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Friday, 07 March 2008 13:33

Amorgos

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The oblong shape of the mountainous and barren island of Amorgos lies on the eastern edge of the Cyclades, almost in the Dodecanese. In some places, the coastline is steep and rocky, while elsewhere it forms quiet, shady bays.

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The ruins to be found all over the island and the important archaeological finds discovered there (some of which are in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens) are testimony to the fact that Amorgos was inhabited in prehistoric times and was a place of great importance during the period of the Cycladic civilisation. In antiquity, there were three flourishing and independent cities on Amorgos: Minoa, Arkessini and Egiali. Due to the position of Amorgos across from ancient beaches of Ionian towns, such as Militos, Alikarnasos and Efessos, it became one of the first places from which the Ionians passed through to the Cyclades Islands and onto mainland Greece. The existence of three independent cities with autonomous constitution and the same currency, which have been preserved to this day, the size and artistic works of the walls surrounding the city of Arkesini, the ancient towers to which skeletons were raised to this day all over the island, the ancient tombs, the stone tools, the inscriptions, the vases and other antiquities are all powerful proof of the size of the ancient civilisation of Amorgos. Part of the island is named Aspis, where the ancient temple of the Goddess Aphrodite stood. From the name Minoa we suspect that from ancient times Amorgos had been colonised by the Cretans. Also, according to Suidan and from inscriptions, Samians inhabited the island under the leadership of Simmias. With the passing of time the islands name changed to Amolgon, Amourgon, Amorgian, and Amourgian. After the 5th century you can also find the name Amoulgos from Bishop Theodore who signed a Synod in Constantinople, as Theodore the Bishop of Parion, Sifnion, and Amoulgion. Skilax mentions it as Tripoli (the circumnavigation of the Cyclades Islands). The names of the three cities given by Stefanos Vizantios are Arkesini, Minoa, Aigiali or Melania where according to inscriptions, are the more correct. The three towns are on the island's east coast because only there you can find the right bays and natural ports that could provide the proper positioning for seaside towns and forts. Aigiali was on the north East Side of the island close to the present day locations of Tholaria and Stroumvos and to this day can still be found there. Whilst Minoa is situated at the centre of the northern side close to the present day village of Katapola, and Arkesini close to the present day lowland location Castri. From excavations and findings, especially burial tombs we believe that the presence of Amorgos during the prehistoric years existed intensely, particularly during the first period of Cycladic civilisation (3200 to 2000 BC).

Like all the Cyclades islands, in the same way Amorgos has suffered from piracy from ancient times. In the 3rd century BC there was a horrible night raid from pirates on the island where almost 30 women and children had been kidnapped together with a vessel. Two Amorgian prisoners, their names Igisipos and Antipapos, managed to convince the captain of the pirates to set free their co-prisoners without harming them and for this the state decided to honour them. The announcement was made at the Games, which were under Dionysus protection, and a sign was made at the temple of Poliados Athinas

 

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At Katapola, the main harbour of the island today and the location of the interesting church of Our Lady "Katapoliani" (built on the site of a temple of Apollo), traces of ancient Minoa have come to light. Swimmers will be delighted by the superb beaches to be found in the vicinity. The whitewashed houses of the capital of the island, Hora or Amorgos, spread out beneath the Venetian casde which stands on the peak of the hill. The second port of Amorgos, Egiali, is a pretty village famed for its superb sandy beaches and consisting of three distinct "quarters". It is easier to reach Egiali by sea than along the poor and steep road linking it to Hora. In the south of the island, Arkessini stands near the site of the ancient city of the same name, amid a group of picturesque whitewashed hamlets. The road network of Amorgos is nearing completion, and will link up all the villages on the island. Amorgos has few hotels or rooms to rent. Yet despite the limited facilities available for visitors, the fine beaches and particular beauty of the island attract more and more tourists each year. The typical Cycladic architectural style of the double or "twin" church is much in evidence here. The Archaeological Museum has finds from all over the island and is well worth a visit. To the north-east of Hora, at the foot of a rock, is the Byzantine monastery of Our Lady "Hozoviotissa", one of the most important monuments of its kind.

The unique path dated from the middle ages, which links the monastery to Aigiali, demands 4 to 6 hours walk, offering a panoramic view to the Aegean Sea, leading one through wild mountains and plains, landscapes which characterize the nature of Amorgos.

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Worth to see

Rent a car or a bike and visit the small villages. The capital, Chora, is a very quiet village with about 500 inhabitants. It is situated high up in the mountains, and the road is long and winding. You'll have to park outside Chora. Even though it is so small, there is quite a few little taverns and cafes. This is truly a place where the time has stopped, and thanks to local regulations, the architecture is kept in the traditional style. There is a church attached to the cliff, and the locals are also proud to have Greece's smallest church here - with room for only three!!! There is also a museum as well as a Venetian Citadel from the 13th century. Katapola is a village next to the sea with lovely little fish taverns along the harbour. You'll se fish trying to get some bread in the crystal waters and there is a tiny beach here. From here you can get to the monastery Chozoviotissa which definitely is worth visiting. According to tradition it was built in the 9th century after a ship had sunk just outside Amorgos carrying an icon of the Virgin Mary, or Panagia (all saint) as she is called in Greek. With a little luck the monks will offer you some local liqueur. To get to Chozoviotissa you'll have to climb many steps. The ancient capital of the island, Minoa, is situated on a high cliff above Katapola. There are still ruins there from classical and Roman times. Egiali is a pretty village built on a thin strip between the mountain and the sea. There are few shops, cafes and taverns here worth a visit. The village Potamos is built just above Egiali, and the two villages pretty much seem like one. In Potamos you can stroll around in the little winding streets that were built that way to confuse the pirates.

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Activities

The snorkeling in Amorgos is great, especially at Mourou but also at Agia Anna. You can also enjoy long walks through the harsh but impressive nature. A lot of people like fishing here, and there are various donkey rides offered. If your main interest in partying this is definitely not the place to go. Nevertheless, there are bars and discos, just like anywhere else in Greece. In Chora, Katapola, Egialia and Chilokeratidi there are nice places to spend warm summer evenings in with a cold drink. Even if you already have seen The Big Blue, you shouldn't miss watching it here: in Katapola there is a bar that shows the film every night.

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Beaches

Amorgos island does not have any great beaches, so a lot of people prefer taking one of the small boats to the little island Nicouria. If you want to stay on Amorgos, there is a quite nice beach in Egiali, which can get very busy. You can also drive around on your own and find isolated cliffs where the waters are excellent for snorkeling.

Traditional food and shopping

Most of the places to eat on Amorgos are traditional fish-taverns, but there are also a couple of more fancy restaurants. If you don't want Greek food, at least you can find pizzas and pastas in many places. In Chora you will find both souvenir shops and those typically Greek art shops with various handmade ceramics, jewelry and marble figurines. There are also shops in the other villages, but not a great variety.

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Read 2188 times Last modified on Wednesday, 04 March 2009 11:31

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