In the center of the Cyclades lies the “Parian archipelago”, a special complex of islands around Paros that includes Antiparos, Despotiko, Tsimitiri, Strogilo, Saliago, Patronisia, Rematonisi, and other smaller islands. On the southern side of the complex, there is the uninhabited island of Despotiko, nearly 13 nautical miles southwest of Paros and just half a mile west of Antiparos, with which it was united during ancient times. For millennia / thousand years the history of the island is inseparably linked with that of Antiparos and Paros.
Paros. The combination of various parameters, such as the key geographical position of Paros on the commercial sea routes connecting Crete, Asia Minor, the East, and the Cyclades with mainland Greece, the leeward large port at today’s Paroikia, the mild climate, and the richness of the land was a decisive factor in the island’s prosperity, especially during the archaic and classical period (6th – 5th century BC). The ancient city of Paros, the “Parians city”, became one of the most powerful and wealthy island cities. The territorial and political terrain included Antiparos (ancient Orliaros) and present-day Despotiko (ancient Prepesinthos).
The archaic period (6th – 7th century BC) is the “golden age” of the island, since it experienced significant economic and cultural prosperity, due to its central position in the Aegean and the exploitation of marble quarries, the famous Parian lychnite. As early as the early 7th century BC, the activities of the Parians extended as far as Propontis, where they founded the colony of Parion (710/705 BC), and Thasos where they founded the colony of the same name (680/670 BC). The systematic exploitation of marble begins in the 7th century BC and by the classical period, it becomes immense as it is sought after throughout the Mediterranean and is the main source of wealth for the island, as well as the reason for the creation of a sculpture school with a nationwide reputation. Some of the most famous Parian sculptors were Aristion, Palion, Plathis, Agorakritos, and Skopas.
Gradually, due to the intensive exploitation of marble, the City of Parians was transformed into an actual marble city. In a climate of financial and commercial euphoria and political ambition for dominance and expansion in the Aegean, the Parians since the 6th century invested considerable wealth both in the panionic sanctuary of Apollo in Delos, where the all-time classic rivals from Naxos had established their presence a century earlier and the Athenians appeared as the rising leading power and on their own island building a lot of temples and public buildings. Archaeological evidence suggests that from the middle of the 6th century BC, until the beginning of the 5th century BC, a costly and ambitious building program for the construction of cult buildings took place in Paros.
Excavated findings, inscriptions, scattered architectural elements, and written sources testify to the existence of sanctuaries throughout the island. In the center of the city, in particular, three temples were founded (the temple of Athena, temples B and C), while in the immediate region two sanctuaries of Apollo (Delio, Pythio), the sanctuary of Dimitra and Kori (Thesmoforio), the monument of the poet Archilochus.
The Parians, however, in order to strengthen their geopolitical and economic presence in the central Aegean, decided in the middle of 6th century BC to found a large sanctuary outside the city, on the present-day island of Despotiko. The sanctuary was dedicated to Apollo and was founded in a place inhabited since the Geometric period. It had a cultic character and the most basic geographical characteristic for the development of a super-local religious center the existence of a very well-protected harbor.
The earliest traces of habitation in Despotiko date back to the Early Cycladic Period (3rd millennium BC). In two places on the south side of the island, at Livadi and Zoumbaria, two Early Cycladic cemeteries with cist tombs containing vases, marble vessels, jewelry, and figurines were excavated by Christos Tsountas in the late 19th century and are on display at the National Archaeological Museum. More tombs came to light at Zoumbaria in 1959 by N. Zafeiropoulos. Traced settlements have been recently found at Cheiromylos and Zoumbaria sites. The next phase of habitation on the island dates back to the geometric Age (9th – 8th century BC) when at the Mantra site, on the northeastern peninsula of the island, a devotional settlement was established. In the same place, in the Archaic period, in the city of Paros, the great sanctuary of Apollo was founded, which operated until the Hellenistic period. During the Roman period, the sanctuary ceased to function and the buildings are reused for residence until the early Byzantine period (6th century BC). After centuries of abandonment, the site was repopulated in the late Byzantine period, until the 17th century. The fate of Despotiko was inextricably linked to nearby Antiparos. Thus, along with it, it came under the jurisdiction of the Venetians, first of the House of Sanoudos in 1207 and then to other Venetian rulers until 1537, when Antiparos and the rest of the Cycladic islands passed to the Ottomans. In fact, many architectural elements of the sanctuary buildings have been transferred and reused in the Venetian castle of Antiparos. The settlement of the late Byzantine period was founded on ancient buildings and is identified with the Castelo that can be seen on maps and engravings of the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. In 1657 as an act of revenge for the surrender of the pirate Daniel to the Turks, the settlement at Despotiko was looted by French pirates and the island was finally abandoned. In 1756 it came under the ownership of the Mykonian Tzotzi Biao and the Parian Peter Mavrogenis. Over the last two hundred years, shepherds of Antiparos have established animal pens on the island, the largest of which at mantra site, on the ancient remains of the sanctuary of Apollo, using the building material from the sanctuary’s constructions. However, the multitude and importance of the archaeological sites have now made the Despotiko an archaeological site of absolute protection. At the same time, it is protected by the Forestry Department because of its special Cycladic vegetation, consisting of cedars, fides, and cypresses, making it an island of special natural beauty.
