The islet of Pyrgousa or Pergousa, with an area of 2 sq. km, is located 6 miles west of Nisyros and is one of the six islets that surround the island. It belongs to an island group in the west-southwest of Nisyros, along with Pachia and Kandeliousa. Pyrgousa and Pachia were created long before Nisyros, during the first period of volcanic activity in the area, 1.6 million years ago. Unlike the mountainous and steep Pachia, the shores of Pyrgousa are smoother and form a small accessible sandy beach in the eastern part of the island. The fertile plain in the center of the island was used by the residents of Nisyros from antiquity until the beginning of the 20th century for cultivation and stock-farming. Abandoned stables, threshing floors, and alarge number of low stone retaining walls are the remains of this activity, while an elongated stone wall, 2-2.5 m high, divides the island into two parts.
Fragments of pottery and obsidian from Melos and Yali prove that Pergousa had been inhabited since at least the Final Neolithic Period (4th millennium BC). The island is named after two ancient towers northern part, which were documented by the German archaeologist Ludwig Ross during his visit inNisyros in 1841.
The ancient towers, with a distance of 420 m. between them,were built on the highest points of the islet, which has a maximum elevation of 80 m. The towers are square on plan, andwere built with the pseudo-isodomic masonry using massive basalt andesitic blocks, a hard volcanic material similar to the building material of the ancient walls of Palaiokastro in Nisyros. The elaborate masonry, with the blocks showing some swellingon their exterior faces, and the orthogonal guides hewn in the corners of the building, provide evidence for the date of the towers in the 4th century BC, a period which is contemporary with Palaiokastro on Nisyros.
The southwestern tower protrudes from the land almost in the middle of the northern part of the island. It is square on plan, each side measuring 8.70 m., and it is preserved at a height of 5 m. consisting of 10 courses. It seems that it must have had at least two floors, with narrow openings at the height of the ceiling. Outside the tower there must have been a courtyard that preserves the pillars of its entrance. Remains of other buildings, ancient winepresses, a tank, and fragments of utilitarian vessels, mainly since the Hellenistic period, led to the recognition of the tower as the fortified part of an organized agricultural settlement.
The second and largest tower is built on a natural rocky height at the northeastern end of the islet. It has a square floor plan each side being 13 m. long and it is preserved at a maximum height of 6 rows of blocks. It is built in the pseudo-isodomic trapezoidal masonry system with sections of the natural rock properly shaped and integrated into the lower part of the walls. In the middle of the south side of the tower, is an entrance, that leads to a stairway, preserved in 7 meters, that led to the first floor or the flat roof of the building. In the surrounding area, apart from the traces of a polygonal masonry enclosure, no other buildings related to the agricultural activity are identified. On the contrary, its strategically selected location, at the northeastern tip of Pyrgousa, the tower had a broad visual field looking over the ancient city of Nisyros to the west, the islet of Yaliand the village of Kefalos in Kos to the north, as well as the possibility of watching the sea lanes from the Cyclades to Cnidus in Asia Minor, suggest its main use as an observation post and as phryktorion, a point from which light signals were sent to the fortresses with which it had visual contact.
In general, all the towers that were built on many islands in the Dodecanese and the Cyclades constituted a part of a wider defense network. The majority are dated from the middle of the 4th to the 3rd c. BC, a period when the dominance of the Athenian fleet in the Aegean has ceased. Located in strategic positions and near lowland cultivable land, they are identified as the fortified part of agricultural installations which are located in the countryside in the vicinity of the town, where farmers could find refuge in the event of a hostile invasion. Their construction on particular strategicobservation points is linked to a central defense plan that could be attributed to the policy of shielding the area from the tyrant of Caria Mausolus, and his successors (known as the Hecatomnid Dynasty), who for a short time (355 -332 BC) had gained control of Rhodes, Kos and the nearby islands of the Cnidian Peninsula.
islet of Pyrgousa, Nisyros, postal code 85303
Means of access:
By boat, afterwards on foot
Open year round