Home‎ > ‎

About Olympos



Constantinos Minas, Lecturer of the Aegean University Manolis Makris, writer

1. Location and geophysical situation

The region of Olympos lies in the north of Mount Kimaras and includes not only this northernmost part of Karpathos, but also the islet of Saria, which is separated from Karpathos by Steno, a straight about 100 meters wide, that was created by soil erosion. The Olympos region has an area of 37 square kilometers, excluding Saria, which is about a third of the whole island of Karpathos. Most of the region is mountainous and covered with vegetation and woods.

The main mountains are Ais Ilias (718m), Orkili (713m), Kimaras (692m), Stioi (639m), Malo (635m), Korifi (588m), Oros (561m), Asia (531m) in Karpathos and Pachi Vouno (630m) in Saria.

The most important plains of the region are the valleys of Avlona, Ahordea and Kilios and the valley of Pila in Saria. Smaller in area but still important, as far as agricultural production is concerned, are the regions Pei (the name comes from the ancient word πεδίον=field), Kampi, Ammoi (from the ancient word αμμόγη=sandy soil) and Nappa (valley) and Argos (plain close to the sea) in Saria.

One interesting element of the local geography is the partition of the region by the sea, where the impressive natural harbor of Tristomo was formed, and the many picturesque bays such as the Vroukounta, Fises and Evgonimos bays on the west side, and the Vananta, Diafani, Apokapos, Opsi, Kapi, Agnontia, Forokli, Kantri, Filios, Nati bays on the east side and the Giaplos, Palatia, Alimounta and Mea Alo (long beach) bay in Saria.

Although the region doesn't offer itself to plant growing, the diligence of the inhabitants, who didn't leave even a square inch of soil uncultivated, made it possible to feed about 1,500 people, the inhabitants of the village in the 40's and 50's and perhaps in earlier years.

2. The Ancient Era

The archaeological excavations showed that Minoans and Myceanaens settled in the Olympos region in the 15th century BC. According to the information found in ancient writers (Ski lax, Striven) and the archaeological findings, there were two important cities in the Olympos region since the 4th century BC, namely Vrykous, which today is called Vroukounta, and Nisiros "homonymous with the island of Nisiros" located on Saria and renamed Palatia (palaces) by the inhabitants of Olympos because of the size and number of buildings that were rediscovered upon return to the islet. Somewhere near the Steno region either on the Karpathos or Saria side there was a temple dedicated to Poseidon, a place of worship for the whole island of Karpathos during the classical and Hellenistic period. The famous inscription, known as "Dorian resolution of Karpathos", was found in Vroukounta. This inscription concerns a doctor called Minokritos Mitrodorou, whom the inhabitants of Vrykous bestowed the highest honors, because he had offered his medical services unselfishly and unimpeachably for more than twenty years. There are tens of carved tombs, ruins of walls and fortifications and some Remains of buildings from the Hellenistic period in the city of Vrykous.

The Byzantine monuments found in the Vroukounta and Palatia regions show, life continued in these cities during the Byzantine era. The ruins of the big basilica in Palatia (in the site of today's Agia Sofia), in Steno (in the site of today's Agia Ekaterina) and in Filios (in Archagelos) date back from around the 6th century AD and it is believed that Christianity came to Karpathos, and especially Olympos, before that century. It is thought - although it hasn't been verified - that Ioannis of Karpathos, an eminent figure of the 6th century church, lived in Vroukounta.

The inhabitants of Vrykous and Nisiros stayed in their cities until the end of 7th century, and perhaps the 8th century. Then because of Arabic raids, were forced to look for shelter, probably relocating the entire cities, away from the sea, in naturally protected sites. It seems that Vrykous hasn't been inhabited since, while in Palatia life continued, probably with Arab inhabitants, who used the city as their base of operations, because the position of the city allowed them to dominate the passage between Rhodes and Karpathos. This theory is substantiated by the fact that only Arabs could live close to the sea during that period and because of the constant raids. The ruins found today in Palatia resemble the constructions of Syria dated before the 10th century. As it seems from the ruins and the deep clefts in the ground, the city of Palatia was destroyed by a strong earthquake, in the first two or three centuries of the second millennium AD.