Despotiko is located thirteen nautical miles west of Pros and east of Sifnos. Its eastern coastline is almost half a mile away from the beach of Agios Georgios, on the southeastern coast of Antiparos. The islet of Tsimintiri lies between the two islands. Derpotiko has a total area of 7.650 sq.m. Its topography consists of rocky areas, high hills in the interior, a relatively steep coastline, and a few bays, the biggest of which is formed on the south side, at Livadi. The easiest access to the island is from the areas of Panagia and Mantra on the east coast, as it is specially protected from the weather due to the natural leeward harbor formed between Antiparos, Despotiko, and Tsimintiri.
As in all the Cyclades, the sea level has risen at least two meters over the past three millennia. According to recent surveys in the underwater area of the bay of Despotiko, the three islands used to be united. Very close to the coast of Antiparos, a built well, a square structure of a special plan with inner chambers connected to two rectangular structures and an elongated wall was found. Along the eastern coastline of Despotiko, near the chapel of Panagia, there are canals carved to natural rock, similar to those in Paros and Antiparos, the use of which has been interpreted in various ways.
Mantra is located on the northeastern side of the island, on the plateau of a large peninsula, at the north entrance of the leeward bay formed between Antiparos, Tsimintiri, and Despotiko, opposite Agios Georgios of Antiparos. The name of the place is due to the animal pen operating in the area since the 19th century and nowadays it belongs to the Antiparian Peter Mariano.
Its archaeological significance has been known since the 19th century by a brief mention of the English traveler Th. Bent about the existence of foundations of ancient buildings near a stockyard on the northeastern side of the island. in 1959 the curator of antiquities Nikolaos Zafeiropoulos conducted a few days survey on the site, during which he brought to light a building he interpreted as a roman residence, in which architectural parts of an archaic Doric building had been reused. In 1985, the architects G. Gruben, M. Schuller, K. Schnieringer andι A. Ohnesorg from the Technical University of Munich published the Doric parts unearthed during the excavation of Zafeiropoulos and other scattered or embedded in the pen / Mantra, attributed to a post Archaic structure (500 – 490 BC).
The writer first visited the site of Mantra in 1996 with a team of the Greek Ministry of Pre-Historic and Classical Antiquities (now the Ephorate of Antiquities of the Cyclades). After a short superficial survey in which ancient marble streets, architectural parts, shells, and partially visible walls were found, excavation work began which continues to this day. The first surveys from 1997 to 2000 were of retrieved nature and focused on the area west of the barn. In 2001 the systematic excavation of the site began with the organization of a voluntary work program for students of Greek and foreign universities. Due to the need to expand the excavation in 2002, the shepherd’s stall was removed and a new one was constructed away from the archaeological site.
Today, after almost 20 years of research on the site, a large archaic sanctuary dedicated to Apollo has been revealed. The discovery has rapidly changed the archaeological landscape of the Archaic Cyclades. It is a previously unknown Cycladic sanctuary that is not mentioned in any known ancient source, while its extent and wealth can be compared only with the sanctuary of Delos.
The sanctuary of Apollo
The sanctuary flourished in the late archaic period (second half of the 6th century BC), but the earliest evidence of worship in the area dates back to the Geometric period (9th – 8th century BC). Despite the absence of written sources for the establishment and operation of the sanctuary, the historical and archaeological evidence so far suggests that it was founded and managed by the city of Paros. The control of such a large extra-urban sanctuary – the largest of the Cyclades after the Panionian sanctuary of Delos – clearly indicates the need of the people of Paros to extend the geographical, economic, and political dominance in the central Aegean.
The perfect organization of the sanctuary, the architecture of worship and non-worship buildings, and the wealth of its offerings are indicative of the glory and the scope of a religious center with a super-local range, in which Apollo was the main deity worshipped, as dozens of inscribed ostraca from vases of the 6th and 5th century BC. testify. It is also possible that Apollo’s sister, Artemis was worshiped since the type of findings are consistent with the worship of both a male deity (numerous fragments of kouroi, textbooks, spears, agricultural tools) and a female deity (jewelry, clothing accessories, female figurines, part of a female statue). In the Classical period the goddess Hestia was also worshiped in the sanctuary under the name “Isthmia”.
The excavation to date has brought to light eighteen buildings dating from Geometric to Classical times. The core of the sanctuary was developed on the highest and largest plateau of the peninsula of Mantra, has an unobstructed view of Antiparos, Paros, and Sifnos and gradually the auxiliary structures of the sanctuary spread throughout the peninsula up to the port.
Early settlement: In the area where the temple and the ritual restaurant were set up in the 6th century BC, the core of the geometric settlement was developed. Directly in front of the temple and the archaic building D, two fragmentally surviving structures have come to light: the O, which dates back to the late 8th century BC and has an ellipsoidal plan, and the rectangular building Χ dating a little later, to the end of the 8th century. Close to the buildings and exactly below the archaic building D, a wealth of animal bones and decorated pottery was uncovered in a layer of burnt soil, dating to the Geometric and early Archaic period (9th – 7th century BC) and probably related to the preparation and celebration of devotion meals.
