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Αncient Kamiros

The archaeological site of the ancient city of Kamiros, is situated at the Northwestern coast of the island, at a distance of 43 kilometers Southwestern to the town of Rhodes and one kilometer far from the coastal road and the coast of the cape of Aghios Minas, which in antiquity was called Mylantion cape. The site is found upon a hill, at the foot of mountain Akramytis.

In prehistoric times the place was a ritual place of the deities called Mylantioi, who according to tradition had taught people how to grind the wheat to make flour and how to make bread. Excavations at Kalavarda, a site some 3 kilometers eastern to Kameiros, have brought to light cemeteries of the Mycenaean period.

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Several finds dated back to the Geometric times have been found at the acropolis of the site and evidence that a temple dedicated to Athena (Minerva) was built here by the Dorian dominants of the island. Unfortunately, several successive earthquakes had destroyed most the monuments. The strong earthquake of 226 b.C. resulted in the total collapse of the city of the Classical period and the temple of Athena Kameiras. After the earthquake the city was rebuilt on three levels, according to the Hippodamian system. At the top of the hill is situated the Acropolis with the Temple of Athena and the Stoa. The settlement had been built on the second terrace, whereas at the lower level there were found the Hellenistic temple, the Doric Fountain-house, the Agora and the Peribolos of the Altars. A great number of votive offerings, as stelai and plinths with statues of gods and heroes embellished the site, which was destroyed anew by an earthquake in 142 b.C.

The earlier excavations of the site go back to the mid 19th century and were carried out by the Italian archaeologists Biliotti and Salzmann (1852-1864). More systematic surveys were carried out in 1928 during the Italian domination of the island, by the Italian Archaeological School who also carried out extensive restoration work of the monuments of the site. The excavation works continued during the whole period of the Italian domination, until 1943.

The most important monuments of ancient Kameiros are the following:

The acropolis at the top of the hill and the temple of Athena Kameiras. The temple, in Doric style was tetrastyle peripteral with porticos on all four sides and surrounded by a peribolos. It had been built on the ruins of the previous Classical temple which was destroyed by the earthquake of 226 BC. Only its foundation has been preserved.

The big cistern for drinking water. It is a rectangular construction lined with plaster, in order to be waterproof. Two openings at the bottom, connected with terra-cotta pipes, served to carry the water to the city. The openings were covered with big stone covers. The cistern had a capacity of more than 600 cubic meters of water, a quantity quite sufficient to cover the needs in water of 300 to 400 families. The construction was covered, and steps at the sides had been previewed for easy access to it, in order to clean it. According to archaeologists the construction was made in the 6th- 5th century b.C. After the earthquake of 226 b.C., during the Hellenistic period, the cistern had been put out of use and replaced by a “stoa” (arcade), where it was incorporated the water supply system of the city.

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The arcade (Stoa) of the Hellenistic times consisted of two rows of Doric columns and shops or lodgings for the worshippers. The columns of the façade, dated in the 3rd -2nd century b.C., supported an architrave with metopes, triglyphs and a cornice. Under the floor of the arcade there was established an extended water supply system, well enough preserved up to now. The water supply system was comprised by wells, providing water to subterranean water proof tanks. The water was brought to the settlement in terra-cotta pipes connected with the tanks.

A four-sided Hellenistic altar, well preserved, is found at the front part of the Doric arcade.

The Hellenistic and Roman city is located at the second (middle) terrace, below the acropolis. The settlement was built according to the Hippodamian system with a grid of parallel streets and residential blocks of the same size, called insulae. The characteristic feature of the houses, whose foundations and a part of the walls has been preserved up to now, is the “atrium”, the interior courtyard surrounded by columns, with one side usually higher than the others; it is the so-called Rhodian peristyle. The houses were decorated with mosaic floors and façades with architraves and painted decoration on plaster. There were also remains of public baths, with separate hot and cold rooms and “hypocausts”, installations beneath the floor which served to heat the rooms.

At the third, lower, level of the site there is a distyle temple with two columns in antis at the front and three rooms: pronaos, nave and opisthodomos. The temple is made of porous stone and the base of the cult statue is still preserved within the nave. It is suggested that the temple was probably dedicated to Pythian Apollo. Behind the base of the statue a pit dug into the floor served as the treasury where there was kept the money of the temple.

There is also an Ionian style small temple, made of porous stone with plaster on the walls. The temple housed votive offerings .

Fountain house. It is a building with a façade made of porous stone Doric half-columns lined with plaster and supporting the entablature. The spaces between the columns are closed by panels. During the 4th century b.C. the water was drawn from an open tank in the interior of the construction. Later on, during the 3rd century the tank was replaced by a well. At this period of time, the names of the eponymous priests of Kameiros, the “damiourgoi” were carved on the columns. The remains of an arcade are still visible at the back part of the fountain, whereas a retaining wall on three sides had been constructed in order to retain the earth fill of the upper terrace.

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The Agora of the city is a quadrangle open square in front of the fountain house. The place was used as a gathering place of the citizens in the ritual ceremonies and initially it had three steps on the southern and eastern sides. Later on, walls were constructed at the northern and western sides, with entrance doors for access of the people. The northern wall was decorated with half-columns, while the quadrangle structure found at the southeastern corner, was probably a votive offering. The inscribed pedestals seen at the steps of the eastern sides are later reconstructions made by the Italians. Several votive offerings decorate the western side. The most important among them is the offering of Panaitios, with the inscription ΘΕΟΙΣ ΠΑΣΙ (“ to all gods”). Behind the northern entrance of the Agora one can see two half-finished inscribed votive offerings; one of them probably presented a bull.

The Peribolos of the Altars is found at the northeastern side of the third (lowest) level and is extended along the wall that retains the earth fill supporting the upper terrace. It is consisted of inscribed altars erected on two levels. The altars are dedicated to various deities as Agathos Daemon (“the good demon”), Artemis (Diana), Zeus and Poseidon (Neptunus). At the lower of these two levels there is a well preserved big oblong altar dedicated to the god Helios (“sun”).

In front of the Peribolos of the Altars there is a semicircular dais, which had a votive offering, not preserved today. A monumental staircase had been constructed between the Agora and the Peribolos of the Altars to lead the people to the settlement at the second level.

Access to the site is possible by rented or private car and motorbikes.
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