Greek Islands - Delos, Birthplace of Apollo
Back in the beginning of time, when the Greek Gods ruled the heavens and earth, infidelity was just as much a problem as it is today. When Zeus had an affair with Leto and she became pregnant, Zeus's wife, Hera, was furious and decreed that there was no place on earth that Leto could give birth to her children. Fortunately, there was a tiny island called "Quail Island" that floated around aimlessly with no place on earth to call home. It was there that Leto gave birth to Apollo, the Sun God and his twin sister Artemis under the shade of the only tree on the island. As a reward, Zeus gave the island a prominent spot in the middle of the Mediterranean and renamed it Delos ("visible").
In historical times, Delos' history can be traced back to 3000 BC, though the details of its early history are sketchy. By the 7th century BC, though, Delos was an important cultural, religious and commercial part of the Greek Empire. It was during that century that neighboring Naxos gave the island the gift of the 9 marble lions that once stood guard over the Sacred Lake on Delos. Those original lions have been replaced with replicas, while the 5 remaining original lions are on display in the museum on Delos.
Smack dab (more or less) in the middle of the Cyclades group of islands, which are smack dab (more or less) in the middle of the Mediterranean, Delos has been resurrected after over 2000 years of abandonment when it was destroyed by the King of Pontos in 88 BC, along with neighboring Myconos. While Myconos is now a popular tourist destination, tiny Delos is uninhabited. It is, however, easily accessible except in bad weather.
When you're in the Greek Islands, make it a point to take the 25 minute boat ride from Myconos to Delos. While the boat ride will only take a few minutes, you will magically be transported back in time, to an era when the Greek Gods ruled and Delos was a thriving Greek metropolis.
Delos, Birthplace of Apollo
Climbing Mount Kythnos
If you're up to it, climb to the peak of Mount Kythnos on the south side of the island. From there, you will feel like you are almost living with the Gods, peering down on the folly of man. You get a sweeping and breathtaking view of many of the archaeological sites of Delos, including the amphitheatre, which provided entertainment to up to 5000 spectators when it was built in the 3rd Century BC and the remains of the exclusive neighborhood that surrounded it at the time. Then there are the remains of the Sanctuary of the Syrian Gods, in whose theater it is said that viewers were entertained by ritual orgies. Apparently, back then, Delos was a lot like Mykonos is today. ;-)
We have the French Archaeology School to thank for the resurrection of Delos. After the island was rediscovered in the 19th Century, it was this school that painstakingly began the process of uncovering all of the historical wonders of Delos. While most of the ancient artifacts of Delos are now housed in National Museum of Athens, there are enough of them remaining in the Museum of Delos (including those lions) to make a visit more than worthwhile.
While you wander around Delos, birthplace of Apollo, spare a thought for Lito. It was she, after all, who put the island on the map. If Lito hadn't been so determined to give birth to her illegitimate children, Quail Island would still be floating around, looking for a home. Thanks to Lito's fierce maternal instincts, the world is a more wondrous place today.
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