Brykous (Karpathos) 3 Ag. Marina - Βρυκο͂ς

Βρυκο͂ς - Brykous, polis near Ag. Marina n of Avlona, Karpathos in Karpathos Dodecanese

Modern description McGilchrist's Greek Islands

Below the eastern slope of Mt. Koryfi, 6 km north of Olympos and 5 km west of Diafani, is the hamlet of Avlóna. The shallow alluvial soil on the floor of the limestone valley, husbanded into stone-walled fields, provided the grain for Olympos, just as it had probably functioned as the granary for Brykous in Antiquity. The village is mostly occupied during harvest time. From the north end of the village, a path – following the line of the ancient road, and latterly with stretches of flagstones and steps – bears left for ‘Vrykounda' or ‘Vourgounda', and descends after an hour to the northwest point of the island at *Ancient Brykous, which occupies an exposed tongue of rock projecting into the sea. This was the third of the ancient cities on the island in antiquity and has one of the wildest settings of any in the Aegean. The promontory projects slightly to the west of due north, giving the site dramatic views down the rugged west coast and into the hemicycle of mountains to the east formed by the tip of Karpathos and the island of Saria.
The site offered little obvious incentive for settlement: scarce water supply (possibly a weak spring in the cave of Aghios Ioannis), a semi-sheltered landing but no good or protected harbour, only a small limestone outcrop to serve as acropolis, and little rich or arable land in the vicinity. Nor did it lie on a significant maritime route. And yet it was settled, and appears to have prospered for almost a thousand years from Late Classical through to Early Christian times. It must have availed itself of the protected natural harbour of Tristomo, 4.5 km to the east for the wintering of its boats – a far from ideal arrangement.
Arriving from Avlona, the final descent to sea-level enters through the area of the ancient cemetery. Beside the route there are a number of rock-cut tombs of the Hellenistic period, which take advantage of the numerous limestone outcrops, perforating their faces with funerary chambers, ancillary loculi and doorways, approached sometimes by a short dromos. Some of these rise to two floors of tombs. The west facing side of one of the most prominent examples is partially cut away into a sarcophagus and decorated above with shields carved in relief; others had carved reliefs with figures, now too eroded to read. Most are in the area to the southeast of the acropolis rock which rises steeply at the neck of the promontory. The litter of fragments of architectural elements on the lower slopes and sides of the acropolis itself shows that it was once fortified and substantially built up: inscriptions found speak of the cult of Athena Lindia on its summit. There also appear to have been sanctuaries to the Nymphs and possibly also to the Samothracian Cabiri at Brykous. Long stretches of Late Classical or Hellenistic rampart-walls in isodomic masonry appear at intervals along the east side of the promontory, and the remains of habitations, though considerably overlaid with later building in places, stretch along the top of the headland. Finely cut statue bases and architectural elements lie strewn amongst the euphorbia which grows in abundance everywhere.
At the northern extremity of the promontory, steps lead down into a spacious natural cave deep within the headland, which provides an almost perfectly insulated refuge from the elements outside. To the left was the spring which served the settlement in antiquity; it is possible that the sanctuary of the Nymphs was here, from which a relief showing Hermes and the Nymphs, formerly immured in the forecourt of the Church of the Koimisis in Olympos, once came. The cave is now organised as the shrine of Aghios Ioannis Theologos, whose screen, font and altar are all composed of various ancient spolia.


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