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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites
One of the islands in the Cyclades, constituted of a volcanic massif
whose radius was probably an ancient crater. From the written tradition we know
that the island was anciently inhabited by a Phoenician population. Excavation
testifies to a flourishing prehistoric civilization. Thucydides (5.112,116) places
the Doric invasion 700 years before the Athenian conquest, about the 13th c. B.C.
The Athenians took Melos in 416 during the Peloponnesian War and subsequently
lost it. It was liberated by Sparta, then fell under the Macedonians, was eventually
conquered by Rome, and was abandoned in the 5th c. A.D.
In the W part of the island there are traces of prehistoric settlements.
The remains of three such settlements have been found at Phylakopi, on a promontory
dominating the sea. The first dates from the Ancient Minoan period (2600-2000),
and was a center of commerce in obsidian. The second dates from the Middle Minoan
I-III (ca. 2000-1700) and the Late Minoan I and II (1600-1500) and has houses
decorated with frescoes, the most famous of which is of fish and is now at the
National Museum in Athens. This settlement was destroyed by fire. The third (1500-1000)
underwent Mycenaean influence and has a walled palace which represents the height
of Cycladic civilization on Melos. It was destroyed by the Dorians who settled
on the island. A vast necropolis, contemporary with the third settlement, has
rock-cut tombs forming large niches, with double chambers and small dromoi. The
hill of the Prophet Elias constituted the acropolis of ancient Melos, where there
remain a few traces of ancient walls and of the city. The theater, now in a poor
state of preservation, was rebuilt by the Romans. Adjacent to it there were walls
belonging to either a stadium or a gymnasium. Near the port a portico has been
uncovered on the site of the Sanctuary of Poseidon, where the famous statue of
the god (mid 2d c. B.C.), now in the National Museum at Athens, was discovered.
A sanctuary dedicated to Asklepios has been found, from which came a head of the
god, now in the British Museum in London. Near the theater remains of catacombs
include a large room with sarcophagi, from which open four smaller galleries with
Christian tombs, including some ornamented by frescoes.
Production of the so-called Melian reliefs is attributed to the island
of Melos. Over a hundred examples have been noted of these small reliefs in terracotta,
dating from between 480 and 440-30 B.C., and coming largely from tombs. A single
tablet was found in the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore at Kos. The clay tablets
were stamped in molds, and were probably reproductions of clay models. They have
holes, which leads to the supposition that they were used as a covering, perhaps
on wooden caskets. They are the modest work of artisans, important because they
show the influence of Ionic art and of the great painters, particularly Polygnotos.
After the middle of the 5th c. Attic influence is felt instead. The figurative
cycle is composed of mythological scenes and scenes of daily life.
Klima, founded about 700 B.C., took up the role formerly held by Phylakopi
until its destruction, after a hiatus of 4 c. The ancient remains are few, though
in 1820 a Greek peasant found here, in pieces, the famous statue of Aphrodite
in Parian marble that was bought by the French ambassador to Istanbul as a gift
for Louis XVIII, and since 1821 has been on display at the Louvre. During excavations
undertaken at Melos in 1828 a base was found with part of a signature (. . .andros),
datable to about 100 B.C., which was tried as a support for the instable statue
Zephiria, today known as Paleokora, was a rather prosperous city served
by two ports, one on the Bay of Haghia Triada, and the other on the Bay of Paleokora.
Only traces of the ancient foundations have been found under successive constructions.
In 1204 the Venetians occupied the island, holding it until the arrival of the
Turks in 1537. Zephiria, because of its position, suffered numerous epidemics,
and was finally abandoned in 1793.
G. Bermond Montanari, 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 in the Aegaean Sea, the most westerly of the Cyclades.
It was first colonized by the Phoenicians, who called it Byblos or Byblis, and
afterwards by the Lacedaemonians, or at least by Dorians. Hence, in the Peloponnesian
War, it embraced the side of Sparta. In B.C. 416 it was taken by the Athenians,
who killed all the adult males, sold the women and children as slaves, and peopled
the island with an Athenian colony. The length of the island is about fourteen
miles from east to west, and its breadth from north to south eight miles. In 1820,
among the ruins of the ancient city of Melos near the theatre was found the exquisite
statue usually called the Venus of Milo (Venere di Milo), now in the Louvre at
Paris, having been purchased by the Marquis de Riviere, and by him presented to
Louis XVIII. It is composed of two blocks of marble, which unite just above the
garment which covers the legs. Melos was the birthplace of Diagoras the Atheist,
whence Aristophanes calls Socrates also "the Melian".
