Artemis Thermia sanct. (Lesbos) Thermi

Artemis Thermia T., Archaic to Roman sanctuary on the grounds of the disused Hotel Sarlitza Palace at a hot spring at Thermi, Lesvos Aegean
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Latitude: 39.181600
Longitude: 26.497900
Confidence: High

Place ID: 392265SArt
Time period: ACHR
Region: North Aegean
Country: Greece
Department: Lesvos
Mod: Thermi

- Pleiades
- IDAI gazetteer ID

Modern Description: A short distance further north, the hot springs of Thermí and the remains of the sanctuary of Artemis Thermia are marked today by the imposing buildings of the Sarlitza Palace Hotel, which from its foundation in 1909 until its decommissioning in 1984 was one of the grand spa hotels of the Aegean. Its long yellow, orientalising façade, offset by the solitary palm and pine trees in front, was designed by French architects: it is now in a state of ruinous decay. The interior has mostly been gutted, but the marble steps of the main staircase are still in place, and furniture in some of the bedrooms still poignantly remains.
The site has known many transformations through its long history: first as a focus of the sanctuary of Artemis, where the festival of the Thermaia was celebrated with athletic, musical and theatrical contests, culminating in a sacrificial banquet. The Romans with their predilection for bathing in natural hot waters and their gift for organisation created a proper thermal station here: the foundations of a small area of it, with bathing chambers, can be seen between the Sarlitza Palace Hotel and the shore. A church of SS Constantine and Helen appears to have replaced the temple of Artemis in Early Christian times, and the festivities of its saints' day incorporated a number of features from the pagan Thermaia.
The hot springs themselves, which rise behind and a little to the south of the hotel building, may later have been enclosed in a Byzantine building; but the curious spring-house which survives today is mostly an Ottoman structure of the late 18th century. The low arches of the roof are supported by a central pier, surmounted by a damaged Ionic capital from the pagan sanctuary; the water in which it stands is opaque and ferrous in colour. It was here that the English visitor, Mary Walker, describes seeing in 1897, a group of women, submerged up to their necks, forming a chain with their hands around the central pier, and singing together. The entrance-door is a heterogeneous assemblage of ancient fragments, fluted columns and dedicatory plinths: one, opposite the entrance, possesses an eroded votive inscription which opens encouragingly ‘Agatha Tycha...' (‘Through good fortune...'). The saline water, rich in iron, whose properties were praised by Galen, rises at 47°C. The municipal baths (next to the ruined hotel) are open from June to October for 15 minute immersions in individual cubicles.
A further 50m along the road inland towards Loutrópoli Thermís is a small modern church (right), to the east of which has been collected together a variety of ancient pieces and fragments from the surrounding area of the sanctuary of Artemis; these include a number of fluted and plain column fragments (one of which has been reused as a mile-post, written in both Latin and Osmanli script), plinths, pedestals and a sarcophagus in the magenta-coloured, trachytic stone of western Lesbos.

Info: McGilchrist's Greek Islands

(From McGilchrist’s Greek Islands, © Nigel McGilchrist 2010, excerpted with his gracious permission. Click for the books)

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