Despotiko Islet

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Despotiko Islet

Despotiko is a small, uninhabited island lying just 700 m southwest from Antiparos, Greece. On the island there is one of the lesser-known archaeological sites in Greece but also one of the most prominent sanctuaries of the Aegean. Since 1997, systematic archaeological excavations at the site of Mandra on the island have brought to light an extensive archaic sanctuary, founded by the polis of Paros. It is the largest Cycladic sanctuary besides that on Delos. It flourished in the 6th century BC, but evidence shows cult activity already from the 8th century BC. The god mainly worshipped in the Archaic period was Apollo and possibly his sister Artemis, but it is believed that in the Classical period, goddess Hestia was worshipped too.

Remains from all kinds of periods have been excavated, including Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman and later date. Alongside the temple, archaeologists have discovered the remains of various other buildings. A total of nineteen buildings have been excavated so far on Despotiko and Tsimintiri islands, including the temple itself, the hestiatorion, cult buildings, a semi-circular altar and the eschara of Hestia. The numerous finds feature a rich collection of various votive, jewelry, tools, weapons, marble Archaic statues and many other objects, revealing the sanctuary’s wealth. The first excavation took place in the 19th century under the supervision of archaeologist Christos Tountas, followed by archaeologist Yannos Kourayos and his team in the late 1900s. Excavations are still in progress and although the archaeological site is not officially opened to the public, it is possible to visit the island and see the ancient site from a distance. Apart from looking at the reconstructed temple, you also have the unique opportunity to see the excavations in progress. A few of the excavation findings are now exhibited in the local Archaeological Museum in Parikia, the port town of Paros.

Because of its geographical position in the center of the Cyclades, the island played an important role in the trade with mainland Greece, other places in the Mediterranean, even northern Africa, and its bay offered safe anchorage to the ships. During the 17th century, the island was used by French pirates. Betrayed by the inhabitants some of them were executed by the Ottomans and, as a retaliation, other French pirates butchered everybody on the island. Since then, Despotiko has been totally uninhabited. The island is now listed in the Nature 2000 network and is an important archaeological site in the Aegean. Once a sacred place, it is now an attraction for numerous fans of ancient Greek history. Future plans involve turning the site into an open-air museum, similar to the one of Delos.

Despotiko is a very peaceful place with many small coves with sandy beaches you can choose from. It is a perfect place to visit and spend the day with lots to see and beautiful beaches to swim. The little island can be visited from Agios Georgios (south of Antiparos) or on a cruise starting from Kastro (port of Antiparos) or Pounta (west of Paros).


Photo: Christophe Αnagno