Cos (Kos, Koos; Cos, P. Mela; Cous, Liv., Tac.; Cea, Plin.: Eth. Koos
(Kotes in modern Greek): Stanko, or Stanchio, a corruption of es tan Ko), an island
in the Myrtoan sea, one of the most renowned of that beautiful chain, which covers
the western shore of Asia Minor. One of its earlier names was Meropis (Thuc. viii.
41), another was Nymphaea (Plin. v. 31. s. 36). It appears from an inscription
mentioned by Ross, that it was called Lango in the time of the Knights. Its situation
is nearly opposite the gulf of Halicarnassus, and it is separated by a narrow
strait from Cnidus and the Triopian promontory. Its length lies NE. and SW. Strabo
gives the names of three promontories, Scandarium on the NE., Lacter on the S.
(with the town of Halisarna near it), and Drecanon on the W. (near the town of
Stomalimne). Its principal city, bearing the name of the island, was near the
first of these promontories, in lat. 36° 53' and long. 27° 17'. The circumference
of the island, according to Strabo (xiv. p. 657), was 550 stadia, and according
to Pliny 100 Roman miles; but neither of these dimensions is correct: the true
circumference is about 65 geographical miles, and the length about 23. The relation
of Cos to the neighbouring coast and islands is vividly illustrated by such voyages
as those which are described in Liv. xxxvii. 16; Lucan viii.244-250; Act. Apost.
Tradition connects the earliest Greek inhabitants of Cos with a migration
from Epidaurus; and the common worship of Aesculapius seems to have maintained
a link between the two down to a late period. (Paus, iii. 23. § 4; Muller, Dor.
bk. i. ch. 6.) In Homer we find the people of the island fighting against the
Carians. (Il. ii. 677, 867.) As we approach the period of distinct history, the
city of Cos appears as a member of the Dorian Pentapolis, whose sanctuary was
on the Triopian promontory. (Herod. i. 144.) Under the Athenian rule it had no
walls, and it was first fortified by Alcibiades at the close of the Peloponnesian
War. (Thuc. viii. 108) In subsequent times it shared the general fate of the neighbouring
coasts and islands. For its relations with Rhodes in the wars against Antiochus
and the Romans, see Polyb. xxx. 7; and Livy, l. c. The emperor Claudius bestowed
upon it the privileges of a free state (Tac. Ann. xii. 61), and Antoninus Pius
rebuilt the city, after it had been destoyed by an earthquake. (Paus. viii. 43).
The ancient constitution of the island seems to have been monarchical, and traces
of its continuance are observed in an inscription as late as Vespasian. It was
illustrious as the birthplace of Ptolemy Philadelphus (Theoc. xvii. 57), and of
the painter Apelles, and the physician Hippocrates. An interesting inscription
(Beckh, No. 2502) associates it with Herod the tetrarch, whose father had conferred
many favours on Cos, as we learn from Josephus (B. J. i. 21. § 11).
The present mixed population of Greeks and Turks amounts to about
8000. The island still gives proof of the natural productiveness which was celebrated
by Strabo. It was known in the old world for its ointment and purple dye, but
especially for its wines (Hor. Sat. ii. 4, 29; Pers. Sat. v. 135), and the light
transparent dresses called Coae vestes. (Tibull. ii. 3. 53; Propert. i. 2.) The
island is generally mountainous, especially on the south and west: but there is
a large tract of level and fruitful ground towards the north and east.
The most ancient capital was called Astypalaea, the position of which
is extremely doubtful. The city of Cos itself has continued to our own times.
An unhealthy lagoon, on the north of the modern town, marks the position of the
ancient harbour. Close to it is the Turkish castle, which Christian travellers
are not allowed to enter. In its walls are some elaborate sculptures, which may
perhaps have belonged to the Aslepieium or temple of Aesculapius. This sanctuary
was anciently the object of greatest interest in the island. A school of physicians
was attached to it, and its great collection of votive models made it almost a
museum of anatomy and pathology. Strabo describes the temple as standing in a
suburb of the town: but the site has not been yet positively identified.
An account of Cos will be found in Clarke's Travels, vol. ii. pt.
i. pp. 196-213, and vol. ii. pt. ii. pp. 321-333. But the best description is
in Ross, Reisen nach Kos, Halicarsnassos, u. s. w. (Halle, 1852), with which his
Reisen auf den Griech. Inseln should be compared, vol. ii. pp. 86-92, vol. iii.
pp. 126-139. There is a monograph on the island by Kuster (De Co Insula, Halle,
1833), and a very useful paper on the subject by Col. Leake (in the Trans. of
the Royal Soc. of Literature, vol. i., second series). Both Leake and Ross give
a map of Cos, reduced from the recent survey.
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited August 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD)