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Local government Web-Sites

Prefecture of Cyclades

Cyclades Prefecture Tourism Committee

Ministry of Culture WebPages

Prefecture of Kyklades

In the following WebPages you can find interactive maps with all the monuments and museums of the Prefecture, with relevant information and photos.

Perseus Encyclopedia Site Text


   The Cycladic Islands, Crete, and the Dodekanese are the result of the collision of the African continental plate with Europe. The African plate is sliding beneath Europe, being melted, and molten volcanic rock has pushed to the surface to form the islands we see today. The Cyclades is a cluster of islands in the center of the Aegean, so named in antiquity because they lay in a circle (kuklos) around the small island of Delos, sacred as the birthplace of Apollo. Two chains of islands can be distinguished: to the west are Keos, Kythnos, Seriphos, Siphnos, Kimolos, Melos and Pholegandros, and to the east are Tenos, Mykonos, Delos, Syros, Paros, Naxos, Ios, Amorgos, Santorini (Thera), and Anaphe. Of these many islands, some are of volcanic origin, such as Melos and Santorini, and others are formed of crystalline schists, limestones, and marbles, thrust up from the ocean floor. In antiquity gold and silver were mined at Siphnos.
   All of the Cyclades are mountainous and extremely arid. As a consequence, there is little good farming and Naxos and Melos alone have sufficient pasture to produce and export cheese. The Cycladic economy has relied on seafaring since the beginning of the Bronze Age. Because of their location and good harbors, the Cyclades have always provided ports of call on the short route from Greece to Samos and Asia Minor. Delos and Syros, situated in the center of the island cluster, have provided markets of exchange at different periods of history.
  In the Bronze Age, the Cyclades enjoyed a flourishing culture, much influenced in the second millennium by the Mycenaean and Minoan cultures. Ionic-speaking settlers from continental Greece occupied these islands after 1000 B.C. In the eighth century B.C., Eretria, the Athenian tyrant Pisistratos, and Polycrates of Samos divided control of the islands. In the sixth century Lygdamis of Naxos controlled some of them as well. None of these powers, however, could protect the Cyclades or their inhabitants from the Persian invasion of 490 B.C. After the Persian Wars, c. 478/7, the Cyclades entered the Athenian League at Delos, and soon Athens became the administrative power of the islands.
   Although Delos is one of the smallest of the Aegean islands, with an area of 3.6 sq. km, it was one of the most important in antiquity both as a political and religious center. As the birthplace of both Apollo and Artemis, Delos was sacred. The island boasted an oracle second only to the Oracle of Delphi, and a temple to Apollo raised by a common contribution of the Greek states.
   Andros is the most northerly of the Cyclades, lying 11 km east of Euboea. Although Andros has an area of only 380 sq. km, it possesses two harbors, one at Batsi and the other at Gavrion. A characteristic feature of the landscape of Andros, and of many other islands in the Classical period are the great stone towers that marked farmsteads and lookout points near the coast.
   Southwest of Andros is Naxos. Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades islands (428 sq. km), and it houses the largest mountains. Zia rises to a height of 1003 m in the interior of the island, with a gradual slope to the foot of the mountain. The west coast is well watered and fertile. Naxos is famous from mythology as the place where Theseus abandoned the princess Ariadne on his return voyage from Crete. There, Dionysos found her and made her his wife. Historically, Naxos developed a prosperous maritime trade in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. It produced an important school of sculptors. At Melones, a city located in southeastern Naxos, at the quarries of Flerio, there still lie two unfinished and abandoned seventh century kouroi, and near the emery quarries of Appollona there lies another unfinished colossal kouros.
   Just to the west of Naxos is the island of Paros ( 194 sq km), famed in antiquity for its beautiful marble. From the central height of Profitis Illias (750 m), the fertile hilly landscape of Paros slopes down to the coast on all sides.
   Thera is the most southerly of the Cyclades, lying only 140 km north of Crete. Since 1626 B.C., when a violent volcanic eruption destroyed the island, Thera has taken the shape of a semicircle opening to the west. Across from the main island there are two smaller uninhabited islands: Therasia, with an area of 9 sq. km, and Aspronisi with an area of 2 sq. km. Excavations on these islands and at the site of Akrotiri have shown that Thera was flourishing and prosperous in the second millennium B.C., and while the inhabitants of the island were in contact with the Minoan civilization of Crete, they developed an individual and unique culture. Thera was not re-inhabited until many years after the huge eruption, when Dorian settlers established themselves on the island. On a southeastern section of the island, above the coastal village of Kamari, lies the rocky site of the ancient village of Thera. The site includes a temenos, a temple to Apollo Pythios and to Apollo Karneios, an agora, and a gymnasium with many inscriptions. There is an archaeological museum on the island which houses material from the Cycladic and Minoan periods.
   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.

This text is cited Jan 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


Cyclades (Kuklades), a group of islands in the Aegaean Sea, lying to the south of Attica and Euboea, and so called because they lay in a circle (en kukloi) around Delos, the smallest but the most important of them. According to Strabo they were originally only twelve in number; namely, Ceos, Cythnos, Seriphos, Melos, Siphnos, Cimolos, Paros, Naxos, Syros, Myconos, Tenos, Andros. To these Artemidorus added Prepesinthos, Oliaros, and Cyaros, thus making them fifteen. Scylax differs from all other writers in making two groups of Cyclades, a northern and a southern. In the northern he places Ceos, Helena, Cythnos, Seriphos, Siphnos, Paros, Naxos, Delos, Rhene, Scyros (an error probably of the transcriber, for Syros), Myconos, Tenos, Andros. In the southern group he specifies Melos, Cimolos, Oliaros, Sicinos, Thera, Anaphe, Astypalaea. Most authorities, however, make the Cyclades consist of the twelve islands mentioned by Strabo, with the exception that they substitute Rhene or Rheneia for Melos, which is certainly more correct, since Melos scarcely lay within the circle. Accordingly the twelve, taking them in a circle from the NW. are; Ceos, Cythnos, Seriphos, Siphnos, Paros, Naxos, Delos, Rheneia, Myconos, Syros, Tenos, Andros. Mela, probably only through inadvertence, omits Ceos, and names Sicinos instead of Cythnos. Pliny (iv. 12. s. 22) follows Artemidorus in including Prepesinthos, Oliaros and Cyaros.
According to Thucydides (i. 4) the Cyclades were originally inhabited by Carians, who were expelled by Minos. (Comp. Herod. i. 171.) They were afterwards colonized by Ionians and Dorians, principally by the former.

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

Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

Cyclades, Kuklades

Cyclades. A name applied by the ancient Greeks to that cluster (kuklos) of islands which encircled Delos. Strabo says that the Cyclades were at first only twelve in number, but were afterwards increased to fifteen. These, as we learn from Artemidorus, were Ceos, Cythnos, Seriphos, Melos, Siphnos, Cimolos, Prepesinthos, Olearos, Paros, Naxos, Syros, Myconos, Tenos, Andros, and Gyaros, which last, however, Strabo himself was desirous of excluding, from its being a mere rock, as also Prepesinthos and Olearos. It appears from the Greek historians that the Cyclades were first inhabited by the Phoenicians, Carians, and Leleges, whose piratical habits rendered them formidable to the cities on the continent till they were conquered and finally extirpated by Minos. These islands were subsequently occupied for a short time by Polycrates, tyrant of Samos, and the Persians; but after the battle of Mycale (B.C. 479) they became dependent on the Athenians.

This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

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The Catholic Encyclopedia


  A group of islands in the Aegean Sea. The ancients called by this name only Delos and eleven neighbouring islands, Andros, Tenos, Mykonos, Siphnos, Seriphos, Naxos, Syros, Paros, Kythnos, Keos, and Gyaros. According to mythology they were nymphs metamorphosed into rocks for having refused to sacrifice to Poseidon. They are in fact remains of an ancient continent that disappeared in the tertiary epoch. Successively Cretan, Dorian, and Ionian colonies, they were made subject to Athens by Miltiades. The turks conquered them in the sixteenth century.
  The Cyclades are now a nomos, or department, of Greece, but under this name are comprised also Melos, Kimolos, Sikinos, Amorgos (birthplace of Simonides), Thera or Santorini, Ios, Anaphe, and other islands between them.
  Silk, wine, cotton, fruit, sponges, marble (Paros), and emery (Naxos), are the chief products. There is also a coasting trade; Hermoupolis in Syros is an important port.
  There were in the Cyclades many Greek sees suffragan to Rhodes. Under the Frankish rule, Latin sees were also established at Naxos, Andros, Keos, Syros, Tenos, Mykonos, Ios, Melos, and Thera, as suffragans of Rhodes and Athens, later only of Naxos. The Archdiocese of Naxos includes also Paros and Antiparos. Naxos and Paros were Greek bishoprics early united under the name of Paronaxia. It was a metropolitan see in 1088. Several of its metropolitans united with Rome from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. Andros was likewise a Greek see. In 1824 it was confided to the Bishop of Tenos. Melos (Milo) is famous for the statue of Venus found there; it has thermal springs and solfataras, and there are ruins of the ancient city. In 1700 the see was united with Naxos and in 1830 with Thera. Ios (Nio, Nea), according to tradition the site of Homer's death, had a series of Latin bishops. As to Mykonos (Micone) we know only that the see was united with Tenos as early as 1400.

S. Petrides, ed.
Transcribed by: Gerald M. Knight
This extract is cited June 2003 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.

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