Mount Elias in the west (2538 ft.). Like the rest of the cluster, the island is of volcanic origin, with tuif, trachyte and obsidian among its ordinary rocks. The natural harbour, which, with a depth diminishing from 70 to 30 fathoms, strikes in from the north-west so as to cut the island into two fairly equal portions, with an isthmus not more than 11/4 m. broad, is the hollow of the principal crater. In one of the caves on the south coast the heat is still great, and on the eastern shore of the harbour there are hot sulphurous springs. Sulphur is found in abundance on the top of Mount Kalamo and elsewhere. In ancient times the alum of Melos was reckoned next to that of Egypt (Pliny xxxv. 15 [52]), and millstones, salt (from a marsh at the east end of the harbour), and gypsum are still exported. The Melian earth (γῆ Μηλιάς) was employed as a pigment by ancient artists. Orange, olive, cypress and arbutus trees grow throughout the island, which, however, is too dry to have any profusion of vegetation. The vine, the cotton plant and barley are the main objects of cultivation. Pop. (1907), 4864 (commune), 12,774 (province).

The harbour town is Adamanta; from this there is an ascent to the plateau above the harbour, on which are situated Plaka, the chief town, and Kastro, rising on a hill above it, and other villages. The ancient town of Melos was nearer to the entrance of the harbour than Adamanta, and occupied the slope between the village of Trypete and the landing-place at Klima. Here is a theatre of Roman date and some remains of town walls and other buildings, one with a fine mosaic excavated by the British school at Athens in 1896. Numerous line works of art have been found on this site, notably the Aphrodite of Melos in the Louvre, the Asclepius in the British Museum, and the Poseidon and an archaic Apollo in Athens. The position of Melos, between Greece and Crete, and its; possession of obsidian, made it an important centre of early Aegean civilization. At this time the chief settlement was at the place now called Phylakopi, on the north-east coast. Here the excavations of the British school cleared many houses, including a palace of “Mycenaean” type; there is also a town wall. Part of the site has been washed away by the sea. The antiquities found were of three main periods, all preceding the Mycenean age of Greece. Much pottery was found, including examples of a peculiar style, with decorative designs, mostly floral, and also considerable deposits of obsidian. There are some traditions of a Phoenician occupation of Melos. In historical times the island was occupied by Dorians from Laconia. In the 6th century it again produced a remarkable series of vases, of large size, with mythological subjects and orientalizing ornamentation (see Greek Art, fig. 9), and also a series of terra-cotta reliefs.

Though Melos inhabitants sent a contingent to the Greek fleet at Salamis, it held aloof from the Attic league, and sought to remain neutral during the Peloponnesian War. But in 416 B.C. the Athenians, having attacked the island and compelled the Melians to surrender, slew all the men capable of bearing arms, made slaves of the women and children, and introduced 500 Athenian colonists. Lysander restored the island to its Dorian possessors, but it never recovered its former prosperity. There were many Jewish settlers in Melos in the beginning of the Christian era, and Christianity was early introduced. During the “ Frankish ” period the island formed part of the duchy of Naxos, except for the few years (1341–1383) when it was a separate lordship under Marco Sanudo and his daughter.

Antimelos or Antimilo, 51/2 m. north-west of Milo, is an uninhabited mass of trachyte, often called Eremomilo or Desert Melos. Kimolos, or Argentiera, less than 1 m. to the north-east, was famous in antiquity for its figs and fuller’s earth (Κιμωλία γῆ), and contained a considerable city, the remains of which cover the cliff of St Andrews. Polinos, Polybos or Polivo (anc. Polyaegos) lies rather more than a mile south-east of Kimolos. It was the subject of dispute between the Melians and Kimolians. It has long been almost uninhabited.

See Leycester, “The Volcanic Group of Milo, Anti-Milo, &c.," in Jour. Roy. Geog. Soc. (1852); Tournefort, Voyage; Leake, Northern Greece, iii.; Prokesch von Osten, Denkwürdigkeiten, &c.; Bursian, Geog. von Griechenland, ii.; Journ. Hell. Stud. xvi., xvii., xviii.; Excavations at Phylakopi; Inscr. graec. xii. iii. 197 sqq.; on coins found in 1909, see Jameson in Rev. Num. 1909, 188 sqq.  (E. Gr.)