Delos

Delos is an archeological site on an island of the same name in the central Cyclades, 2 Km from Mykonos. There is no current Jewish population, but there are remains of two synagogues.

Historical Background and site

The existence of a Jewish community in Delos is mentioned in the Christian Bible has been archeologically confirmed by the discovery of five inscriptions dating from the late 2nd or early 1st century B.C.E. Josephus also mentions the community as existing in the fisrt century C.E

In the course of excavations carried out in 1913 in the area between the ancient stadium and the shoreline, a set of rooms adapted from an earlier house was identified as a synagogue. It is the oldest synagogue in Diaspora.

The structure originally consisted of two rooms set against a portico, which ran along the east wall of the two rooms. When it was converted into a synagogue, the northernmost room was divided in half and benches were set along the northern half of the western wall. Dominating this arrangement was a fine marble throne and footstool, which still exists and is now referred to as the “Throne of Moses”. Associated with the same site is a cistern that may very well have been a Mikve (ritual bath). One of the inscriptions can still be seen on a stone just east of the synagogue remains. The others are in storage in the museum.

The second converted house is about 60 metres northwest of the first synagogue, built along the east wall of the stadium.It is sometimes reffered to as “The house of Agathocles and Lysimachos”. It was near this site that a stele in honor of Serapion, an Israelite from Knossos, was found (now in the museum). This converted building has a cistern directly underneath it, reached by descending a set of stairs (now covered by a stone slab).

Unfortunately, we know nothing of the fortunes of the Jewish communities of Delos. In the fourth century B.C.E, Delos had been granted self-government under Ptolemee I of Egypt, and that may well have been when the Jews settled here. By the first century B.C.E Delos has passed its days of glory as the center of the Delian League. Under the Romans, Delos became an important slave market. In 88 B.C.E, King Mithridates of Pontus defeated the Romans on Delos, and after taking a large number of slaves, destroyed most of the town, leaving some 20,000 dead. It is most likely that the Synagogues were destroyed at this time.

Location: At the archeological site of Delos. The island can be reached only by boat from Mykonos. The synagogues themselves are in the northerneastern corner of the island between the ancient stadium and the shore.

Based on Jewish Sites and Synagogues of Greece -

Nicholas P. Stavroulakis and Timothy J. DeVinney - Talos press