Archaic sanctuary: The core of the archaic sanctuary was the temple developed in the area of the earliest settlement. It is defined by a square district of about 2.5 hectares. On its western side, facing the natural harbor, where ships and believers would dock, dominates the temple and the ritual restaurant. In the center of the district and directly opposite the temple, there is a semi-circular altar of special construction and just outside the temple, the marble eschara Hestia Isthmia. On the northern side of the temple, is the temple-shaped building D, which probably had a cult character. On the eastern side of the enclosure, in contact with it but with independent entrances, lie building E and the so-called connecting building.
In the immediate vicinity of the temple, the South Complex, buildings M, N, P, and the East Complex were uncovered. East of the temenos, on the route the worshipers would follow on their ascent from the harbor to the sanctuary, buildings B, C, G, H, K, L, P, and S have been excavated, a circular tower and a strong precinct have been found.
Temenos (cult precinct)
The most sacred area of the temple, the Temenos, occupies approximately 1600 square meters. It is protected by a built precinct and consists of Buildings A (temple and restaurant), building D, and three arcades. The entrance to the precinct was through two gates on the north and south sides. Temenos was gradually transformed. Initially, around the middle of the 6th century BC the northern part of the worship Building A, which served as the temple of sanctuary, the northern wall of the enclosure, and the northern gate were built. Around 540 – 530 BC, the southern part of Building A, which served as the ritual restaurant, the southern wall of the precinct, and the southern gate were built. By the end of the 6th century BC, Building D, the northern, southern, and eastern arcades were put up. Finally, at the beginning of the 5th century, around 490 BC, the façade of the temple was reconstructed, with the addition of a monumental marble colonnade.
Worship Building (temple and restaurant). The most important and best-preserved building of the sanctuary is worship building A, which dominates the western side of the exaltation precinct. Its floor plan is conventionally divided into two sections, the northern sections identified with the sanctuary’s worship area, the temple, and the southern section identified with the ritual restaurant. The building was constructed in three phases.
In the first phase, which is dated around 550 BC, the temple was built, measuring 16.60 x 12m, consisting of two rooms (A1 and A2) with a common antechamber. The two rooms would communicate only with the lobby to the east through double doors. The walls are carefully built with rectangular stones and probably had a plastered surface. The walls of the lobby were made of carefully worked marble blocks. It is not clear whether the antechamber had a closed façade or a projection with wooden columns. The building had a large laconic clay roof.
In the second phase, around 540/530 BC the ritual restaurant was attached to the temple, consisting of rooms A3, A4, A5, and a front, with total dimensions of 16.50 x 12.00 m. the three rooms did not communicate directly with each other, but they had doorways both on the eastern side towards the front, and the on the western side. The masonry was similar to that of the rooms in the temple. In rooms A4 and A5, the floors are in very good condition and are made of raw stone parts connected to each other with mortar. The floor of the front was formed with slate plates. Inside it, just in front of the entrance of room A3, there is a square marble ritual cave for performing dances, which probably belongs to the first building phase of the structure.
The colonnade of the front of the restaurant rests on a strong pillar constructed with large slabs of gneiss, which extends over a structure of white marble. In fact, the impressions of five of the eight Doric columns of the colonnade have been preserved on its surface. These were unscathed, 2.85 m high, had Doric capitals, and supported Ionic architraves, followed by a middle layer (film or wave), Ionic frieze, and Ionic brim. Many architectural elements of this colonnade have come to light, on the basis of which it was built. The three rooms and the front were covered with a gable roof parallel to the façade, which was covered with tiles of Corinthian type.
In the third construction phase the façade of the temple was reconstructed in yellow design). On a new strong marble pillar, a marble colonnade was erected with seven unstripped columns in a parapet, about 3.80 m high, Doric capitals, an architrave with canons only, a separate layer fir the band, a tier with triglyphs and metopes and a brim with a lever without drops. Three segments of capitals, two end capitals and a central one belong to the pediment, that crowned the colonnade.
The monumental reconstruction of the temple, dates back to around 500-490 BC, based on the form of the architectural elements and especially the capitals. The dating is supported by the archaeological findings, as the pottery found in room A1 of the temple, under its last surviving floor, dates from the 8th to the late 6th century BC. in addition, one of the bases found in room A2 which most likely carried the cult statue, dates from the same period.
Findings from the cult building
Room A1. A large number of objects – almost 650 – of Cycladic, Corinthian, Attic, East Ionian, Cypriot, Syrian, and Egyptian origin were uncovered under the floor slabs of the northern room of the temple. Most of them date from the Archaic period (7th century BC – 6th century BC), while a few vessels from the Geometric period (8th century BC) have also been uncovered. They belong to the usual types of votive offerings found in most Archaic sanctuaries in Greece and the East (Delos, Paros, Kythnos, Thassos, Samos, Rhodes, etc.). Many of these were found intact, which suggests that they were carefully and deliberately deposited. This fact, combined with the earlier date of the objects than that of the construction of the room in which they were found, dictates their interpretation as earlier offerings to the sanctuary, which were placed in the new cult room during its construction in order to protect them and prevent them from being destroyed.
