Friday, 3 June 2011
Delos weaves its spells
I've managed to load some of the pictures from Delos. The first one is of the hilltop sanctuary to Zeus, on Mount Cynthia. This is where Leto gave birth Apollo and was the reason for many early pilgrimages by the Naxians to Delos.
But let's go back in time - it's a complex plot.
Delos started out as Adelos which was an invisible island floating in the sea.
It was made by King of the gods Zeus when he amorously pursued Titan goddess of the night Asteria. She escaped his advances by turning into a bird and diving towards the sea. But Zeus was angry and turned her into the rock that became the invisible island.
Unabashed, Zeus then turned his attention to Asteria's sister Leto, who he made pregnant. This somewhat annoyed his wife Hera who cast a spell to stop Leto from giving birth anywhere in the world under the sun.
Leto's labour lasted nine months, whilst Zeus sought a solution so that Leto could give birth. He asked his brother Poseidon, god of the sea, to help and Poseidon took the invisible rock of Adelos (not of this earth or under the sun) and made it stable with four columns of diamond chains. He renamed it, removing the 'A' which is like removing the 'in' in invisible and so the rock became anchored and visible as Delos.
Leto was grateful and immediately pledged to the island that in return for safe birth she would help the inevitably barren island become the richest part of the realm.
Leto found a safe spot to give unaided birth (Hera's spell also prevented Eileithuia - goddess of midwifery from visiting) and the goddess Artemis was born, in the area now known as the Sacred Lake.
A single palm tree marked the spot. Nine days later, the newly born Artemis helped Leto give birth to her twin brother Apollo.
Apollo was the god of light and that's another of the powers of Delos. It’s in the sunniest part of Greece and has a light quality all of its own. It became a place of pilgrimage, a place of sport and celebrations and a great trading power of many civilisations through to Roman times.
And to illustrate, further down the hill can be spotted the remains of the much later Roman temple to Isis - an Egyptian goddess.
Isis was the goddess of motherhood but also knew the secret names of gods, giving her great magic protection powers, which was significant in the eventual downfall of Delos.
Despite its great economic power, Delos defended itself with mysticism and magic, rather than conventional fortifications. This made it a pushover when Mithridates, a duplicitous enemy of the Romans looted and destroyed the whole island in 88 BC.
Also take a look at the picture below. It’s of a small part of the island close to the harbour. See the columns rising from what was once a huge and bustling metropolis.There's the remains of a massive sanctuary (forum) area for multiple generations of gods, a complete multi-storied town, a theatre, a huge hippodrome and a huge gymnasium for games of Olympian stature.
Greek mythology and a civilization rise and fall over a 9000 year period, and all occurring before the modern western calendar even started.