Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Delos

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DELOS, now Mikra Dili, or Little Delos, to distinguish it from Megali Dili, or Great Delos, an island in the yEgean, the smallest but most famous of the Cyclades, and, according to the ancient belief, the spot round which the group arranged itself in a nearly circular form. It is a rugged mass of granite, about 12 square miles in extent, in 37 23 N. lat. and 25 17 E. long., about half a mile to the east of Megali Dili, or Rheneia, and two miles to the west of Myconos. Towards the centre it rises to its great est height of 350 feet in the steep and rocky peak of Mount Cynthus, which, though overtopped by several eminences in the neighbouring islands, is very conspicuous from the surrounding sea. It is now completely destitute of trees ; but it abounds with brushwood of lentisk and cistus, and here and there affords a patch of corn-land to the occasional sower from Myconos. Of the many traditions that were current among the ancient Greeks regarding the origin of Delos or, as they sometimes named it, Asteria, Ortygia, Chlamydia, or Pyrpile> the most popular describes it as struck from the bed of the sea by a dint of Neptune s trident, and drifting devious through the^Egeantill moored by Jupiter as a refuge for his persecuted Latona. It was soon after flooded with the birth-radiance of Apollo and Diana, and became for ever sacred to these twin deities of light. The island first appears in history as an Ionian colony and the seat of a great Ionic festival to which the Athenians, among the rest, were accustomed annually to despatch a ewpi s, or sacred ship, with a number of Deliasts, apoi, or sacred delegates. In the 6th century B.C. the influence of the Delian Apollo was at its height ; Polycrates of Samos dedicated the neighbouring island of Rheneia to his service, arid Pisistratus of Athens caused all the area within sight of the temple to be cleared of the tombs by which its sanctity was impaired. About a hundred years afterwards, in the sixth year of the Peloponnesian war (426 B.C.), the Athenians instituted a more elaborate lustration, caused every tomb to be removed from the island, and established a law that ever after any one whose condition seemed to threaten its pollution by either birth or death should be at once conveyed from its shores. And even this was not accounted sufficient; for, in 422, they expelled all its secular inhabitants. After the overthrow of Corinth, in 146 B.C., the commercial element which had in all pro bability been present from the first in the religious gather ings, came prominently forward, and Delos became the central mart of the ^Egean. In the Mithridatic war it was laid waste by Menophanes, the general of the Bithynian king ; and it never recovered its former prosperity, though it is said that, under the Roman empire, 10,000 slaves were sometimes put up for sale in a single day. Hadrian attempted to found a city which was to bear the proud name of New Athens ; but, when visited by Pausanias towards the close of the same century, the whole island was almost depopulated. It is now absolutely without a j permanent inhabitant, though during the summer months j a few shepherds cross over with their flocks from Myconos j or Rheneia. As a religious centre it is replaced by Teuos. and as a commercial centre by the flourishing port of Syra. Besides the site of the chief settlement or city, the follow ing are the spots of antiquarian interest which can still be identified: the temple of Apollo, a splendid building of the Doric order which, in the words of Mr Tozer, now forms "a confused heap of white marble fragments, columns, bases, and entablatures, lying indiscriminately together;" the portico erected by Philip of Macedou; the base (within the temple area) of the colossal statue dedi cated to the Delian Apollo by the peoplo of Naxos; a theatre of Parian marble on the slope of Mount Cynthus; a temple to Isis, further up the hill, which probably explains the myth of the connection between the brook Inopus and the Nile; the so-called "treasury" of Delos; an Ionic temple on the summit; and the circular tank or lake which supplied the water for the religious rites. The ordinary buildings on the island were constructed of native granite, but marble was imported for the nobler edifices, which were destined to serve as so many quarries to the inedueval builders of Constantinople and Venice.

See Leake, Northern Greece; Sallier, "Histoire de l'Isle de Délos," in Memoires de l'Acad. des Inscrip.; Schwenck, Deliacorum, part i. 1825; Tozer, "Delos and Rheneia," in Academy, 1875; Lebègue, Recherches sur Délos, Paris, 1876.