This practice is also found in other archaic sanctuaries, but the peculiarity of the Despotic is that the offerings were kept under the floor of the temple and not in depositories.
Most of the finds are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Paros.
Ceramics. Parian or other Cycladic vases, such as pots with inlaid decoration, tannic bowls, pint jars, wine jars, craters, and sacs, which date back to the 7th century BC and the first half of the 6th century BC, form an essential part of the stock in room A1. there is also a large number of imported vases, mainly from Corinth and Ionia. The Corinthian vases belong to common types produced exclusively for export and have been found in many sanctuaries in the Aegean and the East: miniature cotyledons alabaster, four-leafed armadillos, and phallus-shaped armadillos.
Workshops in the eastern Mediterranean have two zoomorphic Aryballos in the shape of a hare and a rooster, aryballos of the so-called “rodiocretian” type a lion-headed lekythos, and a lekythos in the form of an upright female figure holding a bird on her chest.
Idols. Many clay figurines of seated female figures with a pole (priestly hat) were found, belonging to the creation of archaic workshops of Ionia (Samos, Rhodes, Miletus), as well as a clay figurine of a lioness. Several clay masks were also revealed, similar to those from the Heraion of Delos and the Delion of Paros.
Metal objects. Many utilitarian metal objects made of copper, iron and lead, such as farming tools, axes, sickles, spears, manuals, and swords have been discovered. Among the bronze objects, buckles of various types from the Late Geometric and Archaic periods (spiral, octagonal, phallic) stand out. A rare find is a bronze bird.
Faience. Many objects made of faience are imported from Egypt or are imitations of other workshops. These include a falcon-shaped pendant representing the god Horus, which is apotropaic in character, an anthropomorphic double vase of Egyptian style associated with fertility and childbirth and attributed to a rhodian workshop, and an intact microscopic figurine of the Egyptian god Bes, the patron deity of mothers and newborns. Several disc-shaped or cylindrical beads with holes and scarabs imported from Egypt were also found.
Ivory. A hard-to-find and valuable material imported into the Mediterranean from Syria and Egypt. Among the finds from the deposit are intact octagonal buckles dating to the 8th-6th century BC, similar to those found in the sanctuaries of Ephesus, Sifnos, and Delos, three ivory discs of the same type as those from the Delios of Paros, and small compass with its cap.
Beads. Dozens of glass beads of various shapes were found, originating from workshops in northern Syria, Phoenicia, and northern Mesopotamia. Particularly notable are Phoenician triangular and Amphi-circular beads decorated with yellowish spirals of inlaid glass (8th-7th century BC). A rare find is two beads made of electrum, a precious material imported from north-western Europe and the Baltic.
Signets. Most of the signets have animals in sections on the sealing surface and are made of steatite, jasper, and other semi-precious stones.
Gold objects. Only four gold objects were found in the deposit, two spherical beads, a coin-shaped necklace cylinder, and a pomegranate-shaped pin head.
A special find is the ostrich egg. During the 7th-6th century BC ostrich eggs are found in several Aegean sanctuaries.
Daedalic idol. The most important of the finds from Room A1 is the upper part of a large female Daedalus figurine. This was also placed with the other objects on the ground and was probably broken before being deposited in the archaic temple. Only the upper part of the torso survives, from the middle upwards with the head, 0,25 m high. The figurine has a pole (priestly hat) on its head, which survives in sections and has long hair, represented by painted decoration. No fragment of the lower part of the figurine has survived, but using as comparative parallels the cylindrical lower trunks of two clay figurines found in the castle of Sifnos, which come from the workshops of Paros and Naxos respectively, we assume that the lower part of the figure of Despotiko was also cylindrical. From its stylistic features, it dates from around 675-650 BC and is attributed to a Parian artist, perhaps from the same workshop that produced the famous hydras found in the ‘cesspool of catharsis’ at Rhineia, the islet opposite Delos. Because of its size, quality, and iconographic characteristics, it is identified with the earliest cult idol of the sanctuary and may represent the god Apollo.
Room A2. Three large marble bases, two square and one rectangular, were found inside the south room of the temple. One of these – welded from four fragments – was probably the base of the sanctuary’s cult statue. It dates from around 500-490 BC, as it is typologically similar to the base of the cult statue of Artemis from the Parian Delium.
During the demolition of the old yard in 2002, two fragments of the trunk of a colossal-sized statue of a clothed figure were found embedded in it. The fragments must be a part of the lower left leg with a part of the plinth found a short distance from the temple, in which the seat (sandal) with two holes, one on each side, for the insertion of bronze bands can be seen. According to its size and stylistic characteristics, it is presumed to be a cult statue. It is not clear whether it belongs to a female deity or it represents the god Apollo, who is often depicted in long robes.
Facade. Inside the front of the temple, under the foundation of its eastern wall, Corinthian vases were uncovered, which had been placed there for the good foundation of the building – a kind of ‘foundation deposit’ – as well as part of an archaic marble perimeter wall bearing the inscription “MARDIS ANETHIKEN”. The name Mardis is of Eastern origin, similar to other male names of Eastern origin, such as the name Mardonius of the famous Persian general.