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)
Perseus Site Catalog
Melos, famous because of the statue of Aphrodite in the Louvre (Venus de Milo), is the most southwesterly of the Cyclades. To the northwest the island is almost completely divided by a deep gulf. Port Adamas provides a safe harbor within the gulf. The uninhabited southern portion of the island rises to 773 m on the hill of Profitis Illias. Like Thera, Melos is of volcanic origin, and produced obsidian, a black volcanic glass used for cutting tools, and other useful minerals throughout antiquity. The Classical city of Melos, which was destroyed by the Athenians in the Peloponnesian War, has well-preserved walls and. from a later period, early Christian catacombs
Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)
Melos (Melos: Eth. Melios: Milo), an island in the Aegean sea, and
the most south-westerly of the Cyclades, whence it was called Zephyria by Aristotle
(ap. Plin. iv. 12. s. 23; comp. Steph. B. s. v.), and was even placed by Strabo
in the Cretan sea (x. p. 484). The latter writer says (l. c.) that Melos was 700
stadia from the promontory Dictynnaeum in Crete, and the same distance from the
promontory Scyllaeum in Argolis. The island is in reality 70 miles north of the
coast of Crete, and 65 miles east of the coast of Peloponnesus. It is about 14
miles in length and 8 in breadth. Pliny and others describe it as perfectly round
in shape ( insularum rotundissima, Plin. l. c.; Solin. c. 11; Isidor. Orig. xiv.
6); but it more resembles the form of a bow. On the northern side there is a deep
bay, which forms an excellent harbour. The island is said to have borne several
names in more ancient times. Besides that of Zephyria given to it by Aristotle,
it was also called Memblis by Aristides, Mimallis by Callimachus, Siphis and Acyton
by Heracleides (Plin. l. c.), and also Byblis by Stephanus B. (s. v. Melos); the
latter name is said to have been derived from its receiving a colony from the
town of Bybls in Phoenicia. Other writers mention this Phoenician colony, and
Festus derives the name of Melos from the founder of the colony. (Fest. s. v.
Melos.) Some connect the name with melon, an apple, on account of the round shape
of the island. The Phoenician settlement is probable; but we know that it was
colonised at an early period by the Lacedaemonians, and that it continued to be
inhabited by Dorians down to the time of the Peloponnesian War. According to the
Melians themselves, the Lacedaemonians settled in the island 700 years before
this war. (Herod. viii. 48; Thuc. v. 84, 112.) In the Peloponnesian War, the Melians
remained faithful to their mother city. In B.C. 426, the Athenians made an unsuccessful
attempt upon the island; but in 416 they captured the principal town, put all
the adult males to death, sold the women and children into slavery, and colonised
the island afresh by 500 Athenians. (Thuc. v. 84-116; Diod. xii. 80; Strab. l.
Melos is now called Milo. It is mountainous and of volcanic origin.
Its warm springs, which are now used for bathing, are mentioned in ancient times.
(Plin. xxxi. 6. s. 23; Athen. ii. p. 43.) Pliny says that the best sulphur was
found in Melos (xxxv. 15. s. 50); and among other products of the island he enumerates
alum (xxxv. 15. s. 52), pummice-stone (xxxvi. 21. s. 42), and a bright colour,
called Melinum pigments (xxxv. 6. s. 19; comp. Vitruv. vii. 7; Diosc. v. 180;
Plaut. Most. i. 3. 107). The mines of alum are on the eastern side of the island,
near a height which emits smoke, and has every appearance of having been a volcano.
In the south-western half of the island, the mountains are more rugged and lofty;
the highest summit bears the name of St. Elias. The island produces good wine
and olives, but there is not much care taken in the cultivation of the vine. In
antiquity Melos was celebrated for its kids. (Athen, i. p. 4.) One of its greatest
deficiencies is want of water. The inhabitants of Kastron depend almost exclusively
upon cisterns; and the only spring in the vicinity is to the westward of the ancient
city, on the sea-side, where is a chapel of St. Nicolas.
In ancient times the chief town in the island was called Melos. It
stood upon the great harbour. It is celebrated as the birthplace of Diagoras,
surnamed the Atheist. The town appears to have been small, since it is called
by Thucydides a chorion, not polis; and of the 3000 men who originally composed
the Athenian expedition, the smaller half was sufficient to besiege the place.
