This is one of the most important monuments
and, like the gate of the archaic temple of Apollo, known as Portara, a trade mark of the island.
The monument is situated on the southeastern side of the island, half way between
Zas, the highest mountain of Naxos, and the sea, on a hill between two ravines,
Cheimarros to the east and Petronia to the west.
Similar towers have a wide distribution in the Aegean, but in the
majority of cases only the foundations are still visible.
The tower of Cheimarros
is a very rare exception, standing to the impressive height of almost 15 m. It
is better preserved externally, whereas internally large parts of the masonry
have fallen or are about to collapse. The extent of destruction seems to have accelerated
in recent years, a fact immediately discernible in photographs taken in the early
70s and in earlier descriptions: according to an archaeological report of 1923
the height of the tower was 17 m.
The tower has a circular plan; its external diameter is 9.20m. and
the internal 7.12m. The walls have a thickness of 1.10m., they are made of local
marble, without the use of mortar, and they are double faced. The high quality
of the ancient masonry is evident. The outer face consists of rectangular blocks
ranging in length between 0.35m. and 0.40m. Masons' marks are visible on some
stones: E, V, O.
The stones forming the inner face of the wall are quite irregular
in size, and are chiselled only on their horizontal sides. On the south side there
is a door and straight above it, 10m. from the ground, on the level of the second
floor, there is a window. The only other openings are some waterspouts and loopholes,
which from the outside appear as mere narrow slits, widening inside to facilitate
the movements of archers.
The tower was internally divided into four floors above the ground
and their position can be inferred from the preserved beam holes. To the left
of the entrance a staircase, with marble steps embedded in the wall, leads clockwise
to the upper floors. The lower steps are missing and have obviously been removed,
and from then on only those leading to the threshold of the second floor remain
in place. Bearing in mind, however, the similar tower of Aghios Petros
one must assume the existence of marble steps leading to the upper floor as well.
The top of the tower has fallen away, and although there is no evidence yet, some
scholars assume that the roof would have been flat and probably surrounded by
The tower stands within an almost square enclosed wall, measuring
about 35m. on each side. It is better preserved in the south and most of the western
and eastern sides, whereas parts of the northern side have been incorporated in
later constructions. The wall is 1m. thick, reaching 2m. in height and its outer
face is built with rectangular stones of various sizes. The whole of the internal
and a large part of the outer face is covered by drift earth and is therefore
invisible. No towers or other subsidiary buildings have been noted.
Similar towers, either circular or rectangular, are abundant in the
Aegean. Several are known from Naxos itself, the best preserved being at Plaka.
On Siphnos, as a result of a systematic survey more than fifty towers have been
recorded. Seventy-three are known so far from Kea, while several have been noted
on Kythnos, Serifos, Amorgos, Myconos, Paros and Tenos. At the present stage of
research it is still difficult to define their precise dating and function. According
to a long standing view they were either watch towers or places of refuge for
the population during the turbulent Hellenistic times. However, some were already
constructed in the 6th century B.C. and their function must therefore vary according
to the period and the location. In the metal producing western Cycladic islands,
such as Kythnos, Serifos and Sifnos, it is almost certain that, some at least,
were connected with the protection of the mining and metallurgical activities,
and in this light it is perhaps significant that the Pyrgos Heimarrou is situated
on the fringe of the emery producing area of Naxos. Some towers are in rich agricultural
areas and may have been fortified farmsteads, similar to the numerous mediaeval
"towers" of Naxos.
A military installation of this magnitude, however, can hardly be
considered the work of peasants and it may have formed part of a centrally organized
defensive system. The monument had been recorded by early travellers; a brief
study by the British archaeologist J.P. Droop was published in 1923. L. Haselberg
carried out a more detailed research and made careful drawings in 1971 and 1972.
At about the same period date the first attempts by the Ephorate of the Cyclades
for the protection of the monument
from the thunderbolt and the partial restoration of the inner face of the wall.
This is a very important project, not only because one of
the most interesting monuments of the Cyclades will be saved from destruction,
but also because through detailed recording and study it may be possible to answer
some of the questions concerning the ancient towers, their dating and function,
to clarify details of Naxian history and increase our understanding of some aspects
of life in antiquity.
Text by: Dr. Olga Filaniotou - Hatzianastasiou