Precinct – gallery buildings
North precinct – North Gate: The main entrance to the Temple was located on the north side of the precinct, where the so-called North Gate opened. This was constructed along with the north wall of the precinct in the third quarter of the 6th century BC (550-525 BC), but it went through several construction phases. Initially, it had a double doorway 2.40 m wide that opened to the inside of the precinct, while later its doorway was elevated, its opening was made shorter and an antechamber was created.
Building D. On the north-western side of the enclosure, there is the temple-like Building D, which dates to the third quarter of the 6th century BC (550-525 BC). It measures 12.50 x 9.40 m and consists of an antechamber and the main room with a cobbled floor, a kind of pebble mosaic with a stone and mortar underlay. Due to the operation of the shepherd’s dairy on top of Building D until 2002, when it was demolished, only the foundation of the building and a small part of the superstructure survived. The foundation is made of large gneiss stones and is particularly strong, while the superstructure is marble with thick needle-worked beams, like those of the church and the restaurant. The façade of the building is represented by four Doric columns in a parastasis. Its elaborate construction, its architectural form and the existence of a rectangular structure directly in front of the vestibule, which is identified with an altar, indicate the building’s cultic identity. This interpretation is supported by the discovery of numerous finds of votive character, such as Cycladic, Attic, and Corinthian vases, clay figurines, ivory and bronze small objects, lamps, and shells with engraved inscriptions AP or APOL.
The North Lodge was attached to the interior of the precinct at the same period or a little later than the construction of building D. It consists of three rectangular rooms of different dimensions with a common north wall with that of the precinct. The rooms had entrances only on the south side, towards the interior of the Temple.
Of the many and varied findings discovered in the area of building D and the gallery, it is worth mentioning two fragmentary surviving vases of the 7th century BC with written decoration, a board and a Bathhouse. The panel depicts a female figure facing sideways, whose features are similar to those of the Daedalian figurine found in the temple deposit. Only part of the body of the bathhouse survives, which depicts a representation of warriors on horseback and on foot, whose names MENEL and SPHEL are inscribed. Both vases come from a Parian workshop and are unique examples.
South Gate – South Gallery – East Gallery: In the middle of the south wall of the precinct is the South Gate, through which the Temple communicated with the auxiliary buildings on the south side of the sanctuary. Its construction is dated around 540/530 BC. Shortly afterward, the South Lodge was built, corresponding to the already existing North Lodge. The rooms, which had entrances on the north side towards the interior of the temple, were developed on either side of the gate. Unfortunately, due to the construction of the buildings of late antiquity, the westernmost ones have not survived.
The eastern side of the temenos has been preserved very fragmentarily. It was formed by one more gallery, the Eastern Gallery, of which only two rooms survive. Although the existence of the lodge and its position, directly opposite cult building A, would make it possible that there was a third gateway in the middle of this side of the enclosure, no evidence of this has survived.
Building E – Connecting building. On the northeastern side of the temple, outside the precinct, but in contact with its eastern wall, are Building E and the so-called Connecting Building. Building E is rectangular, consisting of two rooms, with total dimensions of 14.30x6m. Their floors are preserved in very good condition, which are formed by pebbled stones and mortar. Fragments of red-coloured plaster found on the floors probably belonged to the walls of the rooms. According to the findings, the building was built in the second half of the 6th century BC. Shortly after, a smaller rectangular building with a temple-shaped plan, the so-called Connective Building, was attached between the building and the precinct. Around 500 BC, or a little later, two small rooms with a corridor were added, a kind of antechamber with a door, at the threshold of which the upper body of an archaic Parian workshop of the late 6th century BC was found embedded.
Worship structures: Apart from the marble cesspool revealed on the floor of the restaurant’s front and the built altar in front of Building D, there were two more cult structures inside the temenos, the central altar of the sanctuary and the eschara of the goddess Hestia.
Directly in front of the temple lies a particular form of semicircular structure that has been identified with the altar of the sanctuary. The structure has gone through several building phases, the earliest being in the early Archaic period. In its final form, it had an external diameter of 9m, built of marble blocks on the outside and slabs of gneiss on the inside.
Just one metre away from the corner of the temple’s front, there is the square eschara of the Isthian Hestia (0,56 x 0,57 m), consisting of four marble slabs, one of which, facing the temple, bears the inscription ‘Hestia Isthmias’. The inscription dates back to classical times and constitutes a unique testimony to the worship of the goddess in the sanctuary. Its name is due to the existence of the isthmus that in antiquity connected Tsimintiri with Despotiko, and indeed the inscription on the scab of Despotiko, constitutes the only reference case of Estia with this nickname.
Hestia is classified in the first generation of the gods of Olympus, the first daughter of Cronus and Rhea, sister of Zeus and Hera. In several myths, she is the object of desire of Apollo and Poseidon, but she does not give in to either of them, remaining pure and under the protection of Zeus. Hestia is the goddess-protector of home and family, but she is also present in the political life of the ancient Greeks (the flame in the Prytania). For this reason, in Paros, she was worshipped with the epithets Voulaye and Demi.
