Ancient Thera, the Classical city
of the island is located on Mesa Vouno, 396 m. above sea level. It was
founded in the 9th century B.C. by Dorian colonists whose leader was
Theras, and continued to be inhabited until the early Byzantine period.
The preserved ruins belong to the Hellenistic and Roman phases of the
city. The residential area and the larger part of the cemeteries were
excavated by German archaeologists between 1895 and 1902. The
cemeteries on the NE and NW slopes of Sellada were excavated by N.
Zapheiropoulos in the years 1961-1982.
The most important monuments of the site are:
The Sanctuary of Artemidoros, entirely hewn in the rock, was
founded by Artemidoros of Perge. Engraved on the face of the rock are
epigrams and inscriptions, as well as the symbols of the gods
worshipped: an eagle for Zeus, a lion for Apollo, a dolphin for
Poseidon. Also engraved is the portrait of the wreathed Artemidoros,
the founder of the sanctuary. The whole structure is dated to the end
of the 4th or the beginning of the 3rd century B.C.
The Agora lies almost at the centre of the city. Its southern
part was actually the commercial centre and the middle one was the
administrative centre. The northern part was added in the Roman period
and included a portico, monuments and temple-like buildings, erected in
honor of distinguished persons.
The Royal Stoa (46 x 10 m.) was built in the time of Augustus
(1st century A.D.), in the SW part of the Agora. The main entrance is
on the east side, towards the Agora and the roof was supported by an
interior Doric colonnade along the axis of the building. Statues of
members of the Ceasar's family were erected in the north part. Two
inscribed slabs built in the west wall, record that the portico was
repaired in A.D. 149 by Kleitosthenes, a rich Theran.
Temple of Dionysos. Small, Doric temple with a small cella and
pronaos, built on an artificial terrace to the north of the Agora. The
facade and roof were made of marble while the rest of the building was
of local stone. Dated to the 3rd century B.C. (Hellenistic period).
Sanctuaries at the SE edge of the city. The area is occupied
exclusively by sanctuaries, open-air or roofed (such as the sanctuary
of Apollo Karneios, of Hermes and Heracles, of Ptolemy III etc.) and
the square, where the Gymnopaediae (dances of nude boys) were held in
honor of Apollo Karneios. Engraved on the rocks are numerous
inscriptions dating from the Archaic to the Roman period, referring to
deities and youths.
The Sanctuary of Apollo Karneios, dated to the 6th century B.C., is partially hewn from the rock and partially built on an artificial terrace. It includes:
a. the temple with pronaos and cella
b. a square courtyard with an underground cistern, the roof of which was supported by six large monolithic pillars and
c. a small building, probably a repository.
Gymnasium of the youths. It lies at the south edge of the city
and dates from the 2nd century A.D. A small cave, partially hewn from
the rock, was dedicated to Hermes and Heracles.
Cemeteries of Ancient Thera. They are located on the slopes of
the Sellada, on either side of the roads that led to the north and
south harbours of the ancient city, the modern villages of Kamari and
Perissa, respectively. The graves uncovered span the long period
between the Geometric and Roman times.
The Theatre lies to the SE of the Agora. It was constructed in
the Ptolemaic period (3rd century B.C.) and in its original form had a
circular orchestra. During alterations in the 1st century A.D., the
stage was extended and took over part of the original orchestra.