The ancient fortification wall of Nisyros crowns the hill above Mandraki, a naturally fortified site above the Kos –Nisyros lane on the sea route from the coastlands of Asia Minor to the central Aegean and Greek mainland. Built in the 4th c. BC, it is one of the most important ancient fortifications of antiquity and perhaps one of the the best preserved in the Aegean region. In 1841 it was visited and described by Ludwig Ross, the first General Director of Antiquities in the then newly formed Greek state. The traveling English archaeologists Richard, M. Dawkins and Alan, J. B. Wace described and made the drawings of the so far visible section of the walls at the beginning of the 20th century. Nowadays, due to the restoration works and the impressive and works carried out to enhance the environment area around the monument area which were undertaken by the 22nd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities with funding from the 2003-2008 Regional Operational Programme of the Southern Aegean.
The wall dominates the brow and the slopes of the hill southwest of Mandraki and they are extended northward to the rock on which the castle of the Knights stands today and end insteep cliff to the west. The wall demarcates the ancient city of Nisyros, which existed earlier on the same site, since at least the 8th c. BC. The ancient necropolis occupied the south slope of the hill and was extended up to the opposite mount, beyond thefortification walls.
The walls of the 4th century B.C apart from their impressive planning and their good conservation, they owe their extraordinary appearance to the quality of their stone material, the durable basaltic andesite, a local volcanic black stone, hewn in large blocks of a weight of 3.5 tons. The fortification wall was built with coursed trapezoidal masonry on two faces filled in with rubble and rough stones in the interior. The maximum width of the wall is 3.65 m. The curved face of the blocks, which gives a plasticity to the monument, comprises its main characteristic. On the outside of the eastern section of the wall,north of the gate, a significant inscription “ΔΑΜΟΣΙΟΝ ΤΟΧΩΡΙΟΝ ΠΕΝΤΕ ΠΟΔΑΣ ΑΠΟ ΤΟ ΤΕΙΧΕ(ΟΣ)” (The area five feet from the fortification wall is public), is carved, which stipulates the minimum width of a public zone around the wall that must, for defensive reasons, remain free, as about 1.50m.
In its current form, the walls in Palaiokastro consist of two sections that form a right angular bastion projecting, opposite to the emblematic gate of the fortification, which has been preserved intact in a recess on a protected site. The gate has a high of 3.20 and a width of 2.10 m. It is closed with a two-leaf wooden door that was secured with a horizontal bar, the socket, in which the bar was inserted,is still clearly visible on the inner side of the gateway. The eastern part of the wall is about 90 m. long and reaches a height of 9.5 m. It currently preserves two towers. The southern, more exposed section, about 190 m long and up to 10.77 m high, is reinforced with six towers. The fifth tower, which is a later addition of the 3rd century BC and it preserved over its entire height, was built in the pseudo-isodomic system. The towers are almost square on plan and they are solid up to the height of the parodos (wall-walk) of the walls. Unlike the towers of other fortifications, such as the one in the neighbouring islet of Pyrgousa, their interior was solid without any openings. In the interior of the walls, the built stairways are kept in excellent condition in the spacious for the soldiers’ movement passage. On the eastern section two stairwayshave been preserved to a heigh of 16 and 18 steps, while on the southern section five stairways have been preserved.
Nowadays, the imposing fortification encloses an area of about 130.000 square meters, where the remains of a large early Christian Basilica (25 x 33 m.) exist, dating from the 6th century AD. Three Corinthian capitals, which were always detectable in this area, as well as three fallen unfluted columns decorated with an engraved cross from the colonnade of the central aisle are related to the church. The Christian church confirms the continuity of worship in the area of the ancient citadel, where, besides the public buildings, the ancient temples used to be enclosed.
The fortification, built during the reign of Mausolus and his successors in Rhodes and Kos, reveals the general defense policy of the dynasty of Hecatomnids of Caria. At the same time, it was an important part of a wider network that was reinforced by phryctoriae, separate towers that were built in in different locations of the island, in Diavati, Cape Lefkos, and the site Pyrgos in Katero. The network extended to the islet Pyrgousa, where two contemporary towers of similar construction with those in Palaiokastro, are preserved.
The exemplary restoration and the enhancement οf this unique monument of fortification art and architecture preserved it from further collapse and had as a result the foundation of an archaeological site, attractive to the visitors and to the residents of the island.
Area of Mandraki, Nisyros, Postal Code 85303
Means of access:
Open year round