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Mythology

Naxos, the lozenge island of Cyclades with the bigger extent, has a continuous inhabitation from the 5th B.C. millennium. In the varied history, legends and reality constantly involved in spate of mystery and imagination, while maintaining unabated desire for knowledge for knowledge and understanding of the way of life of our ancestors. Fortunately, lots of remnants of all periods make it easy to us to infiltrate in their life and to deduce information that satisfies our justifying thirst and throws light on the dark pages of the eternal fairy tale.
Dionysus, Semeli, Theseus, Ariadne, Nymphs, Nereids, tyrants, conquerors, pirates, sovereigns, farmers are heroes, whose traces are scattered throughout the space-time of this rock, which rises imposing, between to other many, in the middle of Aegean Sea.
The mythology possesses a very important part in the fabric of history and culture of Naxos. With indelible colours are woven in memory and in time figures of Dionysus, Zeus, Apollo, Ariadne, Demeter, that attract the dekko of  our imagination and our interest.
“Naxeans”, as other populations, were people with deep faith and interest for answers to inexplicably. With the possibility of communication with other regions of the world, that to them it was provided to them by navigation, accepted influences and, as it was natural, had cultural exchanges, a fact that is proved by similar findings that were found in remote areas, as is the golden rolled plate of cave of Za and his twin in a region of Pontus.


Thus, they accepted with pleasure the presence of the god Dionysus, whose origin was from Thracians, or in another aspect from the East. Diodoros the Sicilian, a historian says that the Naxians mythografer support that the god was born in Naxos, by Semeli, daughter of Kadmos, King of Thebes and by King Asterios (considering always his real father to be Zeus). Zeus assigned his upbringing to the Naxian nymphs Filia, Kleidi and Koroni, who rear him in the cave of Za or at another opinion in the "Kako Spilaio", Koronou, where was found a insription that says "DRIOC DIONYCOY". Dionysus accompanied the Satyrs and the Maenads (women) dancing and living it up, reaching occasionally in ecstasy, drinking and getting drunk with the smooth wine of the island. Dionysus who was expression of joy and amusement, for his love for Naxos he had give euphoria in the cultivation of vines, with production of most excellent quality of wine as a result.
From gratitude and love to the god, that brought to them the cheerfulness and the amusement, Naxians founded a temple for his adoration in Yria. Plutarch says that they had established celebrations in his honour, "Donysia" twice a year, with contests and sacrifices. The celebrations took part simultaneously in Chora for the bourgeois and in Yria for the residents of countryside. One feast became at spring time that the leaves of vine came out and contained games and cheerfulness, while the other at Autumn time with the vintage and the pressing of grapes.
The young persons danced with garlands on their head made by vine-twigs, while the satyrs were disguised dancers. It is said that the custom of Apokreo with “maskarades” (disguised) is residue of the adoration to Dionysus.
The well-known legend, the marriage of Dionysus with Ariadne, is exclusively connected with Naxos. According to the fable, as it is reported by Diodorus Siculus, Theseus, afterwards the extermination of Minotaur with the help of Ariadne, daughter of Minos, sailed from Crete to Athens, taking with him the beautiful girl. Rough sea made them to anchor in Naxos, at the time it was named Dia, in order to rest. Theseus anchored his boat in the small islet, "the Palaces", as we name it nowadays, and Ariadne, tired she was, laid in the sandy beach and felt asleep. Theseus with his companions remained in the boat and felt asleep. Then Dionysus, that had already seen Ariadne and felt in love with her, visited Theseus on sleep and told him to leave without her. He reacted, but the god insisted, declaring his supremacy because his of the divine attribute.  Being afraid of the consequences of the punishment of the god, Theseus was forced to leave. Then Dionysus went close to Ariadne. As soon as she woke up she saw him standing next to her, saying loving words to her. Immediately she asked him for Theseus, but he answered that he had left, while he gave her to drink wine from a golden cup and offered her a gold wreath, work of Hephaestus, with precious Indian gems in the form of nine stars. At another aspect, the wreath was a gift of Venus and Time for their marriages. It is reported, that it was so much brilliant that the gods put it in the sky to shine next to the other stars and named it constellation of Ariadne. Being angry with Theseus, Ariadne accepted the proposal of Dionysus. He took her to Drios mountain, nowadays called Koronos mountain. From there they left for mountain Olympus. It is also said that children of Dionysus and Ariadne were the Stafylos and the Oinopiopas..
Variations of the myth of Ariadne and Bacchus are many and have important differences. Others claim that Ariadne suicide falling into the sea, after information, that Theseus abandoned her. Others claim that existed two Ariadne. Another myth claims that Theseus left because he loved Aegle in Athens.

Homer in one of his myths says that Dionysus once had rented a boat from Tyrrinous seamen in order to return to Naxos. Those however, wanted to capture him. Dionysus understood it and in order to rescue he gave them to drink wine and to get drunk. Immediately an arbour climbed in the masts of the boat and branches filled with grapes. The sailors, terrified by this sudden phenomenon, feared and felt into the sea, where at the same moment were transformed into dolphins.
Dionysus was the god that was worshipped more on Naxos, which is also named theotrofos (god-nourishing).

The father of gods, Zeus was worshipped also in Naxos. Aglaosthenis, a historian from Naxos, says that when Zeus was a child he was kidnapped by Crete, from Idaion Antron (Idi mountain), and was transported to Naxos, in order to be rescued from his father Cronus. He grew up in the cave of Za, where one of his temples is situated, until he grew up and was in age to claim the reign of the gods with expedition against the Titans. To Zeus had been dedicated a very big extent on the slope of  the highest mountain of Naxos, a holy shrine in honor of god, which was an important religious centre for tillers and shepherds of the area. Two inscriptions up the rocks, marked by the same craftsman on the 4th B.C. century, with the same words and letters " ΟRΟS DΙΟS ΜILOSΙΟU "( mountain of Zeus Milosean) define, protect and raise the temple. The residents of the area that worshipped the god, dressed with "milotes" that means lambskins of sheep, went up in the top of Za , in the summertime, the season of big drought, in order to request god to send his cool winds and to rescue humans from the despair of heat.