Every sailor and traveler who dreamed of returning home and to his family was under the protection of Hestia and this explains her devotion to Despotiko, i.e. to a coastal sanctuary, a harbor station of the sea routes.
The area south of the Temenos
South of the ritual precinct, at a very short distance from the South Gate, are the auxiliary buildings of the sanctuary, which were built gradually from the Archaic to the late Classical period (7th-4th century BC). Excavation in the area is still ongoing and so far two large building complexes and three buildings have been uncovered, covering a total area of three hectares.
The Southern Complex consists of building units I and II, which are protected by an enclosure. The complex underwent various construction phases during the Archaic and Classical periods. The eastern side is occupied by building unit I, which includes the so-called Quadrangle building and the Bath. The square building (internal dimensions 8,50 x 8,40 m) is divided into two rectangular rooms with independent entrances. It was built in the second half of the 6th century BC at about the same time as the ritual restaurant of the sanctuary.
A few years after the above building, a single-room building with internal dimensions of 3X6m was built a few years later. Its walls are internally plastered with mortar. Its floor is made of rectangular slabs of gneiss and is traversed by a drainage pipe that leads to an area outside the building. On the south side of the site, between two parallel walls, there are three circular pebbles (0,40 m in diameter) with holes in their upper and front sides.
At the bottom of one wall there are holes corresponding to the holes in the circular stones, through which water or other liquids would flow into the drain. A marble bath was found on the north side of the room, while just outside it a large clay basin was uncovered, and placed on the ground. Although no exact parallel of this building has been found, due to the presence of the bath and basin, the peculiar floor plan, the plastered walls and the pipe, as well as its proximity to the temenos, it is likely that the room served as a bath for the symbolic purification of worshippers before their entry into the sanctuary.
In contact with the bath, the building section I was added at the beginning of the 5th century BC, consisting of eleven rooms of different dimensions, built in different phases. Initially, the Trapezium-shaped building was built with four rooms and two entrances, one on the east and one on the west side. The upper trunk with the head of an archaic kouros (first half of the 6th century BC) and the lower trunks of two archaic kouros (late 6th century BC) was reused for the construction of both doors. In fact, one of them belonged to the same sculpture as the trunk in the Connecting Building.
These important sculptures, the glorious votive offerings of the sanctuary, after their destruction (see below) were used as building material for the construction of new buildings in the sanctuary. This ‘recycling’ is explained by practical needs, but it may also have been symbolic, since as sacred relics they were not thrown away, but reused.
The southern part of the building unit consists of seven smaller rooms dating to the Classical period (5th-early 4th century BC), based on the Attic redware pottery discovered inside and outside them.
On the western side of the complex, five parallel low walls 1m wide and square structures of slate slabs have been found, probably related to animal stalling. Close to them, in the precinct, there is a built well with a diameter of 2,30 m and depth of 5 m. Another well of similar dimensions has been found outside the temple.
Recent excavations under the bath and the rooms of the building unit I have revealed four rooms of an earlier building, which, based on the findings, dates back to the 7th/ 1st half of the 6th century BC. Its function is not yet clear, but it certainly belongs to the facility that existed on the site before the Archaic temple was built.
To the east of the South Complex and very close to the temenos are the M, N and P buildings and the so-called East Complex.
Building P has a temple-shaped floor plan and according to the findings, it dates back to the 6th century BC.
Building M consists of five rooms and a courtyard. The construction and organization of the rooms are particularly elaborate since they all have tiled floors, built-in structures, and pipes for water drainage. Finds from the building include many Attic lamps of the 5th and 4th centuries BC and a wealth of vases of the same period. Under the courtyard of the building, a large built structure dating from the Archaic period was found (9 x 5 x 1,50 m). According to its size, its plan, and some construction details, it is likely that it was a cistern that was gradually filled in and removed so that the later walls of building M could be built on it.
Building N, measuring 15x5m, consists of four rooms and a large rectangular courtyard. It also dates back to classical times.
The discovery of many lamps with traces of burning, a large number of vases engraved with the name of Apollo, flasks, and craters – the most common drinking vessels – reinforces the hypothesis that the above buildings were places of worship.
In contact with buildings M and N, a complicated building complex, the Eastern Complex, was uncovered, consisting of twelve rooms of different dimensions that probably served the daily needs of the sanctuary (storage, food preparation, catering).
It is not clear when the sanctuary ceased to function but finds from the Romanesque period (1st century BC – 2nd century AD) from the area of the temenos attest to residential rather than religious use. The walls of the archaic buildings were not demolished but were used to build a new complex of small single-roomed chambers, on the walls of which were inserted marble architectural elements from the colonnade and the entablature of the temple and the restaurant.
The building complex of late antiquity went through various building phases. It was built in the Roman period, continued to be inhabited in the early Byzantine period, was abandoned for several centuries and, after modifications and extensions, was reoccupied in the late Byzantine period until the 17th century, when it was completely destroyed by pirates.
The buildings outside the Temple
To the east of the temple, eight buildings have been uncovered, B, C, G, H, K, L, R and S, part of a strong precinct has been excavated and a circular tower has been found.
