Vrykous: An Ancient Lost City
Full Title: Vrykous, The Ancient Lost City of Karpathos
In the southeastern edge of the Aegean Sea, between Crete and Rhodes, is the most southern -along with small Kassos- island of the Dodecanese. This is Karpathos, also known as Anemoessa even from the Homeric years. The place is characterized by the effortless attachment of its inhabitants to the customs of the region, which are so ancient that their roots are lost in the mists of time.
This summer while being in Karpathos, I decided to visit a forgotten place of the island. In this particular area of the island was in the ancient times one of the four ancient cities of the island. That was the ancient city of Vrykous (today is called Vroukounta) which along with Potidaion, Arkessia, and Nisyros (located on the islet Saria in the north) comprised since 1500 BC the Karpathian Tetrapolis.
The time is half past three a.m. and I have just parked my car a few meters from the last house on the isolated settlement "Avlona" to the northwest of the island. Avlona is somehow the port of Olympus, one of the last traditional villages of Greece, located a few miles south. My trip had already begun a half hour before from the island's capital, Pigadia. I take on my shoulders my travel backpack and I start walking towards the ancient city. A narrow path unfolds before me. The landscape is rocky and the soil barren, although it is obvious that a large percentage of the land that is ahead of me has been used in the past for agricultural purposes. The absolute silence and the sense of isolation that seizes me, "breaks" every now and then by the wild goat bleats who spy me above the hills that rise all around me.
An hour later, I rest on the hill above the ruins of the ancient Vrykous or whatever has been dug up from the city up to the present day. Systematic excavations have not been done as thoroughly as they should. As a result, the visitor comes into direct contact with one of the many pieces of the "unknown history" of the island. The area is full of relics of the ancient city, which continued to thrive even at the early Byzantine period.
The most impressive sights are, without any doubt, the carved tombs that were first described in 1880 by M. Beaudouin. The area is attractive to someone who is looking for Mycenaean remnants or of earlier occupancy. Nevertheless, the architectural remains are all of a later period and were probably used since the Archaic period and onwards. The city walls which I met during my tour in the cape of the ancient city belong to the late Classical and Hellenistic times. However, during the rough excavations of 1976, I. Papachristodoulou discovered several obsidian blades that were used since the Neolithic era. A few meters before I meet the sea I go down the stone stairs and enter the cave that houses the chapel of St. John. This is clearly an ancient Greek temple (probably dedicated to Aphrodite or Artemis), which was used later by the Christians. Every year, on August 29, there is organized a well-known festival. The picturesqueness of the scenery, the transition of the visitors to Vroukounta via the land through Avlona or by the sea from Diafani, the stay in the countryside, the overnight dance, the ascend to Avlona with the escort of musical instruments in the summer heat, are memories that remain indelible in the minds of the visitors.
But all these celebrations seem so foreign to me... My journey is a lonely one, the only one that enables me to rotate to the vortices of space-time, listening to the sounds of the waves bursting into the steep cliffs and to the cries of the half-buried monuments which seek a little attention from the authorities in order to come to light again…
* Καρπαθιακαί Μελέται, Πρώτος Τόμος, Κεφάλαιο Ε.Μ Μελά «Η εποχή του Χαλκού στην Κάρπαθο»
* L' ile de Karpathos, M. Beaudouin
Translated by: melian