I do not know to what extent ancient Elyros is known outside Greece. Perhaps some one of you arrived on Anek Lines’ ship “Elyros” at the port of Chania … yes to be honest, the ship’s name is a term for me and had aroused my curiosity
Weekend trip to the south coast of Chania to Sougia. Why not also visit ancient Elyros that is right on the way?
At the main intersection in front of the village Rodovani, we find our way to the ancient site thanks to our 1:100,000 map, our desire for adventure and the help of the locals.
There are no signs to ancient Elyros, and as we learned only here ancient Elyros is still poorly excavated by archaeology. On our first attempt we meet the very nice red haired and -bearded, very narrative joyful priest, who actually discourages us from our adventure: “there is little to see, and right now in spring? The few remains of which can be seen, are now all overgrown …. “he says. We still ride the bumpy path up the hill (ancient sites are almost always on hilltops) to the church, and then by foot.
Nothing to see far and wide, except the lush grasses, olive trees and as far as the eye can see white poppies.
A clattering pick-up appears in front of us, the very helpful driver then takes us through the fields through up to a wire fence, “there’s a door in the fence, open it and run up to the dead almond tree (he points to a gnarled tree in the distance) then turn right you will see the ancient amphitheater. ” Wonderful, and thank you very much.
We wander into and over fences, through flowering fields, with great caution, to a high stone wall, which certainly belonged to the ancient site and possibly represented the framing of the amphitheater. That’s it.
However …. the view over the area of Rodovani at north and Sougia to south is fantastic, and the sight of so many poppies and wild orchids was worth the ordeal!
Further down, we discover later the cistern from the Roman period located in the olive groves (the driver’s tip) of ancient Elyros.
In mid-summer, when there is due to aridity no longer grass, one certainly has more luck with finding some ancient stones.
The “Philosopher of Elyros”
Ancient Elyros is built on the hill “Kefala”, 500 m southwest of the village Rodovani.
It is considered the most important ancient city in the southwest of Crete in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and even had its own currency.
In Elyros the god Apollo and the heroes Fylakidi and Filandros, the latter son of Apollo and the nymph Akakallidas, were worshiped. Witness thereof a bronze gift to Delphi, which shows a goat lactating the 2 heroes.
Robert Pashley was the first who showed the exact location of ancient Elyros under instructions from the competent authorities and inscriptions. This information was later confirmed by Thenon, who discovered the inscription in the ruins:
“Έδοξε τη πόλει των Ελυρίων” = “Blessed be the city of the Elyrians”
Elyros kept his flourishing life up in Byzantine times and was even the seat of the diocese. The city was destroyed by the Saracens.
In today’s coastal village Soughia (in ancient times called Syia) was the former harbor of Elyros.
The until now most impressing finding from Elyros-hill stands proudly on a wall of the Archaeological Museum of Chania and is known as the Philosopher of Elyros.
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