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Tourism Organization Web-Sites
Kos Island Municipal Tourism Organization
Kos Greece, Hippocrates Web Server
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites
An island of the S Sporades group. The Iliad (2.676) speaks of the
participation of Kos in the Trojan War under the leadership of the Heraclidae
Phidippos and Antiphos; they are to have succeeded the first dynasty of the island,
which was Thessalian. In archaic times Kos was a Doric oligarchy; it became part
of the political and religious union that included Lindos, Kamiros, Ialysos, Knidos,
and Halikarnassos. At the end of the 6th c. B.C. Kos fell under Persian domination,
but rebelled after the Greek victory at Cape Mykale in 479 B.C. In 477 the island
entered the Delio-Attic League, and during the Peloponnesian war it participated
in the expedition to Sicily as an ally of Athens. In 410 B.C. Alkibiades left
an Athenian garrison on the island, and it was subsequently occupied by the Spartans
under Lysander. Only after Knidos had done so did Kos become re-allied with Athens
in 394 B.C., and the island was also a member of the Second Maritime League.
Following a synoecism, probably promoted by the family of the Asklepiads
of Isthmos in the W part of the island, the capital was transferred from Astypalaia
to the site of the modern city (Diod. 15.762; Strab. 14.657). In 357 B.C. the
island fought against Athens in the social war, and passed under the control of
Mausolos, King of Caria. After the victory of Alexander the Great at Halikarnassos
in 334 B.C., Kos became part of the Macedonian domain. After 309 B.C. Kos was
linked to the dynasty of the Lagidi until the naval battle of 260 B.C. in which
the Ptolemies were defeated by Antigonos Gonatas, King of Macedonia. Later the
island came under the influence of Rhodes, but from the beginning of the 2d c.
B.C. entered into the Roman orbit. Kos was occupied and sacked by Mithridates
in 88 B.C., but continued to have good relations with Rome and was a civitas libera
of the province of Asia. In A.D. 53, under Claudius, the island was declared immunis.
Antoninus Pius aided in its recovery after the terrible earthquake in 142. In
the time of Diocletian Kos was part of the Provincia insularum, and later was
annexed to the Eastern Empire. In this period the island suffered two violent
earthquakes, in A.D. 469 and 554. The latter destroyed the city.
Excavations in the city and elsewhere on the island were begun in
1900-1904 and continued in 1922-43. The site of the modern city was occupied in
very ancient times. In the zone called the Seraglio in the S central part of the
city a habitation site from the Bronze Age has been explored, in which the earliest
identifiable strata belong to the Middle Bronze Age and the most recent to the
end of the Late Bronze Age. Related to this habitation site are the necropoleis
of Eleona and Langada SW of the modern city, which were excavated in 1935 and
1940. Material from the three phases of Late Bronze Age III included imported
Mycenaean pottery and locally made imitations.
Above the Mycenaean habitation site is a protogeometric necropolis,
but the settlement has not been found. The latest tombs in the necropolis date
from the end of the 8th c. B.C. Later finds are scarce and sporadic, and apparently
the site was not reoccupied until 366 B.C. when the city was founded after the
synoecism. On the other hand, the sources (Thuc. 8.41.2; Diod. 13.42.3) speak
of Kos Meropis during the Classical period, a city which must have been situated
on the sea near the new Kos of 366, but which was probably not a center of major
importance. The new city of 366 B.C., with a geometric plan following the principles
of Hippodamos was enclosed by a wall of volcanic stone, of which several sections
have been found. Its perimeter is calculated as 3-4 km. The port was left outside
the wall to the N, but was protected by two sections of wall that were detached
on the E and W from the principal wall. In the 2d c. B.C., in connection with
a general restoration of buildings in the city for which white marble from local
quarries was freely used, the wall was restored with limestone worked in boss-like
Some interesting monuments have been brought to light in the port
area, including a shrine from the 2d c. B.C. with a rectangular plan. A few courses
of the marble superstructure survive, on an earthen foundation that seems to be
older; it is surrounded by a 3d c. A.D. building with a series of rooms on four
sides. There are also remains of a travertine stoa, built in the 4th-3d c. B.C.
and remodeled in the 3d c. A.D., which are visible between the foundation walls
of a basilica built above it in the 5th c. A.D. The basilica had three aisles
preceded by an atrium and a narthex, and a square baptistery. The principal monument
in this area is a sanctuary, of which the foundations remain: a Doric quadriporticus
on a high podium with two propylaea in front, and an internal esplanade with two
matching tetrastyle temples which have high flights of steps in front. The sanctuary,
attributed to Aphrodite Pandemos and Pontia, was erected in the 2d c. B.C. and
must have been the first monumental structure seen by those arriving by sea. At
the extreme NW of the port area a bath building from the 3d c. A.D. has been found.
The agora, ca. 82 m wide, was built against the N side of the N city
wall, extending out from its E part. It was enclosed by its own wall on the other
three sides, and a section of the W side, built in the 4th-3d c. B.C., remains.
