Delos is one of the most important archaeological, religious and historical sites in Greece. The island is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and visitors flock to admire its incredible monuments and mosaics. Moreover, a very well organised archaeological museum is here, rich in very important exhibits (including collections of sculptures and ceramics, mosaics, frescoes and clay pottery).
Regarded as the birthplace of the gods Apollo and Artemis, Delos was a religious centre from 1000 BC and a trade centre from 478 BC. Nowadays, the island is uninhabited but you can go there by boat departing daily from Mykonos (6nm distance).
Delos has been inhabited since 2500 BC. First came the non-Greek Carians, then the proto-Greek Minoans, Mycenaeans and from 1100 BC Ionians. By 700 BC Delos was already a sacred Ionian centre, where Ionian Greeks from Paros, Naxos, Samos and Athens organised pan-Hellenic events. Travelling to the island was regarded as part of a sacred pilgrimage. Persian invaders respected the island’s sacredness. The first Delian League was established on Delos in 478 BC aiming at the defence of Ionian cities under Athens’ leadership. In the 3rd century BC, Delos was no longer influenced by Athens but by the northern Greek kingdom of Macedonia. In the middle of the 3rd century BC, many businessmen and bankers came to the island and transformed Apollo’s sacred island into an important trade centre.
During Roman occupation, the island became a free port and many Roman, Egyptian, Phoenician and Jewish merchants and ship owners came to live on Delos, contributing to a population of 20,000. In 88 BC, the island was destroyed by the king of Pontos, Mithridates, and completely lost its sacred identity. In the first Christian years, the island’s population declined and Delos fell into decay. Whatever was left from antiquity was pillaged in 727 AD by the Byzantine emperor Leo the Isaurian, in 769 AD by Slavs and in 821 AD by Saracens.