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Lonely Planet review for Ancient Delos
The following is an outline of some significant archaeological remains on the site. For further details, a guidebook from the ticket office is advised, or take a guided tour.
The rock-encrusted Mt Kythnos (113m) rises elegantly to the southeast of the harbour. It's worth the steep climb, even in the heat. On clear days there are terrific views of the surrounding islands from its summit.
The path to Mt Kythnos is reached by walking through the Theatre Quarter, where Delos' wealthiest inhabitants once built their houses. These houses surrounded peristyle courtyards, with colourful mosaics (a status symbol) being the most striking feature of each house.
The most lavish dwellings were the House of Dionysos, named after the mosaic depicting the wine god riding a panther, and the House of Cleopatra, where headless statues of the owners were found. The House of the Trident was one of the grandest. The House of the Masks, probably an actors' hostelry, has another mosaic of Dionysos resplendently astride a panther, and the House of the Dolphins has another exceptional mosaic.
The theatre dates from 300 BC and had a large cistern, the remains of which can be seen. It supplied much of the town with water. The houses of the wealthy had their own cisterns - essential as Delos was almost as parched and barren then as it is today.
Descending from Mt Kythnos, explore the Sanctuaries of the Foreign Gods. Here, at the Shrine to the Samothracian Great Gods, the Kabeiroi (the twins Dardanos and Aeton) were worshipped. At the Sanctuary of the Syrian Gods there are the remains of a theatre where an audience watched ritual orgies. There is also a shrine area where Egyptian deities, including Serapis and Isis, were worshipped.
The Sanctuary of Apollo, to the northeast of the harbour, contains temples dedicated to the main man, and is the site of the much-photographed Terrace of the Lions. These proud beasts, carved from marble, were offerings from the people of Naxos, presented to Delos in the 7th century BC to guard the sacred area. To the northeast is the Sacred Lake (dry since it was drained in 1925 to prevent malarial mosquitoes breeding) where, according to legend, Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis.