Environs of the western archaeological area
The island, is very fertile, consisting almost entirely of very fine
plains. (..) The town is
surrounded by extensive and fertile gardens, planted
with vines; the wine, which was well-liked by the
ancients, and praised by Strabo, is exported, being very
good dry wine, not too sweet (..), figs, lemons and oranges. (..) The Turks here are by no means rigid
or savage, and marry with the Greeks (of whom some
of them speak the language) by civil contract. (..) That the ancient city was on the site
of the modern one is sufficiently proved by the port.
William Turner - Journal of a Tour in the Levant - 1820
Upon a slab of Cipolino marble, forming a bench near to the old Greek Monastery, we observed an Inscription of some length, relating to one of the vessels employed in a bath and followed by a list of names. Others upon votive altars were numerous. Near to an arch at the entrance of the Market, we saw an altar of Parian marble, ornamented with bulls' heads, having bands or fillets, as for sacrifice, falling on each side; and supporting festoons of flowers, beautifully sculptured. These, with fragments of porphyry, breccia, and other materials of antient sculpture, lying about the modern town are all that we noticed upon this occasion.
Edward Daniel Clarke - Travels in various countries of Europe, Asia and Africa - 1817-1824
Archaeological Museum of Istanbul: Roman mosaic found at Kos
German archaeologists undertook the first excavations in the city in 1900-1904 and some of the finest exhibits they uneathed were moved to the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul. The subject of gladiatorial combats appears to have been very popular because it is depicted also in other floor mosaics which were found in 1922-1943 by Italian archaeologists. That at Istanbul calls to mind a IVth century AD floor mosaic from the environs of Rome.
Agora (market): (left) statue portraying a lion's skin on the walls of Hassan Hagi Pacha mosque;
(centre) site of a temple; (right) cipollino columns
In 1933 an earthquake greatly damaged the older part of Kos; it was soon evident that most of the fallen dwellings were built directly upon the foundations of ancient temples and markets. The park which today replaces most of the medieval town was the commercial and political centre of Ancient Kos. Archaeologists have found evidence of a large market square surrounded by porticoes and temples; these were initially designed in the Hellenistic period (usually defined between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the annexation of Greece by Rome in 146 BC), but they were rebuilt or modified during the Roman rule over the island. The use of cipollino columns from Euboea is typical of the time of Emperor Hadrian.
Apollo and Talia, Muse of Comedy; Roman mosaic in the western archaeological area; the usual iconography of the god does not hint to the fact that he often lost his temper
The discovery of the ancient agora led to a large campaign of excavations which was extended also to the outskirts of Kos, including the Asclepeion which is covered in a separate page. The archaeologists did not have far to dig before identifying two other areas with significant memories of the ancient town and in particular some large houses with highly interesting floor mosaics.
It is rather surprising to find out that the landlord who decorated the main hall of his house with portraits of Apollo and the Muses chose to surround the mosaic with bloody scenes of fight with beasts. Discoveries of mosaics in other parts of the Roman Empire show how wild beasts were captured alive in the mountains of Algeria and then carried to the amphitheatres of Rome and other wealthy provincial towns. The image used as background for this page shows a detail of a mosaic portraying a bullfight.
The fact that gladiators are named suggests that they were well known and therefore had survived many combats. A relief from Kos at Trieste shows two other gladiators with their names. The coloured floor mosaics of Kos are among the finest of the region.
Roman mosaics: (left) Abduction of Europa (western archaeological area); (right) a typical Greek geometric pattern with small images of birds
Today's geography places Kos at the very border between Europe and Asia: it is therefore interesting to see a mosaic portraying the abduction of Europa by Jupiter (as a bull) from the shores of Lebanon to those of Crete. It is another subject which was very popular throughout the Roman Empire, see two mosaics in Algeria with Ovid's account of the abduction.
Western archaeological area: (left) ruins of the baths; (right) latrines
The Romans built an aqueduct from the hills to the south of Kos to supply the town baths: there were at least three major baths, one of which was located next to the harbour. Baths had very elegant conveniences with running water (see other Roman latrines at Ostia and Uthina in Tunisia).
(left) The site of the gymnasium; (centre) the theatre; (right) storage of ancient materials in the fortress
Kos had all the main buildings you expect to see in an ancient town: a stadium, a theatre, schools of different grades, paved streets: archaeologists found so many capitals, altars, reliefs that those which were not deemed to deserve a place in the small archaeological museum were stored in the fortress.
Rhodes: the Gates
Rhodes: the Fortifications
Rhodes: the Town of the Knights
Rhodes: Byzantine, Ottoman and Jewish memories
Rhodes: modern Italian architecture
Kos: the Fortress
St. Peter's Castle (Bodrum)