The island of Antiparos combines beauty with history and archaeological interest that martyr all over the world the unique Cycladic Civilization. It is, thus, an obligatory gift to yourself to visit:
Enchanting and imposing, the Antiparos Cave has been known since the ancient times, as proven by the Stone Age archaeological findings and the carvings in its interior. Perched high above the sea, on the southeastern side of the island on Ai-Yiannis hill, this huge cave commands a brilliant view of its surroundings and plenty of international fame as possibly the oldest cave in Greece.
The inhabitants of Antiparos have known about the cave for many centuries, but the inside of the cave remained undiscovered until 1673, when the French ambassador to Constantinople, marquis de Nouadel, visited the island. He and his escorts entered the cave by climbing down ropes and were amazed to find nature’s wonderful creation, which they lit up with large candles, oil lamps and dry firewood.
As it was Christmas, the Marquis de Nouadel decided immediately to perform mass on the top of a stalagmite, which looked like an altar. When the ceremony was over, a Latin inscription was carved on the stalagmite. The inscription can even be seen today. When translated into English it means “Here Christ himself celebrated Midnight Mass on Christmas 1673”. The cave was visited by the first king and queen of Greece, Otho and Amalia on the 27th September 1840. However, the earliest visitor to the cave on record was Archilochos, a lyrical poet from Paros, who lived from 728-650 B.C. Ancient vessels found inside were dedicated to the goddess Artemis and also the names of Macedonian generals conspiring against Alexander the Great were found inscribed in the cave, where they hid to escape Alexander.
The vaulted entrance is guarded by the picturesque 18th-century church of Agios loannis Spiliotis (St John of the Cave). The enormous stalagmite, which is in the entrance to the cave, is the oldest in Europe and is estimated to be 45 million years old. On descending the 411 steps towards the heart of the cave, more than a 100 metres deep, visitors face a truly breathtaking spectacle at each turn. All around there are spectacular formations of stalactites and stalagmites, some of them, sadly, mutilated by earlier visitors’s vandalisms. During the Russian occupation of 1770-74, Russian officers cut off many stalactites that can be seen today at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The cave was also damaged by the Italians during the Second World War.
The area of the cave is about 5600 square metres and the temperature in the winter about 15 degrees centigrade and the humidity about 65%. The cave was formed by corrosion of the limestone.
Just off the south east coast of Antiparos lies a small uninhabited island, Despotiko. Its rocky moonscape, with unspoilt beaches of all sizes, will offer you the chance to while away the hours in absolute serenity.
As you enjoy your swim, the past is being slowly unearthed nearby. Archaeological excavations of the ancient temple of Apollo and Artemis gradually reveal more and more, bringing long-forgotten mysteries to the sparkling Aegean daylight.
Excavations in the 19th century uncovered Proto – Cycladic cemeteries. In 1959, excavations on the island’s northeastern coast found traces of a Doric temple. Since 1997, excavations have brought to light extensive remains of a temple’s auxiliary areas. The sanctuary is unique in the Aegean. The temple was used for worship from the seventh century B.C. through Roman times. A unique find was a large idol of a female deity that has been dated to 680 – 660 B.C. Similarities in mobile finds and architectural parts at Despotiko and those found at the Delios sanctuary of Apollo and Artemis on Paros suggest the site was one of the 22 smaller temples dedicated to the cult worship of these two deities.
Traces of a Venetian castle are visible among the traditional architecture of the main settlement on Antiparos. Built in 1440 to shelter inhabitants during frequent pirate raids, the Kastro, or fortified settlement was a square structure whose perimeter was formed by the outer walls of dwellings, with an interior courtyard and a circular tower in the center.
The tower served as the residence of the local archon, while the only way in was on the south side were the gate is gothic in style. At that time there were 24 two storied houses inside the castle, 24 one storied houses at Zopyrgos and 16 two storied houses in the inner zone. If there were 4-5 people for each dwelling, there must have been some 500 in all. Kastro’s single entrance is next to the Agios Nikolaos cathedral.
The Folklore Museum of Antiparos
In the old castle of Antiparos will find the Folklore Collection of Community Business Antiparos in which there are old objects, specimens from Cycladic figurines, traditional uniforms of Antiparos and photographs from the excavation of Despotiko.