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The Mystery of the Sleeping Giant of Naxos, Greece

Naxos giant kouros statue
the famous giant kouros statue of Naxos. Credit: Olaf Tausch/ CC BY 3.0/ Wikipedia Commons

An ancient giant statue has been lying on its back for centuries on a hill on the scenic Greek island of Naxos.

The “Kouros of Apollonas”, also called the “Colossus of Dionysus”, is a 10.7 meter (35 foot) tall unfinished statue of light grey Naxian marble, weighing approximately 80 tons.

It has never been raised up to its full height; for some unknown reason the giant was left to languish for eternity on the bare ground.

Dating between the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. the marble statue is situated on the northern part of Naxos, in the picturesque fishing village of Apollonas.

The giant kouros statue in Naxos

The Kouros has a frontal construction, with its arms seemingly coming out of its ribs and the elbows bent. In addition, the statue’s left leg is longer than its right leg.

In most cases, kouros statues depict standing nude young men with their arms at their sides. It is clear, however, that the Kouros of Apollonas was meant to be a depiction of an older man having a beard. His right arm would have been stretched out in front of him.

The archaic Greek kouroi have usually been interpreted as depictions of Apollo, but the Kouros of Apollonas is considered to be a depiction of the Greek god Dionysus because of its beard.

Scientists say that the ancient sculptors got no further in their plans to transport this kouros, since a route for the further transport of the statue would have needed to have been carved into the hillside, and this was never done.

Most assume that it was simply too heavy to transport. Other reasons for the statue remaining unfinished are mentioned in myriad tourist guidebooks and websites.

There is a claim that it was realized late in the production process that the statue had several cracks, or that the ancient sculptors thought that the colossus might break during the process of cutting it out of the ground.

The reason could also be something as prosaic as that work on the gigantic statue had not been paid for. In any event, the spirit of this colossal statue lives on through the centuries despite its unusual nature, or perhaps even because of it.

Naxos: Island overtaken by history

Naxos is the largest island of the Cyclades, and although it is comparatively unknown relative to Greece’s many other island idylls, it is one of the most enchanting places for any visitor.

Despite flying somewhat under the radar, the island is one of the most interesting places in Greece. It boasts a magnificent history, with influences from the Franks and the Venetians, who are responsible for numerous monuments from the Middle Ages. The island is completely overtaken by history.

Apart from boasting a fascinating past, Naxos possesses a lovely natural landscape, since it is the greenest island in the Cyclades archipelago. As well as having beautiful beaches, its rural villages are set into a backdrop of green valleys and mountains.

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