History In ancient times, «Melos» prospered because of its great mineral wealth. It has been inhabited since the Neolithic age (7000 B.C.) and developed more rapidly than the neighbouring islands because of the black glass- like volcanic rock called obsidian which was used by the «Melians» to make tools and weapons. Since obsidian from Melos has also been located in the Peloponnese, Crete, Cyprus and even in Egypt, it is believed that there was a flourishing export trade too. From the beginning of the bronze age, (2800 - 1100 B.C.), the island played an extremely important part in the Cycladic world, centred at the ancient city of Philakopi, which in fact gave its name to an entire archaeological period. With the coming of the hellenic peoples, the Dorians settled in Melos around 1000 B.C. During the same period, a new settlement was being built in the area of modern Klima. This new town developed rapidly particularly in the field of art and craft. The so called «Melian Vases» of that period are greatly renowned. Very little is known of Melos before the 5th century B.C. It is known however, that the Melians refused to surrender to the Persians and fought with the rest of the Greeks at the battles of Salamis and Plataea. In their attempt to remain neutral during the Peloponnesian war, they were punished by the Athenians who, in 415 B.C. put all the old people to death and sold the young men, women and children into slavery. The history of the island, throughout the following centuries, was similar to that of the rest of the Cyclades Islands. Until 311 B.C., Melos was ruled by Macedonia and then by Egypt. The powerful fleet of the Ptolemaids ensured the freedom and safety of the seas. As a result, the island of Melos saw a phase of renewed economic growth which was also reflected culturally. Examples of this creative era are the famous statue of Venus, (at the Louvre Museum in Paris), and the imposing 2.50 metre tall statue of Poseidon (displayed in the National Museum in Athens). During the Roman Conquest, a number of new buildings were constructed (Ancient Theatre), and Christianity made its appearance, probably during the 1st century. The Catacombs of the island, the most extensive in Greece and among the most significant in the whole Roman Empire, are undeniable proof of this. The most important event in the Byzantine era was the destruction of the Ancient City at Klima (5th - 6th century), possibly as a result of an earthquake. Finally, during the Venetian and Turkish rule and during the german occupation, the inhabitants fought relentlessly for their freedom.
Statue of Venus On 8th April 1820, a day for which Milos was to become better known to the world, an inhabitant of Plaka, George Kentrotas, was digging in his field, in the area of the Ancient City. After a while, he uncovered a «small cave» which was later found to be part of the platform of the ancient stadium. Inside was half the statue of Aphrodite (Venus). By chance, nearby, was the French officer Olivier Voutier with two sailors, who were visiting Milos for a few days on their ship Estafette. They were amazed at this find and they persuaded Kentrotas to search for the other half of the statue. This he did and after a short while, he came across two «Hermes» statues, one of Hermes as a youth and another of Hercules as an old man. With these was the other half of the Aphrodite. Voutier, immediately realising the artistic value of the statue, made a sketch of it and advised both his commanding officer and Louis Brest, the French vice consul for Milos, to arrange for its purchase. Hence an initial agreement with Kentrotas was made.Meanwhile, the French consul in Constantinople was informed in a letter from Brest, and he received enthusiastic messages from Dumont d’ Ourville who had seen the statue on 19th April, and from Voutier who described it in the most favourable terms. As a result of all this information, the Consul decided to acquire the magnificent statue and so he sent the third secretary of the consulate, the Count de Marcellus, to Milos to negotiate the purchase. This he did, but not without some considerable complications. The reason was that Kentrotas, under pressure from the elder of the island, had sold it to a certain papa-Makarios Vergis, acting on behalf of the dragoman (guide and translator) of the Turkish fleet, the Prince of Moldavia, Nicholas Mourouzis. On 1st March 1821, after the French Consul, the Marquis de Riviers, had finally managed to buy the statue, he made a gift of it to the King of France, Louis XVIII and it was placed in the Louvre, where it has been the object of ecstatic wonder of millions of people. Since then, much has been written about this amazing artistic masterpiece. However there are still many unanswered questions which concern the specialists such as: When exactly was it created? What was the sculptor’s name? Was it part of a more complex statue including the god Aries? Why was it found in this particular place?... and many other questions. It is certain, however, that it belongs to the Hellenistic Period, ie. after 323 B.C.,and most probably between 150 - 50 B.C. Moreover, it is most certainly a work of art revered throughout the world, which demonstrates the culture and creativity of the Ancient Greeks... and in particular, of the Miloans.
The statue from Milos island in Greece, is a world-renowned marble statue of the Greek goddess, Aphrodite. The Romans took many of the Greek gods as their own. Aphrodite is also Venus de Milo- the Roman goddess of love. It is now housed in the Louvre museum in Paris, France. A copy of the statue can still be seen on Milos island in Greece. Description The statue is made of marble and is about 203 cm high; larger than life size. The original plinth are now lost and she is without her two arms. It is one of the most famous Ancient Greek statues and depicts inner feminine beauty. She is half naked with a laurel crown on her head. Her linen cloth is draped around her waist and the lower parts of her body.
Catacombs In the vicinity of the Ancient City, SSW of the village of Tripiti, 150 metres above sea level, on a comparatively steep hillside, are the Catacombs of Milos. This was the meeting place of the early Christians, where they held their religious ceremonies and buried their dead, out of sight of the pagans of that time and their persecutors. They are the largest examples in Greece and among the most remarkable in the world, together with the catacombs in Rome and the Holy Land. The Catacombs were dug out of volcanic tufa, (a relatively soft rock), and form a magnificent early Christian monument, which indicates that Christianity was established on the island in the 1st century, developing greatly during the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. (Ludwig Ross, 1843). This theory of Ross would seem valid, since Miloan commerce during this period was prospering, both with Rome and the rest of the known world, according to Livy and Pliny. The catacombs were discovered by illicit antique dealers and became known after they had been pillaged in 1840. There are three chambers linked by five corridors and a dead end passage, making up a labyrinth which is currently 185 metres long. These were all open to but today, only the 2nd chamber, the «presbytery», can be visited by the public.
Inside the catacombs, vaults can be seen in the walls which contain graves, and the floor has been used for this same purpose. The latest number of vaults recorded was 126 (Anna Petroheilou, 1972) and it is estimated that thousands of people were buried here. Each grave was lit by an oil lamp but today, lighting is electrical though discrete, evoking the atmosphere of the past. On the graves of persons of distinction, Christian symbols and epitaphs can be seen. These were studied by Ross in 1843 and George Sotiriou in 1927, but unfortunately most of them have been destroyed by exposure to the elements. The «presbytery» or «vicarage», takes its name from the vicar who is buried there. His vault is the 6th on the right in this central chamber and bears an identifying epitaph. In this same area, is a sarcophagus, a tomb made of carved rock, which is believed to be the burial place of one of the first Christian martyrs and which was used by the early Christians, as an altar during their religious services. The catacombs were used as a secret place of worship until religious freedom was made legal by decree of Mediolanos or possibly until the ancient city of Klima was destroyed by earthquake, during the 5th or 6th century A.D.
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