The island was also a major commercial and trading centre in the 2nd and 1st centuries CE.
The Sanctuary of Delos
The island was first excavated by a team of French archaeologists from 1873 CE, revealing the true extent of the religious site. The island once had temples dedicated to Apollo (the Artemission), Leto (the Letoon), Artemis, Hera (the Heraion), Zeus, Athena, Hercules, and Asclepius. The Temple of Apollo housed, from the 6th century BCE, an 8 m high cult statue of the god made of wood and covered in gold. There was also a temple dedicated to the twelve Olympian gods (the Dodekatheon). Several other sacred buildings have also been identified but their exact purpose is unclear.
The Panēgyris, an Ionian festival in honour of Apollo, was held every year on the island and in the late 5th century BCE, a spectacular (Athenian inspired) festival - the Delia - was held every five years. The accompanying athletic games and musical and dancing contests attracted visitors from across the Aegean. Victors in the Delian games climbed the island’s Mt. Kynthos in order to be crowned.