In Naxos were worshipped also Apollo, the god of light and music. He was the son of Zeus and Leto. Leto because of the rage and the persecution by Ira, wife of Zeus, was protected by Poseidon and was transported by a dolphin in Delos, where she born Apollo and Artemis.
Nikos Kefalliniadis reports to us three areas as places of adoration of god.
At Chora, where is situated " Portara", the imposing huge gate of the erected temple by the tyrant of the island, Lygdamis,  which however never finished, and which in our days is brought as the main emblem of island. At Tragea, by the testimony of Stefanos Byzantios “there is a city in Naxos named Tragea, where Apollo is worshipped”. And finally at  Apollonas “at the mountain of Apollonas”, where an inscription is engraved in suitably shaped rock :“Mountain of the holy village of Apollo”. In this area, near in the place of ancient quarries, it was located an open-air shrine as it is testified by the above inscription of the 3rd B.C. century. In the residues is still situated “kouros” (young man’s statue) of Apollona, a giant statue of bearded Dionysus, which probably was intended for his temple in Yria. A sample of his adoration is still, the enormous statue of god , which was dedicated to the temple in Delos by Naxeans with inscription " ΝΑXΙΟS ΑPΟLLOΝΙΟS "( Apollo from Naxos).


A special part in the heart of Naxean people had also the goddess Demeter with her daughter Persephone. Demeter was the goddess of fertility of the land. The myth of mother and daughter, who was kidnapped by Pluto (Hades) and brought to the Underworld as the queen of Hades, symbolizes the cycle of seasons. The sadness with the decline of the nature in Autumn and Winter, the joy with the rebirth in Spring and Summer.
This important deity, protector of farmers and agriculture, was honoured and loved a lot by the people of Naxos, who built a very beautiful temple in her honour, in a prominent position of the fertile plain of "Baouzi", in Sagkrios point. The devastated temple was restored recently with the same marble material, which was collected from the surrounding area. It is considered as the more important and representative ancient temple, valuable not only for the additional knowledge of history and society of Naxos, but also for the understanding of ancient religion and adoration. It contains important architectural elements, which we meet later in the Parthenonas.
Nikos Kefalliniadis tell us that "the Greek mother of wheat is Demeter and the faithful set up her idol next to hills of wheat, with a bundle and poppies of field in her hand, in the celebration of the harvest ".


In the mythology of Naxos are reported the presence and the adoration of other gods, perhaps less important, as is possible the adoration of Ares, in Fanari mountain that is located between Aperathou and the basin of Tragea. It is speculated that there was situated a holy shrine in honour of god, after the recovery of a inscription on the ruins of the church Agios Georgios, as is reported by the naxean historian Iakovos Gkrimaldi, saying “Shrine of Ares”. Tradition says that, after Ares, god of war, killed Adonis, the lover of Venus, the giants Aloades, Otos and Efialtis, twin sons of Poseidon, closed him in a jar to punish him for 13 months. Afterwards he released, he resorted to Naxos and was hidden in "siderovrotin petra&#8230", that is to say "in Stone that eat the iron", which was placed in Bitsa mountain above in the Fanari.
Aloades, as the myth says had supernatural force, extremely dangerous and grew along with their age. They threatened to dethrone Zeus from Olympus. Zeus, in order to come through, sent them to Naxos to find their mother,that had been kidnapped by Naxeans. There, they killed each other by a subterfuge of Artemis. The inhabitants inhumed them in the island and worshipped them as heroes. The quarry workers of Flerio in Melanes, defined them as their protectors, because of their excessive force, which they needed because of the hard and dangerous work that they had to do so as to manage stone. An inscription, which was found in the area and reports to a shrine dedicated to Otos and to Efialtis leads us to this result.
Bethels that were found in caves and mountains peaks, show that were adorations of other deities as, in Eggares one dedicated to Nymphs, according to an inscription in the cavern church of "Birth" in foothill of "Kalo Oros". Proportional adoration existed in the "Virgin Mary Kaloritsa", in Damarionas and "Nyfiotissa", small cavern chapel at Amelacthiou point in Tsikalario. An all same bethel existed also in the devitional cave of "Virgin Mary of Spiliotissa", at Argia point.


Almost all the monuments are dated from the 8th to the 3rd B.C. century. During this period, Naxean quarry workers were emerged in pioneers of the architecture and plastic art of the archaic culture. Beginning with the carving of kouros ,enormous statues of human forms, they continued with the countless famous Cycladic figurines in order to be the first to create a statue of girl in natural size of woman. It is the famous statue, dedicated of Naxeans to the sanctum in Delos. It was an offer, probably by a rich naxean sovereign, Nikandra, as it says the inscription of dedication to the“ Female archer, who through the arrow far away”. We can conclude that the female archer was goddess Artemis . Another creation of them is The Sphinx of Naxeans dedicated to the Sanctum at Delphi and  the  “Andiro” of  “lions”, at Delos etc.
Finally, for the current name of the island, Naxos, prevails the perception that it took after Naxos, the king of Karias, a country of Asia Minor, which residents, Kares, lived also in this place. However, for Greek mythology-history, Naxos was the son of Apollo and Akalis, a daughter of Minos. It is said therefore, that the island took the name after him, showing thus the connection of the island with the Minoan Culture. The first name of island was , Stroggyli then it was named Dia and finally prevailed Naxos.

Helen Gratsia-Salteri

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