Despite its diminutive size, Delos is one of the most important archaeological sites
in Greece, and certainly the most important in the Cyclades. Delos was a place of such importance that the surrounding islands were known as the Cyclades, since it was thougth that they lay in a circle round the island on which the god Apollo was born.
Athenians coveted Delos for a long time, seeing its strategic position as one from where they could control the Aegean, and by the 5th century BC it had come under their jurisdiction.
At that time, Delos became the headquarters of the Delian Confederacy, a maritime league under the leadership of Athens, but in 454 BC the Athenians carried off the treasury of the league and deposited it on the Acropolis. In 314 BC Delos broke away from Athens to become independent and therefore enjoyed a period of great prosperity.
In 166 BC the Romans declared Delos a free port, which promoted its development as a trading center - dealing, among other things, in slaves - and led to the growth of a considerable commercial town. In 88 BC it was sacked by Mithridates and 10.000 inhabitants were massacred.The rench School of Archeology has been responsible for the exploration of the site; excavations, begun in 1872, have been carried out in parallel with those at Delphi.
This was a brief introduction to Delos history.
About my experience there:
- There are many boats from Mykonos to Delos but beware the last return from Delos is very early (now i don't remember the hour).
- Take water with you. It's on sale at one only place. The site is huge and the sun very strong. You will need water specially if you intend to climb mount Kinthios.
- You must climb mount Kinthios. From there you can see Tinos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros and Rheneia. On the top of the hill are remains of a 3rd century temple dedicated to Zeus Kinthios and Athena Kinthia.
- You must visit the lions in Naxian marble dating from the 7th century BC. They look out over the Sacred Lake.
- Visit the Sanctuary of Serapis and Isis, the House of the Dolphins, the larger House of the Masks, the mosaics of the House of the Trident and the House of Dionysos, the House of Cleopatra, named after the statues of Cleopatra and her husband Dioskourides which were found here.
- Visit the badly ruined theater, with seating for some 5000 spectators, dates from 3rd century BC. Behind the stage is a large cistern with nine chambers in which rain-water flowing down from the auditorium was collected.
The guided tours don't cover all the site.