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Rinia Island Greece Delos Island

rinia island map

A historic island called Rinia is situated in a very small distance from the popular Greek island Mikonos. According to an old reference, the Tyrant of Samos Island, Polikratis, had devoted this island to Apollo, one of the 12 Gods of Ancient Greece, by tying it to Delos Island with a big iron chain, in 523 BC.

A pestilence that bedeviled Athens, in the beginning of Peloponnesian War, led Athenians to the following decision: they had to purify Delos, because they believed that the cause of the pestilence was Apollos anger. So, they had to empty and destroy all the graves that had been built on Delos Island with the exception of some graves that were considered to be sacred. They put all the contents (bones and funerary offerings) of the graves in a common grave called "Vothros Katharsis" (purification hole), located in Rinia Island.

From 426/5 until 1 BC, Rinia Island was used as a cemetery for dead people from Delos Island. Rinia Island was also a kind of garner for Delos Island and there must have been a town on it, the extend of which has not been estimated..

After being destroy destroyed by Athinodoros, Delos Island was then abandoned, Rinia was forgotten. Historically, we come across it later, when pirates used it as their hideaway.

rinia island rinia island

Some years later, a lazaret was made on its north east coast, to be used by the ships that were heading to Cyclades.

After Greek independence, Delos and Rinia Islands were designated as areas of great archeological value and as a result, land owning is forbidden since then. However, the habitants of Mykonos can rent some fields for cultivation and pay for them to their municipality. They also are allowed to farm a few animals.

The purification hole was brought to light by an archeologist between 1898 and 1900. Covering a surface bigger than 400 m2 it contained hundreds of vessels and funerary offerings made of metal, ivory, marble or glass. They are all exhibited in the Museum of Mykonos Island which was built for this purpose in 1905.

The past of this small island attracted my attention and after having advised a detailed guide, I decided to pay a visit to that place. I took a boat from Mykonos Island and I arrived at Kasaris, the port of Rinia Island, in half an hour. Some of the passengers disembark here. They are the farmers who arrive there to feed their animals and take care of their plants. The only buildings I can see on this island are some small houses, the "cells" for the farmers, and some stables. The boat is directing to the south and we reach Geralis, the next port of the island from where Delos is just 700m away.

rinia island rinia island

I disembarked there and I walked towards the town of the dead people, on a tough path. I came across detached graves that remind me the Alexandrian style. There is a frontispiece on the ground; the rest of the grave is missing. I find a half-open sarcophagus made of marble some meters away and a tube that ends to a grave nearby.

Several kinds of graves have been found in Rinia Island: vaulted graves, subterranean graves, sarcophaguses made of marble or sinter, graves decorated with small or large sepulchral columns or with the dead persons statue.

During Hellenistic years, burning the bodies of dead people was relevant to their burial and the cremains were put in cinerary urns. Many of them are exposed in the Museum of Mykonos.

As I am walking around this island I come across sheep, the farmers "cells" as well as their stables and fields that are cultivated. This land must be blessed. It has been being cultivated since ancestry.

Walking up the hill, I can se Delos Island. I can also see the "neck" of Rinia Island, a zone of land that divides the island in north and south part. Passing through the neck I arrive at the place where the lazaret was situated. A long wall had been built in order to isolate it from the rest of the island. Nowadays, it is destroyed and there are only its remains at this place. I am heading to Agia Triada beach. My route is full of fields and some wells which water the island. When I finally arrive at the beach I see an exotic coast with blonde sand and clear water. It reminds me of Caribbean! However, this beach, just like all the beaches of Rinia Island, is not crowdy at all; no tourism has disturbed its natural beauty. I should mention of course that Rinia consists of many beaches such as Ligia, Skinos, Nataliotis, Stena, Glifada, Ambelia which can be accessed only by a private boat.

rinia island map

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