Home » Sikinos Island » View Points » Episkopi

Episkopi

The Cyclades were the focus of a great civilization that flourished in the 3rd millennium BC, the Cycladic, but their archaeological and historical interest is not limited there.

All Cycladic islands have, to a greater or lesser extent, unique archaeological wealth from many historical periods, which elsewhere has been researched and highlighted, such as in Santorini, Delos, Naxos, Paros, Andros, Milos, etc., elsewhere the research are still in progress or at an early stage, such as Kea, Kythnos and Sikinos.

A monument rare for Greece is located in the hinterland of Sikinos. The Episkopi of Sikinos is an impressive palimpsest of Antiquity and the Middle Ages, unique in Greece. It is a burial monument of the Roman period (dating to the 2nd-3rd century AD) and this is evidenced by its underground vaulted crypts.

Originally it was considered as a temple of Pythian Apollo, but it turned out that the architecture of the building resembled that of the Roman mausoleums. This temple-shaped mausoleum is a truly unique find. Reconstruction of ancient monuments is common – although the Parthenon and Thissio, ancient temples that were converted in Byzantine times into Christian churches are two of the most characteristic examples – but rarely are the successive historical phases of a monument preserved for centuries as of this burial monument that thus functions as a historic palimpsest. Many centuries later, the monument was converted into a Christian temple with a dome but the original form and subsequent interventions are still visible today.

At the moment, work is being carried out to maintain it.

One of the most important archaeological discoveries in recent years was made in July 2018 during restoration work. The discovery of the body of a prominent Roman-era female figure along with rich relics in a secret crypt inside the burial monument. The fact that this majestic burial concerned a woman and not a man and that the deceased was probably transported to the island from another place, is making it a special and rare finding.

This is an outstanding and unexpectedly rich discovery for the place where the burial was found. The discovery was an interesting and happy occasion as her grave was found intact. The box-shaped tomb was so well hidden in a blind spot in the building that escaped the gravediggers and survived at least three extensive interventions in the 8th century, in the 14th century and in the 17th century A.D.

The woman’s name was Neiko, as revealed by a meter-long burial epigram in elegiac couplets, found in the impressive ancient mausoleum, which was built in a transitional era of searches and cultural reconstructions, sometime before or after 200 AD.

The richness of the jewelry worn by the woman, the off-scale gifts for the island that accompanied her, betrays that she was a prominent figure for the society of Sikinos. From the tomb they collected gold wristbands, rings, necklace, a relief buckle, along with glass and metal vessels, other small finds, as well as organic fragments of the dead woman’s clothing .

*The church of Episkopi is about 4.2km from Chora and 200m on foot and our office visits /tours for those who are interested in understanding and feeling the uniqueness of the monument and the area.

PHOTO GALLERY