A road circled the wall on the outside. The inside of the walls formed the backs
of wide porticos which were reconstructed in marble in the 2d c. B.C., with Doric
columns fluted for two-thirds of their height. The pavement, remade in the 2d
c. B.C., was of regular slabs of marble. The S side, recently excavated, extended
as far as the altar of Dionysos and a Doric temple in antis, both of the 2d c.
B.C. In the Roman period the walls on the N side, which had fallen in the earthquake
during the reign of Antoninus Pius, were rebuilt with a monumental entrance. The
opening had three large arches, which on the interior corresponded to rooms with
barrel vaults decorated with plaster. In front of the arches a grand marble staircase
descended to the area of the port.
In the N part of the W zone of the city are the badly damaged remains
of large bath buildings datable to the 3d c. A.D. There is also a stadium built
against the E slope of a small hill. Its original plan, with simple benches in
travertine, is attributable to the first phase of the city. The aphesis, of which
the stylobate and several bases of semi-columns in marble built against pilasters
survive, belongs to the 2d c. B.C. The W tribune dates to the Roman age, the 3d
c. A.D. Farther S, but still in the W section, is a monumental complex including
a gymnasium of the 2d c. B.C., the xyston of which has been partly restored; E
of the gymnasium were large baths. After the earthquake of A.D. 469, which destroyed
the baths, the frigidarium and several other rooms were transformed into a basilica.
Mosaic pavements in ornate geometric designs have been found. Another church with
a baptistery was built in the caldarium.
On the E the baths were bounded by the cardo maximus, and its paving
of large irregular slabs, of the 3d c. A.D., is preserved under the level corresponding
to the Early Christian basilicas. Part of a travertine portico of the 4th-3d c.
B.C. survives E of the cardo, and S of the portico is a public latrine, also contemporary
with the baths, which has been entirely reconstructed. It has a square plan with
an interior gallery on three sides; the sewer ran along the back wall. The gallery
consists of Ionic columns surmounted by arches in brick with vaults. On the fourth
side of the latrine is a fountain with three niches and basins, and behind that
an access corridor with the entrance to the cardo. Farther S the cardo intersects
the decumanus, 150 m of which have been brought to light towards the W. It is
ca. 10.5 m wide, including the sidewalks, had porticos on both sides, and also
dates from the 3d c. A.D.
Near the intersection of cardo and decumanus is the Odeion, with rectilinear
walls enclosing the cavea, which is supported by two semicircular vaulted galleries.
The circular orchestra was decorated in opus-sectile with a design of intertwined
squares. Three open doorways in the scena lead to a room behind. A loggia probably
ran above the summa cavea. A last large public building, not yet completely excavated,
is the theater, dating like the Odeion from the 3d c. A.D. Near the S walls of
the city, it has a semicircular orchestra and cavea with the marble tiers built
against a hillside. Especially to N and S of the decumanus there are interesting
private houses, arranged in regular city blocks.
At the corner of the decumanus and the cardo is the House of the Mosaic
of Europa, which constitutes an entire block. The house has a trapezoidal plan
and a central porticoed courtyard, from which open various rooms. Another block
S of the decumanus is occupied by a large socalled Roman house, with two peristyles
and a courtyard with windows. Many mosaics have been found in the houses, featuring
figured scenes and geometric designs. In the House of the Mosaic of Silenus, for
example, mosaics of a boar hunt and of a battle between gladiators, datable to
the 2d-3d c. A.D., have been found, in addition to the mosaic for which it is
named. A nearby house has mosaics of the 3d-4th c. A.D., showing the Muses and
Eros depicted as a fisherman. Among mosaics worth mentioning from the W zone of
the city are Orpheus and the animals, Hunting and Fishing, and The Judgment of
Paris, of the early 3d c. A.D.
Near the city of Kos is the sanctuary of Asklepios. The healing god
was venerated from the earliest times on the island, which was also the home of
Hippokrates, the most famous physician of antiquity. In the beginning the sanctuary
had only an altar in the place which had originally been the sanctuary of Apollo
Kyparissios. Only after the death of Hippokrates, about the middle of the 4th
c. B.C., was the construction of the Asklepieion begun, and its completion and
embellishment took a long time. The first plan consisted of the temple of the
god with the altar decorated by the sons of Praxiteles, and of the abaton, the
room in which the sick awaited the god. The sanctuary, excavated in 1901, in its
final form consisted of four terraces joined by stairways, with heavy foundation
walls. In the lower quarter is a small Roman bath building, from which one may
ascend to the large baths added in the 3d c. A.D. to the E part of the third terrace,
with an apsidal basilica and frigidarium. The principal access to the third terrace,
enclosed by porticos on three sides, was by a Doric propylaion; its foundations
and a wide stairway are preserved. From the porticos opened various rooms for
the sick. At the center of the second terrace the foundation of the altar of Asklepios
is visible. To the right is the Ionic temple of the god, of the early 3d c. B.C.,
in which votive offerings were deposited. To the left is another temple of the
Imperial age. Nearby are the remains of a lesche with a portico. An exedra and
a building to house the priests, of which little remain, were located at the foot
of the stairway to the terrace above. The uppermost terrace was constructed during
an enlargement of the complex in the 2d c. B.C. It contains the six-columned Doric
peripteral temple of the god, enclosed by porticos.
