Kos is the third largest island of Dodecanese after Rhodes and Karpathos. In ancient times the many travelers who visited the island expressed their view in a lyrical way, calling the island "Kos sweet, privileged, full of water" (poet Irondas, 3rd century BC). The island was first inhabited around 2300 - 2000 BC. Archaeological findings indicate the vivid presence of Minoan and Mycenaean civilization. Kos, as the Iliad tells us, sent thirty triremes to the Trojan War (1184 BC) in cooperation with Nisyros, Karpathos, Kasos and Kalymnos, with Fidippos and Antifos are leaders. The third emigration wave of Dorians to Kos in 7th century will create a dorian exapolis, a strong political and religious coalition of six cities that included Knidos, Alikarnassos in Asia Minor, Ialisos, Kameiros and Lindos in Rhodes, and finally Kos with the islands Kalymnos and Nisyros. At the end of 6th century Kos was conquered by the Persians. The historical climax of Kos was prepared in 5th century and reached an apogee in 4th century BC. There was then rich cultural production with excellent poets (Epiharmos, Irondas, Theokritos) artists and athletes well-known all over Greece. This cultural growth continued when the island was ruled by the state of Antigonos. Kos supported Philip 5th in his fights against the Romans, it suffered raids by Mithridatis and in 82 BC it was a Roman province. In the Byzantine period Kos was part of Kivyraiotes Thema. The island had the same fate with the other islands in the Aegean Sea and suffered from pirates' raids. The biggest damage, however, would come by the successive earthquakes, the most destructive of which took place in 553 AD. Following 1204 and till 1261 the island was under the rule of Venice and particularly Leontas Gavalas. After 1261 the island joined Nikaia Empire. The Knights' rule was accompanied by hectic efforts to protect the island with fortresses at Pyli, Kefalos and Antimahia. In 1312 AD the pirates of Catalonia looted Kos for three years. Led by Foulques de Vilaret, the Knights threw out the pirates and ruled the island for 218 years. On 3rd June 1457 AD, 18.000 Turks on 156 boats armed with the latest equipment of that time and led by admiral Hamza, invaded the island but they were finally repulsed. In December 1522 Lango - as the Knights called Kos - fell to the Turks. Sultan Suleiman called the island Stankioi. Kos, together with the other islands of Dodecanese stayed under the rule of the Turks till 1912. The Italian rule ended in 1947 when Kos joined Greece.
HISTORICAL LANDMARKS & MONUMENTS
The town of Kos might be likened to an open archaeological museum, with the architectural and artistic achievements of the island's eventful history displayed in their natural setting. The remains of the ancient city of Kos were uncovered by the earthquake of 1933, when the more recent buildings collapsed.
Ancient wall (Kos-4th century BC): Built of hewn stones - some narrow, some wider - to a thickness of 6-8 metres. The two arms of the wall stretch as far as the harbour mouth and continue to the east as far as the modern Administrative Building, while to the west they cover the slopes of the ancient agora as far as the Archaeological Museum.
Mediaeval city (Hora): The walls of the mediaeval city of the Knights were built in the 15th century in the area from Akti Miaouli and Kountourioti to Eleftherias Square and Hippocratous Avenue, which at the time was a trench that supplemented the city's defences and was known as the Handakas. Among the most characteristic features of the wall are the so-called ¡Pyli tou Forou', which is to be seen in the central square of the modern town. The only secular building to have survived from the time of the Knights is the official residence of the governor, Fr. Sans, which has now been restored and houses the archaeological library.
Kastro Nerantzias, or Castle of the Knights (Kos, entrance to harbour - 14th century): The main mediaeval monument on the island is oblong and it is a classic example of the imposing defensive architecture of that period. At the entrance stands the coat of arms of the Grand Master D' Amboise and an ancient sculpture with theater masks. It was built by the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, who occupied the island in 1314, on the remains of an older castle, and has a double wall and moat and encloses a number of older structures and defences (second half of 15th century). There are numerous architectural fragments, which have been moved in the interior, many of them from the Asclepeio, the sanctuary of Asclepius. Until the beginning of the 20th century the area where the castle stands was an island. The Castle Bridge now links it to the town and the famous Plane Tree of Hippocrates.
Plane Tree of Hippocrates (Kos): One of the island's most famous sights, the tree stands in the central square formed by the Lotzia mosque (18th century), the Roman agora and the Italian courthouse. The tree is twelve metres in circumference, and is said to have been planted by Hippocrates, who held his lessons in the shade of its leaves.
Ottoman fountain (Kos - next to the plane tree - 1792): Built by the Turkish governor of the island, Gazi Hassan, its water runs through an ancient sarcophagus.
Defterdar Mosque (Kos, central square): Built by the Turkish governor, Gazi Hassan, the mosque is a model of harmonious proportions and elegance.
: Built on a trapezoid embankment, it measures 12.5 x 9m and once housed a statue of Hercules. Two mosaics were found here, one representing a fish and the other Orpheus, surrounded by animals and to the side Hercules at a banquet.
Stoa (4th or 3rd century BC): A stoa of medium size with 5 restored columns and 5 communicating rooms abutting on the ancient walls. It was here that the burned statue of Marsyas was found, which probably sustained serious damage in the earthquake of 469 AD.
Early Christian basilica (4th or 5th century AD): Large basilica (72 × 23.50m) built on the remains of the ancient stoa. It was divided into two parts, the pronaos and the main basilica, with a floor laid with multi-coloured marble. In the external area there was a cruciform font, and there are remains of a stairway, which led to the narthex of the church, a typical feature of early Christian basilicas.
Sanctuary of Aphrodite Pandimos: With white marble columns in the Corinthian order.
Ancient Agora (Kos, western section of excavation area): The remains of the agora extend beyond Ippokratous Avenue, covering an area 152m in length and 82m in width. It was here that the economic heart of ancient Kos once beat, with its roads, shops, workshops and shrines - all the elements of the typical ancient agora. Among the remains of the agora the Church of Aghios Konstantinos and other churches were erected.
Mycenean finds (Kos, close to Ag. Panteleimona): Remains dating from the Mycenean era.
Funerary monument (Kos, close to Ag. Panteleimona): A grave dating from the geometrical period.
Ancient roads (Kos, close to Ag. Panteleimona): Two ancient roads were uncovered here, one small and one larger. They were named Cardo and Decumana - part of the attempt to give the town a more Italian profile.
Xysto: A Hellenistic gymnasium, it takes its name from the scraper used by the athletes to remove the oil from their bodies after a contest. The gymnasium's stadium covered an area of one hectare. It was originally covered, and 17 of the estimated 81 original columns have survived. To the west of the colonnade a pool for swimming was built in Roman times.
Thermes (Baths) (Kos, close to the Xysto): A Roman edifice, that was destroyed in the earthquake of 469 AD. The core of the structure was a large chamber where, in the surviving vaulted part, a mosaic in excellent condition was found, 7m x 6.5m.
Early Christian basilica (Kos, Thermes): Occupies a large part of the Thermes site. Of the architectural and decorative features of the church the sanctuary has survived, along with the restored marble entrance with its decorative cross, the cruciform font and the synthronon.
Room with mosaics (Kos, close to Thermes): Adjoining a structure dating from the 3rd or 4th century AD lie the remains of a large chamber where archaeologists uncovered one of the largest and most important mosaics of the 2nd century AD, with comic scenes of battles between men and wild pigs, bears and bulls. Other scenes and figures include the Judgment of Paris, Apollo and the Muses.
Nymphaion (Kos, opposite Thermes - 3rd century AD): This was in fact a public urinal, which took the name Nymphaion because scholars were misled by its beauty and assumed it was a shrine to the Nymphs. In its centre there stood a courtyard with mosaics and a well in the centre. Around the courtyard, on three of the four sides, are 11 columns, while on the fourth side there are conches in which statues must once have stood.
House of the Abduction of Europe: This is a house built on the remains of an earlier building, dating from 142 AD. In one of its rooms a mosaic was found (3x3.2m) depicting the naked nymph Europe carried across the waves, hanging from the horns of Zeus in the guise of a bull. The well-preserved rooms of the house contain other mosaics, column plinths, and superbly designed drainage facilities.
Ancient Odeon (Kos, Grigorios V Avenue): This was uncovered in 1929 by an Italian archaeologist. It has nine marble tiers of seats, for important spectators, divided by a landing area from the higher tiers. At each end of the tiers there are eighteen steps for spectators to move up and down, while the lower area rested on vaulted chambers where ancient statues were found, including one of Hippocrates. The Odeon has survived in quite good condition and is used to stage cultural events.
CASA ROMANA (3rd century AD): A Roman dwelling resembling houses of the same kind in Pompeii. Its interior consists of three atria, each with a decorative cistern in the centre. The first atrium had two rooms with mosaics. The second consists of a room lined with marble, probably used as a dining room, and a mosaic. In the third room mosaics have also survived, together with Corinthian and Ionic columns on the four sides forming a stoa of the kind typical of Rhodes.
Harbour baths (Kos, junction of Omirou and Irodotou Streets): At the location known as Bouzoukton (¡the place of destruction') are the circular baths or harbour baths, as well as sections of the ancient walls.
Thermes (Baths) (Kos, junction of Kolokotroni and 31 Martiou Streets - 4th or 3rd century BC): With many mosaics and a host of ancient inscriptions, the most important of them mentioning the rules of the cult of Hermes Enagonios.
Ancient Stadium (Kos, junction of 31 Martiou and M. Alexandrou Streets): 600x40 feet in size, the stadium has the remains of the columns which formed the afesis of the stadium, the point where races commenced.
Asclepeio (3.5km SW of Kos, vicinity of Panayia Tarsou): This is the sanctuary where Hippocrates put into practice, systematically, the science of medicine. Mycenean and Geometrical finds indicate the site was in use from an early period; the finds were protected for centuries under tons of mud. The search for the site, using archaeological indications and local stories, began in the late 19th century; the sanctuary was finally discovered in the early 20th century by the German archaeologist Herzog, using valuable information from the local historian Zarraftis. Apart from the purely archaeological evidence, such as the architectural fragments found lying in the vicinity, it was also the proximity of the springs, which would have supplied the sanctuary in ancient times with the necessary water, which led to the identification of the site and the carrying out of excavations. The most concentrated excavation and radical interventions to the site were made by Italian archaeologists, who are largely responsible for the way it appears today.
The Asclepeio flourished in Hellenistic and Roman times as a place of relaxation and therapy. The physicians were also priests in the cult of Asclepius. By the 2nd century BC the fame of the shrine and the medical school founded there by Hippcrates had spread all across Greece. It became a protected sanctuary and the home of the Great Asclepeia - a festival of musical and athletic contests). To cope with the growing number of visitors the sanctuary had to be expanded, with the great temple being constructed on the third terrace and the altar being reconstructed in imitation of the altar of Zeus at Pergamon. It was a perfect site for the mental and spiritual recovery of the patients, built on the slopes of a low hill with a marvelous view of the Asia Minor coastline.
The most important monuments at the site are as follows:
Sanctuary of Asclepius: The sanctuary is laid out on a number of terraces; from the first a stairway of 24 steps leads the visitor upwards. All around, except on the southern side, there are stoas, probably rooms for the patients. There would have been fountains here, too, with the healing waters from the nearby springs; one of them has survived to the present day. On the southern side there were steps, and next to them there is still an inscription referring to Xenophon, a famous physician of Kos in antiquity and a personal friend and attendant of the Emperor Nero. To the left there were conches, where statues probably stood. It is on this level that archaeologists believe there stood the statue of the goddess Aphrodite, sculpted by Praxiteles, within the temple erected in her honour.
Roman building: The eastern area is dominated by a large building from the Roman period, probably the home of a Roman governor. In its remains baths have been found dating from the 3rd century AD, with traces of wall paintings and mosaic floors.
Altar of Apollo Kyparissios or of Asclepius (4th century BC): The oldest building on the site stands on the second terrace, to which the visitor ascends by a series of 30 steps. The sculptural decoration, of which almost nothing has survived, is believed to have been the work of the sons of Praxiteles.
Ionic Temple of Asclepius (3rd century BC): The two-column portico with its two restored columns (a portico of two columns on the façade, set between pilasters at each end) delights the visitor with the harmony of its proportions. The plinth of a cult statue has survived, and a recessed area in the floor of the nave where the temple treasure must have been kept.
Corinthian Temple of Apollo: To the east of the second terrace, with eight restored columns, dating from the age of the Antonines.
Semi-circular exedra: At a short distance from the Corinthian temple, it was probably a meeting hall for the priests-physicians.
Remains of dwellings: At a short distance from the Corinthian Temple of Apollo.
Doric Temple of Asclepius (2nd century BC): In its original form it was a large temple in the Doric order (dimensions 34x18m.).
Hellenistic stoa: Around the temple and covering an area of 100x80m there are traces of a Hellenistic stoa around the three sides, with rooms. On the eastern side of the stoa an engraved slab was found with the letters I.C.X.P. The temple must, then, have later been converted into a Christian church. The area within and around the stoa must have been crowded with superb statues and valuable votive offerings.
Other important buildings in the sanctuary are the urinals, the little Temple of Xenophon (1st century AD) and the Church of Panayia Tarsou, which was built in mediaeval times on the peripteral temple of Apollo, erected in the Roman period. All that remains of the latter is an early Christian capital which was used as the communion table.
The important monuments to be found elsewhere on the island include:
Cyclopean buildings (Palaioskala and Aghios Phokas), which confirm Pelasgian habitation of the island.
Funerary monument (Pyli): Remains of the tomb of Harmylus, king of the island in ancient times.
Alassarna (Kardamaina): Remains of an ancient settlement, where a Temple of Apollo was found, as well as an ancient theatre and early Christian basilicas.
Knights' castle (Antimacheia): Built by the Knights of Rhodes this was a target of pirate raids and also served as a prison. Within the castle there are two chapels and in the internal gateway the coat of arms of the Grand Master Pierre d'Aubusson.
Church of Aghios Ioannis Prodromos, or the seven sanctuaries (Kos, 100m right of the Odeon): Derives its name from the fact that the interior has five conches and two recesses which resemble small sanctuaries. There was once an early Christian baptistery and it is now used as the church for the Orthodox cemetery.
Catholic Church of Agnus Dei (Kos town, next to the Orthodox cemetery): Built during the period of Italian administration, it now serves the religious needs of the island's Catholics.
A small, polygonal church with abstract forms, austere decoration and a gothic gateway of white porous stone decorated with crusader-style crosses. There are graves of Italian soldiers in the courtyard.
Early Christian Kos was adorned with a host of basilicas, which attest to the religious fervour of the people, their economic development and the growth in the island population. Most of the churches were built on the site of ancient temples or cult locations of ancient times and made use of earlier building materials and architectural elements; some of them have skillfully executed mosaics. There are 25 early Christian churches on the island, as well as others from the Byzantine period and more recent times. For example, there are the two basilicas in the western archaeological site of the ancient agora, the basilica of Aghios Ioannis, the churches of Aghios Nikitas o Ftochos, Aghia Aikaterini, Panayia Syntriani and Panayia Ta Tsoukalaria, the Basilica of the Port, the Basilica of Aghios Gavriil at Psalidi, of Aghios Pavlos at Zipari and Koimisi tis Theotokou. At Kardamaina, Kefalos and Mastichari there were settlements around the basilicas, engaging in important trading activity, but they were laid waste in the Arab raids of 654-655 led by Ábu L' Awar.
Palaio Pyli: On the slopes of the hill there are four churches, the main one being the Church of Panayia ton Kastrianon.
Aghia Varvara (Mastichari): The remains of an early Christian basilica with a large sanctuary apse and beautiful mosaics.
Early Christian basilica (vicinity of Kamari, south-west of Mastichari - 5th century): basilica with Ionic columns and mosaics.
Church of Panayia Palatiani (Kefalos, vicinity of Palatia): Single-aisle church with pitched roof, now collapsed, built almost entirely of architectural fragments from earlier buildings; panoramic view of sea. 50m away on a natural elevation stands the modern Chapel of the Panayia.
Monastery of Aghios Ioannis Thymianos (11km from the shore at Kefalos): In a verdant mountain location with a beautiful view. Local people refer to it as Yenni.
Church of Panayia Styloti (Kefalos): In the broader region of Kefalos.
Church of Aghios Stephanos (Kefalos, on the shore, opposite the island of the same name): Three-aisled early Christian church with a synthronon, mosaic decoration, annexes, diaconicon and traces of a baptistery. The church must have sustained very severe damage in the earthquake of the 6th century.
Other important Byzantine ecclesiastical monuments in Zia are the Church of Aghios Georgios, with its superb wall paintings (13th-14th century), the Church of Zoodochos Pigi in Monagri, also with wall paintings (12th-13th century) and the parish church or Monastery of Spondon, probably built in the 11th century, which has undergone numerous modifications over the years.
MUSEUMS, EXHIBITIONS, LIBRARIES
Archaeological Museum (Kos, Eleftheria Square): It is a building from the Italian period. It includes a mosaic that depicts the reception of Asklipios by a Koan and Hippocrates (2nd or 3rd century BC). There are also statues, reliefs, and tomb columns, most of them from the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Characteristic exhibits are an athlete's statue with the wreath of victory in his hands, the statue of Dimitra, the headless small statue of Asklipios, the relief showing Hercules chasing Stymphalides Birds, and the statue of Health offering an egg to a snake while on her feet sits Eros-Hypnos [sleep] (2nd century BC).
Hippocratic Library (Kos, Eleftheria Square): With rare books and valuable archives of the island's and Dodecanese later History.
