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      Σαρία (5/3/2006 v.1) Saria (5/4/2006 v.1)

Author(s) : Karabatsos Vasilios

For citation: Karabatsos Vasilios, "Saria",
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1. Location

The uninhabited islet Saria is located north of Karpathos. The narrows between the north shores of Karpathos and Saria are approx. 1,5 nautical miles long and just 50 m. wide. The island’s maximum height reaches 631 meters. The island belongs to the inhabitants of the village of Olympus located in the north of Karpathos who cultivated it until 1971. Saria produced an adequate amount of barley and – a little less – wheat, mainly in the Argos area.

Today it is used for grazing and apiculture by the inhabitants of the village of Olympus.

2. Historical review and monuments: Antiquity

Two areas of the island were inhabited during antiquity and up to the early Byzantime periods; the settlement known as Palatia, where ancient Saros was located, and the area of Argos, whose name suggests a Mycenaean presence.

The oldest signs of habitation on Saria date from the prehistoric years, as testified by a stone axe (today in the museum of Cambridge), and a group of bronze tools and weapons from the Bronze Age (2300-2000 BC, today in the British Museum), found during the 19th century at Palatia. This is also verified by more recent surface research.

The antiquities found on the Kastella hill, where an entrance can be discerned, connect Saros to the historical years. Here survive a fortification wall built of polygon boulders and a vertical wall dating from the Hellenistic years.

The existence of a town on the island is known from the tax lists of the 1st Athenian League. The characterization “Sarian” appears on tomb inscriptions during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Some researchers of the history and archaeology of Karpathos support that Nisyros, the fourth biggest town of Karpathos according to Strabo, must have been located on Saria, at the Palatia location. This opinion cannot be adequately verified however by known historical and epigraphical evidence.

Two visible, carved, chambered tombs located on the south side of the Palatia settlement towards Kastella belong to the Hellenistic period.
Saria was mentioned and mapped by the Florentine monk Cristoforo Buondelmonti at around 1420 AD. Since then, western cartographers copied Buendelmonti until 1696, when the geographer V. Coronelli attempted a more precise mapping.

3. The settlement and basilicas of Saria

At the Palatia location, a settlement with acropolis boomed during antiquity and developed to a greater extent from the 4th to the 7th centuries AD. The inhabitants of Saros, apart from agriculture and farming were also involved in commercial activities. Research has shown they had developed trade links with countries in the Near East and Cyprus.

A small and shallow cove forms the harbor at Palatia. The impressive rock formations at its entrance are the result of the great earthquakes which have hit the island throughout the centuries.

Amongst the rocks, winds the torrent “of Entis”, which, because of abandonment, has wrecked the supporting walls and other works that protected the settlement which developed along its slopes along towards the sea. Five basilicas have been found here.

To the left and further inland is the church of Aghia Sofia, built on the location of the Sanctuary of a large three-aisled early Christian basilica. Of the basilica survive the synthrono and the position where the Episcopal throne was placed. The central aisle, which was divided from the side aisles by two rows of marble columns, had a floor decorated with mosaics. The columns were crowned by Corinthian type capitals.

On the northern slope, above the torrent extends the largest area of the settlement. Here are located the ruins of three early Christian basilicas. The easternmost, known as basilica A, is located near the sea and has a dominant position. It is three-aisled with a semi-circular apse to the east, narthex to the west and two outbuildings on the outer side of the southern wall. Two rows of columns divided the central aisle from the two side aisles.

To the west of basilica A and roughly at the centre of the hill, within a rudimentary walled court, survive basilica B and an impressive part of the settlement; here survive in good condition a number of the single-roomed buildings with domed roofs. Built of stone on rudimentary flat areas formed by the construction of supporting walls, they do not follow a particular orientation. The basilica is three-aisled with semi-circular apse to the east of the central aisle. On the SE side of the basilica survives a room with semi-circular apse used as a Baptistery. In the interior existed two rows of built columns which supported the roof and divided the side aisles from the central aisle.

On the western edge of the northern slope of the settlement are the remains of basilica C, a three-aisled early Christian basilica with semi-circular apse at the eastern end of the central aisle and a narthex to the west. Two rows of built columns supported the roof and divided the side aisles from the central aisle. The mosaic floor decoration of the basilica’s southern aisle survives.

The area along the slope which extends south of the torrent and all along its length to the sea is dotted with various types of buildings, as is the northern slope. Here are located the two domed tombs, carved into the rock. At the easternmost edge is the acropolis of Kastellas. Here, at the highest point of the acropolis, are the ruins of the basilica of Kastellas, a three-aisled early Christian basilica with semi-circular apse. The aisles were divided by a marble colonnade which supported the wooden roof. To the west existed a narthex which covered the entire width of the basilica. On the SE side are outbuildings which have been identified as the basilica’s baptistery.

The settlement was abandoned in the 7th century BC, probably because of Arab incursions. It was later inhabited by pirates who appear not to have made use of the churches. After the recovery of Crete during the reign of Nikiphoros Phokas, the islands came under the auspices of the Byzantine Empire, but some, like Saria, do not appear to have been re-inhabited.




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