Artemis Tauropolos T. (Ikaria) 2 Nas - Ταυροπόλιον

Ταυροπόλιον - Artemis Tauropolos T., Archaic to Roman sanctuary at Nas in Ikaria Aegean

Modern description McGilchrist's Greek Islands

Such a densely wooded gorge was, in Antiquity, the natural domain of the huntress goddess, Artemis. The Chalaris river would at that time have carried much more water and its small estuary would have formed the only viable roadstead for boats on the west side of the island. Above this natural harbour, therefore, the *Sanctuary of Artemis Tauropolos at Nas grew up. (‘Tauropolos' means ‘drawn by a yoke of bulls'; ‘Nas' is a corruption of ‘naos', ‘a temple'). This seemingly remote spot had great importance in Antiquity as the first or last harbour on the Asia Minor side of the Aegean for pilgrims on their way to or from the Sanctuary of Apollo on Delos. (Delos was also the birthplace of Artemis.) The longest and most exposed stretch of the sea-journey was between here and Mykonos. The popularity of the cult of Artemis spread from Asia Minor (principally Ephesus), and this sanctuary, established already by the 7th century BC, would appear to be one of the oldest in the Greek Islands. Clement of Alexandria (Protrep. IV.46) mentions that the cult statue of the goddess here was not only ‘wooden', but ‘unworked'— implying that (like the original image of Hera on Samos) it was a sacred piece of natural wood which was in some way suggestive of the image and presence of the goddess, without the profaning intervention of the hand of man.
The site of Nas is tranquil and beautiful, but little of substance remains to be seen: the columns and statuary, which were recorded as being still visible on the site a little over a hundred years ago, were later zealously consigned to the kilns to make mortar for new churches in the area.
The site banks up the hill to the south side of the river inlet, now closed by a sandbar. At the lowest level are the remains of some late 1st century BC wharfs and constructions for the port and boats; just above, the main terrace has a heterogeneous group of foundations, in a variety of different materials. The long, rectangular, stepped construction in yellow–brown sandstone, though west-facing, has the appearance of an altar: beside it is a small rectangular base in grey granite with four precise perforations possibly for the railing protecting a sacred image.
Further up, there is extensive terracing which, at several points, has been rebuilt in later times. Above all of this, and perfectly oriented to the cardinal points, is a constructed stone platform, about 26m on its longer north–south axis, on which the principal temple may have been erected. Beyond this point, the litter of potsherds on the southern hillside is witness to the extent and density of habitation here. The site, especially towards sunset, has a pure and austere beauty appropriate to Artemis.


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