Hippocratic Institute (close to Asklipieio): A 239.000 square meter building designed by the architect PapAghiannis and includes conference and lecture halls, workshops, libraries, accommodation rooms, restaurants, offices etc. In 1955 the scientists Skevos Zervos from Kalymnos, Manos Karzis and Spiros Oikonomou conceive and plan the idea of constructing such a building. The following year Professor Oikonomou, a strong supporter of the establishment of an international Hippocratic Institute on Kos, brought the participants of Urologic Conference to give an oath at the Hippocrates plane. In 1957 in the conference of Neo-Hippocratic School the establishment of the Institute was officially announced.
Traditional house - Folklore Museum (Antimacheia - first half of 20th century): The traditional house of Antimacheia includes the tavlao, where the guests sat, ahirona (barn) where the tools were kept, the furnario with the loom, while in the yard there was stamnostatis for stamna - the pottery water jug - and agomas (hencoop). Behind the house there is the hirovoua (a small room for the pigs).
Papa's Mill (Antimacheia, close to the Folklore Museum): It is still operating and is visited by many guests.
Kos: The Italians' vision for Dodecanese materialized almost perfectly in Kos. The international style and imagination as well as the power of synthesis constructed buildings along the seaside road of Kos that are characterized by variety in form, decorations and commanding presence. Eparhio [Province Hall], the Court, the Police Station are accommodated in the Administration Building (end of Palm Trees avenue), the City Hall, the Customs Building, the Tourist Police and Harbor Authorities building. In an international style building built during the Italian rule, in the central square of the city, Eleftherias Square, are accommodated, apart from the Archaeological Museum, the famous café "Aegli", the cinema "Orpheus" and the Hippocratic Library.
On Dikaios Mountain there are the villages Asomatos, Evagelistria, Lagoudi, Zia (with only few inhabitants), Agios Dimitrios - Haihoutes and Old Pili (deserted). Most inhabitants have moved to Zipari that is the capital of today's Municipality and together with Pili are still growing both in population and financially. Excellent tourist resorts, they combine traditional architecture and good tourist infrastructure in a natural environment similar to the one of central Greece: Slated roads, chestnut trees, oaks and pines, water mills still operating (as the one at Orino Asfendiou), churches with deep historical background (such as Agioi Asomatoi) a cultural inheritance that indicates frugality and economy.
Old Pili: It has been called the "small Mystras of Dodecanese". It is a natural fortress on a steep hill with an important defense position that overlooks and monitors a large part of the island's northern side. On the top of the hill a knight castle is built and on the slopes there are four chapels with ruins of houses and public buildings.
Traditional architecture: traditional houses were made of stone and mud and looked to the southeast. The doors and windows were framed with "mantemata", hacked stones cut in the same height and width. The roofs were made of "meskies" wooden beams and canes. For insulation and waterproofing people put algae and "porselana" that is sand from volcanic rock on top of the canes, and "patelia" (argyle) on top of it. On the roof there was also the "fanohtis", the chimney.
Kefalos: Tradition says that is was the birthplace of Hippocrates and the older capital of Kos. A vivid village with Daedal planning and characteristic dialect. There are also some windmills.
The main religious festivals in Kos are: The big festival of Panayia at kardamaina (8/9), the festival of Aghios Georgios at Pili, the festival of Zoodohos Pigi (16/4) and Aghios Georgios Mavrokampias (23/4) and Holy Ascension of Christ at Asfendiou, the festivals of Aghios Panteleimonas (27/7) and of Aghios Nikolaos (6/12) at Pili.
At Antimacheia, the tradition of folk poets, verse men, musicians, singers and dancers is still alive.
Kos produces delicious meat, very good dairy products (possa -krasotiri cheeses) and is famous for baklava, tomato preserve, the famous wine and homemade kanellada. Kardamaina is well known for its ceramics.
Hippokrates Festival (July - August): Cultural events that are held each summer under the aegis of Kos Cultural Center and include concerts, theater plays as well as painting and photography exhibitions. The Festival was first organized in 1987 and both Greeks and artists from abroad can participate. In the exquisite natural and archaeological surroundings of Asklipiio, the Hippocratic Oath is read in ancient Greek.
Dikaia (July, August): A festival organized by the Municipality of Dikaio and includes concerts, theater plays as well as traditional dances, presentations of new editions, events for children and sports events.
Herakleia (July, August): A festival organized by the Municipality of Heraklidon with similar concept and content.
In the summer various events are held that promote local products: Fish festival (Kardamaina), Ouzo festival (Kefalos), Wine festival (Mastihari) and Honey festival (Antimacheia in August).
In October, the festival "hirosfagia" is organized at Pili.
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