Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 67, Naxos, Cyclades, Greece

Nopi wants us to visit Naxos, the greenest and largest of the Cycladic islands
The uniqueness of Naxos is due to its varied landscape. It is an island with imposing mountains, verdant plateaux and valleys, rivers and springs, caves and large sandy beaches backed by sand dunes and cedar trees.

As we travel to Naxos, Nopi is giving us a little mythological and historical background.....

Zeus, the highest god, was born on Crete, but grew up on Naxos. The people of Naxos used to worship him, and a temple was made to his honour at the mountain Za (Zeus).

When Zeus' mistress Semele died before giving birth to their child, Zeus took the embryo and put it in his thigh. When the baby, Dionysus, was born out of Zeus thigh on Naxos, the nymphs Philia, Coronida and Clidi brought him up on the island, which was to be Dionysus favourite island. The god made the island fertile and full of grapevines, forever blessing it.

Another myth is about Ariadne, the daughter of king Minos of Crete. She had helped Theseus kill the Minotaur, and out of fear for her father, she fled with the hero. On Naxos she fell asleep, Theseus left her and when Dionysus saw her, he made her his wife. According to another version she committed suicide by jumping off a cliff in Chora.

Naxos was a centre for the Cyclades islands from 4000 to 1100 BC. The capital has always been Naxos (Chora), but it used to be called Calliopolis ('the best city") in ancient years. The island supposedly got its current name after the first ruler: king Naxos, but it has had different names through history: Dia ("Zeus"), Stroggyli ("round") and Dionysias. It held tights bonds with Santorini and Halkida, and together they founded the colony Naxos on Sicily in 734 BC.

In 501 BC Naxos was threatened by the Persians but managed to keep them away. Eleven years later the Persians succeeded in invading the island. In 479 BC Naxos became a member of the Delian League but left it in 466BC. The island became a vassal state to Athens until the city was defeated by the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War.

Naxos was to fall under many great states; once again under the Athenians, then the Macedonians, after that the Egyptians and finally it fell under Rhodes' power. In 41 BC the island was conquered by the Romans.

When the Venetians invaded the Cyclades islands in Greece ,Naxos fought for forty days at the Byzantine castro Apalyrou, but the islanders were finally defeated and was made center for the The Aegean Duchy under the Venetian Marcus Sanudos in 1207. The duke himself made a strong fortress and the Venetian rule lasted for 300 years. In 1564 the island was invaded by the Turks, but they basically just collected taxes from then on. The Venetian Rule was to be the main rule, which can be seen in the fact that there still are quite a few Catholics on the island. In May 1821 Naxos was liberated.

The first thing we see when arriving by sea to Naxos Town is the magnificent marble gate, a megalithic 6th century BC portal of Apollo's Temple, known as Portara.

It stands on a narrow strip of land on the islet of Paltia, also called the Baths of's like a gateway to nowhere!!

Nopi says that it was to be a temple to the god Apollo, but the building was abandoned when war broke out between Naxos and Samos.

Later, Christians built a church on top of the unfinished temple.

Hey Nopi, I can see another island from here.....Aaah, its Paros...let's go there too.

btw, did you know that Naxos has a special kind of sand that is used in making sand paper, and it is exported to many countries around the world??

No comments: