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Greek Islands with the Best Ancient Ruins Page 1

Almost every Greek island has some evidence of pre-historic and ancient habitation. Some ruins are quite impressive while others are less so. Some cost money to enter and to maintain. Many more are totally free and unsupervised. This page highlights the Greek islands with ancient and pre-historic ruins which are considered especially important for their ancient heritage. Some are worth making a special effort to visit while others are worth seeing only if in the neighborhood, if then. I try to cut through the hype surrounding these sites and tell you which ones are really worth visiting. Fortunately there are good sites within every Aegean Greek island group.

  • Aegina: The Temple of Aphaia (Saronic Gulf)
  • Delos: The entire island (Cyclades)
  • Crete: Knossos
  • Kos: the Asklepion (Dodecanese)
  • Rhodes: Lindos Acropolis (Dodecanese)
  • Santorini: Acrotiri, ancient Thira (Cyclades)

Aegina - Saronic Gulf: Near Athens (1hr)

aphaia aeginaOnly an hour from Piraeus, the Doric peristyle Temple of Aphaia sits about 1 km north of the the port of Ag. Marina and has been called "the most perfectly developed of the late archaic temples in European Hellas". Enjoying an excellent view of the Saronic Gulf, it is reachable by bus or half hour walk. Aegina has two ports, so if the temple is your goal make sure you disembark at Ag. Marina.

Aphaia was the Aeginetan version of the Cretan Goddess Vritomartis who, as the Great Mother, was worshipped under various names and aspects (Hecate), throughout the ancient world. For many years the temple was thought to have been dedicated to Athena which, in fact, it later was, during the Peloponnesian wars. Inscriptions to Artemis Apahia or "Artemis not dark"  have been found near by. 

Aphaia also means "the disappeared one" and although there are conflicting myths as to the identity of the perpetrator; Zeus or King Minos of Crete, all agree that she threw herself into the sea rather than face violation.

The temple as it stands today is built on the ruins of at least two previous ones. Originally it had 32 columns of which 24 still stand and was constructed of local limestone coated with a thin layer of stucco and painted.

All the columns except three were carved from solid rock. On the north side are three columns made from drums presumably to enable the construction of the interior at which point they could be erected piece meal. This temple is unique in Greece because it had an internal colonnade around the cella where the cult statue was placed. Unfortunately most of the 17 pedimental sculptures discovered in 1811 are in Munich after being purchased by Mad Prince Ludwig of Bavaria whose son Otto later became King of Greece and was eventually deposed. Ludwig's representatives, appalled at the sight of the island's peasants grinding them for the lime kiln, purchased them from the Turks. Admission charged. 9 am to dusk, 3 pm in winter.

More Greek islands with Major Ruins page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6