Building C has a two-part plan, consisting of two rectangular rooms with doorways on two sides, north, and south. It dates from the second half of the 6th century BC. To the south of the building is Building G, consisting of six rooms and a paved patio. It dates from the 5th century BC. During its excavation, many fragments of red Attic craters with elaborate representations of Dionysian worship were uncovered. The building was built over an earlier building of the 6th century BC (Building Y).
To the east of the above buildings is Building B. It is a building of a particular plan consisting of nine rooms of different dimensions with independent entrances. Some of the rooms communicate with each other, while others can only be accessed from the outside. The building went through various building phases, from the 7th century BC to the late 6th century BC. The excavation of the building resulted in large quantities of utilitarian pottery, mainly basins and amphorae, while several large jars were found in various rooms.
In one of the rooms of the building, a Byzantine tomb of the late 4th century AD was found containing seven skeletons of dead people of various ages, decorated with vases and a gold ring.
Very close to Building B is Building H, an elongated building with six rectangular rooms, inside which storage and utilitarian vessels (amphorae, jars, basins) and several textile weights were found, indicating that the building was used for storage and as a workshop. It dates from the late Archaic period (the second half of the 6th century BC).
To the south of the above buildings, the rectangular Building P has been uncovered and is currently being excavated. Four of its rooms have been uncovered, and their state of preservation is very poor.
In the northeastern part of the peninsula, three small buildings of almost square plan, Buildings K, L, and S, have been excavated. Their position and their floor plan refer to observatories. At the end of the peninsula, in a key position for the control of passing ships from the north and the protection of the sanctuary, the foundations of a circular tower have been found.
Sculptures – Findings
Irrefutable evidence of the history of the sanctuary in Despotiko is the diverse and numerous findings that have been brought to light by archaeological excavation. These shed light on the history of such an important Cycladic center of worship, the existence of which remained unknown until recently. Their dating, their type, and their origin testify to the long-term use of the site, from the Geometric to the post-Byzantine period, provide valuable information on the worship practices and daily life in the sanctuary, and underline the central position of the sanctuary in the cult and political-economic network of the Cyclades, as well as the different origins of the delegates. Marble statues, vases, figurines, jewelry, seal stones, weapons, and tools, are all indicative of the glamour, scope, and high traffic of a hyper-local sanctuary, whose founder and administrator was the city of Paros.
Of particular interest are the marble statues found in the sanctuary, the most brilliant offerings to the god Apollo. More than 70 parts of archaic sculptures have been found (legs, thighs, shins, ankles, lower limbs with plinth, arms, shoulder blades and hands of archaic kouros), eight kouros heads, a daughter’s head, fragments of a strictly rhythmic statue of an athlete and fragments of a colossal statue, probably of a cult statue. Several marble bases of statues and votive columns have also been unearthed.
In addition to the above, a wing of a marble archaic sphinx, marble votive capitals of Archaic and Classical times and a marble inscribed relief of the 7th century BC have been found.
The Museum of Paros exhibits an upper torso of an archaic kouros and an upper torso of an archaic maid of the second half of the 6th century BC (no. 742 and 791 respectively), as well as a part of a statue of Niki of the first half of the 5th century BC (no. 183), which were found in Antiparos. It is very likely that these also come from the sanctuary of Despotiko, since no place of worship has been found in Antiparos. Finally, the Museum of Cycladic Art has a smaller-than-life-size miniature kouros head (no. 725), which is mentioned as an accidental find from Despotiko.
In no other Cycladic sanctuary, except Delos, have so many sculptures been found. All are carved from the white Parian marble – the famous lychnite – and most are excellent examples of the Parian school of sculpture that flourished in the second half of the 6th century BC. Their number and quality are irrefutable proof of the glamour, splendor and wealth of the sanctuary of Apollo.
However, many of them were destroyed very soon after their commissioning to the sanctuary and fragments of them were found embedded in the sanctuary’s auxiliary buildings. Their short lifespan and their ‘recycling’ through their reuse as building material must be linked to some destruction that occurred in the sanctuary at the end of the 6th century BC/beginning of the 5th century BC. Thus, based on archaeological and historical evidence, it is likely that when Miltiades besieged Paros in 490/489 BC – on the grounds that the Parians sided with the Persians during the Persian Wars, but with a deeper reason being the wealth of Paros and the consolidation of Athenian rule in the Aegean – he also attacked the Parian sanctuary at Despotiko, causing destruction.
The responsibility for an archaeological site does not stop at the excavation and the study of the findings. After almost 20 years of research at the site of Mantra, the primary objective – apart from the completion of the excavation of the sanctuary and the study of the findings – is the protection and promotion of the monuments and the archaeological site in general. The restoration and promotion of the temple and the restaurant, the most important, best preserved and fully documented archaeological and architectural buildings of the sanctuary, is part of this project.
In 2008, the architectural documentation of the best-preserved building complex of the archaic sanctuary, the temple and the ritual restaurant started. Its completion and publication of its findings in 2012 paved the way for the preparation of the study for the restoration of the temple and the restaurant and the enhancement of the archaeological site, which was unanimously approved by the KAS in 2014 and 2016.
