Delos: The Soft Power of Poetry

  • Martyn Smith


Delos slowly gains clarity and outline as an excursion boat draws near. It is a small island, and by no means the only one in view. Naxos, Paros, Myconos, and Tenos are all within sight, not to mention Delos’ near neighbor, Rheneia. These and a number of other small islands comprise the Cyclades, a chain northeast of Athens in the Aegean Sea. Delos is tiny and in many ways unremarkable, but the modern visitor may well feel like Ovid’s ancient heroine Cydippe:

Stirred by the fame of the place, I hastened to see Delos and the ship seemed listless to make the journey.

How often did I make complaints to the slow oars and have complained that scanty canvas was given to the wind!

And just now I passed Myconos, now Tenos and Andros, and Delos was dazzling to my eyes,

which when I saw it distant, I said “why do you flee from me, island?”

(Heroides 21.77–83)


Palm Tree Soft Power Sacred Space Greek Island Archaic Period 
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© Martyn Smith 2008

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  • Martyn Smith

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