(Thuc. v. 84, 114.) The present capital of Melos is named Kastron, and is situated
upon a steep hill above the harbour. The former capital was in the interior, and
was deserted on account of its unhealthy situation. Between Kastron and the northern
shore of the harbour are the ruins of the ancient town, extending down to the
water-side. On the highest part, which is immediately over-looked by the village,
are some remains of polygonal walls, and others of regular masonry with round
towers. The western wall of the city is traceable all the way down the hill from
the summit to the sea: on the east it followed the ridge of some cliffs, but some
foundations remain only in a few places (Leake). Within the enclosure there is
a small hill, on which stand a church of St. Elias and a small monastery, and
which perhaps served in antiquity as a kind of acropolis. Here several architectural
fragments have boon found. On the southeastern side of the hill are some seats
cut out of the rock in a semi-circular form, of which only four remained uncovered
when Ross visited the island in 1843. They appear to have been the upper seats
of a small theatre or odeum, which was perhaps more ancient than the large theatre
mentioned below. In front of these seats is a quadrangular foundation of regular
masonry, of which in one part four or five courses remain. About 40 steps eastward
of this foundation are the remains of a temple or some other public building,
consisting of fragments of a Corinthian capital and part of a cornice. About a
hundred steps SW. is the larger theatre, which was cleared from its rubbish in
1836 by the king of Bavaria, then Crown Prince. The nine lowest rows of seats,
of white marble, are for the most part still remaining, but the theatre, when
entire, extended far up the hill. From the character of its architecture, it may
safely be ascribed to the Roman period. There are no other remains of the ancient
town worthy of notice.
Eastward of the ancient city is a village named Trupete, from the
tombs with which the hill is pierced in every part. Eastward of Trupete is a narrow
valley sloping to the sea, which also contains several sepulchral excavations.
Some of them consist of two chambers, and contain niches for several bodies. There
are, also, tombs in other parts of the island. In these tombs many works of art
and other objects have been discovered; painted vases, gold ornaments, arms, and
utensils of various kinds. Some very interesting Christian catacombs have also
been discovered at Melos, of which Ross has given a description. (Tournefort,
Voyage, vol. i. p. 114, Engl. tr.; Tavernier, Voyage, vol. i. p. 435; Olivier,
Voyage, vol. ii. p. 217; Leake, Northern Greece vol. iii. p. 77; Prokesch, Denkwurdigkeiten,
vol. i. p. 531, vol. ii. p. 200; Fiedler, Reise, vol. ii. p. 369; Ross, Reisen
auf den Griechischen Inseln, vol. iii. pp. 3, 145.)
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)
The Catholic Encyclopedia
A titular see, suffragan of Naxos
in the Cyclades. The island
has had different names: Zephyria, Memblis, Mimallis, Siphis, Acyton, Byblis,
etc. The Phoenicians seem to bave been the first to colonize the island; then
came the Dorians from Laconia
in the twelfth century B. C. This Dorian colony lasted for seven hundred years,
when the Athenians, jealous of their fidelity to the Spartans, took possession
of the island in 416 B. C. All the men were massacred and replaced by five hundred
Athenian colonists; the women and children were carried captive to Attica.
Later on, when these children were grown, they returned to occupy the island.
Melos then passed under the domination of the Macedonians, then under that of
the Romans, and finally under that of the Byzantines, who retained possession
of it until 1207, when Marco Sanudo annexed it to the Italian Duchy of Naxos.
In 1537 it was taken by the corsair Barbarossa and joined to the Ottoman
Empire. The island continued to prosper, serving as a market and even as a refuge
to the corsairs of the West, especially the French; it was so until the eighteenth
century, when it began to decline because of a volcano which arose in the vicinity.
From 20,000 inhabitants the population decreased to about 2000. The chief town,
called Plaka, possesses a
very fine harbour; nearby are the ruins of ancient Melos, with a cemetery, two
citadels, a temple of Dionysius, a necropolis, and a theatre. Near the theatre
was found in 1820 the celebrated Venus of Melos, now at the Museum of the Louvre
at Paris, the work of a sculptor
of Antioch on the Meander,
in the second century B. C. The earliest known Bishop of Melos, Eutychius, assisted
at the Sixth Oecumenical Council in 681. The Greek diocese was a suffragan of
S. Vailhe, ed.
Transcribed by: Douglas J. Potter
This extract is cited June 2003 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.
- The Catholic Encyclopedia (1908)
Beazley Archive Dictionary