The temple and the restaurant were treated as a single monumental entity. In the restoration proposal it was proposed to reintegrate a large number of surviving ancient architectural elements, which were assessed as being in a suitable state of preservation and capable of being welded and supplemented with new material, so that they could be reused in the monument. The aim was for the restored parts of the monument to form a balanced unity, a morphologically coherent and structurally adequate structural whole.
The approved study includes: Restoration of the columns of the east elevations of the two buildings, so that columns or parts of columns can be placed in their original position. Restoration of part of the colonnades, namely three columns of the restaurant on which the archaic architraves will be placed, and three columns of the church, which will have new columns (due to the poor preservation of the ancient ones) for the placement of architraves and antitheses, bands, triglyphs, metopes and cornices. Restoration of the intermediate wall between the restaurant and the temple (south pilaster), which provides considerable stability to the colonnades and serves for the placement of the epistyles. Completion of the eastern wall of the temple and the restaurant. Reconstruction and installation of three door thresholds and placing an ancient one in its original position after welding them together. Reassembly, of ancient and new parts of the door jambs. Completion of the north wall of the church, of which only one row of foundation stones survived. Completion of the remaining walls of the church and the restaurant. Conservation and completion of the surviving floors and restoration of their ancient level.
Since October 2014 to date, nine periods of restoration work have been carried out. Despite the great difficulties (uninhabited island, difficult access, lack of electricity, unstable weather conditions), thanks to the enthusiasm and expertise of the restoration team, the project is progressing rapidly and is almost complete. One of the most demanding tasks that has been carried out was the transfer from the island of Strongylo of the columns of the restaurant, which were used in the restoration of the common wall after they had been filled in with new material. In addition to the demanding manual marble work, the copying of the breakage surfaces of the ancient architectural members for the construction of new marble supplements is also carried out using the semiotic method with the help of plaster casts. Also, the ancient architectural members are scanned (scanning) by photogrammetric method for the production of 3D electronic models, from which the models of the corresponding new marble supplements are produced with the use of a robotic marble carving pantograph (CNC). The welding of these to the ancient members is completed on-site at Despotiko and is one of the most time-consuming and demanding tasks.
Apart from the restoration work, of major importance for the protection of the archaeological site is the project of its promotion and transformation into an organized and accessible site for visitors.
The special architectural set of the temple and the restaurant is an example of a peculiar Cycladic architecture of the Archaic period, the exact parallel of which has not yet been found. Its value lies not only in its archaeological and historical value, but also in its timelessness and its survival through the centuries. Thus, the restoration and the general promotion of the archaeological site have an aesthetic, protective and deeply instructive character, since their completion will make such an important and special monument accessible and readable to all, local and foreign visitors, with significant benefits for the development of the local community.
CONCLUSION: Today, almost two and a half millennia later, six years after the revelation of the sanctuary at Mantra, but also of the early Cycladic sites at Zoumbaria and Livadi, Despotiko is a declared archaeological site by the Ministry of Culture and Sports, while it is also protected by the Forestry Department due to the special Cycladic vegetation. Thus, it presents a unique advantage that most archaeological sites on the islands lack, since it is not in the immediate proximity of a modern residential nucleus and the natural and cultural environment is preserved almost intact.
It is clear that such an archaeological site must maintain its authenticity and be protected from any form of intervention that would alter its character. All the people of Despotiko envision the completion of the excavation and its publication, as well as the completion of the restoration project and the promotion of the archaeological site into a unique experience archaeological park.
Somewhere in small print or in the Sponsors-Supporters category: The excavation, conservation, restoration and enhancement work continues to this day under the auspices of the Ephorate of Cyclades Antiquities, with significant sponsorships from foundations (Aigeas AMKE, P&A Kanellopoulou Foundation, A. Leventis Foundation, I.Latsis Foundation, Alpha Bank, etc.), associations (Association “Friends of Paros”), many private individuals and the Municipality of Antiparos, whose contribution throughout the project has been crucial. The cooperation of the team with businessmen from Antiparos and Paros has also been important over the years.
Archaeologists: Ilia Daifa, Dr. Alexandra Alexandridou, Dr. Bob Sutton, Dr. Erika Angliker, Natalia Vellis, Dr. Caspar Meyer, Dr. Christy Constantakopoulou, Dr. Dimitris Paleothodoros, Konstantina Fragou, Manolis Petrakis, Dr. Isabelle Algrain, Charikleia Diamanti, Anastasios Lambrakis.
Architects: Prof. Aenne Ohnesorg, Gulielmos Orestidis, Dr. Katerina papagianni, Stell Grigoriadou, Andrew Gipe.
Engineers: Dr. Dimitris Englezos, Dr. Elena Toubakari, B.Papavasileiou
Conservators: George Karampalis, Kostas Alexiou, Vaitsa Papazikou
Geologist: Dr. Erich Draganits
Workers: Thodoris Velentzas, George Biliris/ Volunteers: Takis Efstathianos
Marble craftsmen: Christos Mplagiannos, George Palamaris, Elias Sipsas, Giannoulis Skaris, Vangelis Hatzis, Panagiotis Zestanakis, Lukas Ioannou, George Kontonikolaou, Minas Maravelias, Maros Armaos