In the S part of the island not far from the village of Kephalos,
on an upland near the church of the Panaghia Palatiane, are the remains of polygonal
walls. These belong to the site of ancient Astypalaia, the principal city of the
island before the synoecism, which was probably founded after the Doric invasion.
Ceramic material from the 9th c. B.C. found at the site support the identification.
Near Kephalos there are two small Doric temples in antis and a Hellenistic theater
with a semicircular orchestra and seats of trachyte. Not far away, near the SE
coast, excavations in the grotto of Aspripetra have brought to light a cult place
active from the Neolithic period until the 4th-3d c. B.C., when Pan and the Nymphs
were venerated there. A Hellenistic theater built against a hill has been excavated
near Kardamena; the cavea is preserved to the height of three tiers of seats.
In the same area inscriptions attest that ruins near the church of Haghia Theotes
belonged to a sanctuary of Apollo. In the center of the island, at Pyli, a vaulted
hypogeum in which are incorporated elements of Doric entablature from the Hellenistic
age has been found under a village church. It is popularly identified as the Heroon
of Charmylos, a local mythological hero. There is a tract of Cyclopean wall near
the abandoned medieval fortress of Palaio Pyli, and Mycenaean pottery fragments
from the area may indicate a Bronze Age settlement. Between Pyli and Asfendiu
is a sanctuary of Demeter and Kore, with a little Hellenistic temple in which
marble votive statues were found.
Both in the city of Kos and elsewhere on the island are interesting
Early Christian basilicas, with splendid mosaics, that date from the period between
the earthquakes of A.D. 469 and 554. The sculpture and ceramics from the excavations
are preserved in the archaeological museum at Kos.
M. G. Picozzi, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites,
Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from
Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
An island of the Aegean, one of the Sporades, west of the promontory
of Doris. Its more ancient names were Cea, Staphylus, Nymphaea, and Meropis, of
which the last was the most common. The colonizing of this island must have taken
place at a very early date, since Homer makes mention of it as a populous settlement
The inhabitants were of Dorian origin, and closely connected with the Doric colonies
on the mainland. Its chief city was Cos, anciently called Astypalaea. Strabo remarks
that the city of Cos was not large, but very populous, and seen to great advantage
by those who came thither by sea. Without the walls was a celebrated temple of
Aesculapius, enriched with many admirable works of art, and among others, two
famous paintings of Apelles, the Antigonus and Aphrodite Anadyomene. The latter
painting was so much admired that Augustus removed it to Rome and consecrated
it to Iulius Caesar; and in consideration of the loss thus inflicted on the Coans,
he is said to have remitted a tribute of one hundred talents which had been laid
on them. Besides the great painter just mentioned, Cos could boast of ranking
among her sons the first physician of antiquity, Hippocrates. The soil of the
island was very productive, especially in wine, which vied with those of Chios
and Lesbos. It was also celebrated for its purple dye, and for its manufacture
of a species of transparent silk stuff.
This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Perseus: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
Non-profit organizations WebPages
Second largest of the Dodecanese
Island, off the southwestern coast of Asia
Minor, at the entrance of the Gulf of Cos, and its main city, at its northeastern
Cos was one of six cities of Dorian origin in that part of Caria
called Doris that had gathered in a confederacy having its common sanctuary, a
temple to Apollo, on the promontory on which Cnidus
was located, named the Triopion.
Together they formed what used to be called the Hexapolis (in Greek, “the
six cities”) until Halicarnassus
was excluded and they became the Pentapolis (in Greek, “the five cities”).
Cos was the birthplace of Hippocrates, the founder of a famous school
of medicine, and the site of a famed sanctuary of Asclepius, the God of medicine.
Bernard Suzanne (page last updated 1998), ed.
This text is cited July 2003 from the Plato and his dialogues URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks.
Perseus Encyclopedia Site Text
Kos is the second largest island in the Dodecanese group after Rhodes, measuring 43 km in length and between 2 and 11 km in width. The northeastern tip of Kos comes within 4 km of the Halicarnassus peninsula in Turkey while the eastern part of the island is hilly and rises to its height on Mt. Oromedon (846 km). The most fertile land on Kos is on the northern slopes of Mt. Oromedon and in the plain around the capital city, Kos. Kos is famous for the Asklepieion, a sanctuary of Asclepius, which lies 6 km from the main town. The island was renowned for its physicians in antiquity.
- Dodecanese: Perseus Encyclopedia
Cos, Kos, Meropian
- Cos, Kos, Meropian: Perseus Lookup Tool, text search
- Perseus: Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary(1879)
- Cos, Kos, Meropian: Perseus Lookup Tool