Despotiko may be an uninhabited Cycladic island today. But almost 2,500 years ago it was the place in which flourished one of the largest Cycladic worship centers dedicated to Apollo.
The ongoing systematic search at the Mantra site on the uninhabited island of Despotiko, west of Antiparos, started in 1997 by archaeologist of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades, Giannis Courage, has brought to light an extensive cult facility - the largest in the Cyclades after that of Delos.
To date, 22 buildings dating back to archaic and classical times (7th - 4th century BC) have been unearthed, while part of the archaic installation were the building complexes that have been located on the islet of Tsimentiri.
The earliest period of activity at the Mantra site is placed in the Early Iron Age (9th-8th century BC). Beneath the archaic temple and the archaic building D were located two buildings and a multitude of finds that seem to have been part of a wider geometric installation, which succeeded in the 6th century BC. the cult installation of the sanctuary of Apollo.
The core of the sanctuary is the mosque with an area of about 2.5 acres. It is bordered by a walled enclosure with three gates, which encloses the temple, the ritual restaurant, Building D and the worship altars.
Auxiliary facilities and buildings (storage rooms, living quarters, laboratories, restaurants, water tank, open spaces) extended to the south and northeast of the mosque.
The excavation and study of the material is in progress, offering every year valuable information about the topography and history of the sanctuary. It is indisputable from the spatial planning, the architecture of the worship buildings and non-buildings, and the richness and the variety of the offerings that in the Despotiko operated a rich super-local religious center.
The responsibility for an archaeological site does not stop with its excavation and study of the findings. The preservation and promotion of the ancient remains are the primary goals of the Despotiko team. In 2008, the architectural documentation of the best-preserved building complex of the archaic sanctuary, the temple and the ritual restaurant began. Its completion and the publication of its findings in 2012 paved the way for the elaboration of the restoration study. of the church and the restaurant and the promotion of the archeological site that was unanimously approved by the KAS in 2014 and 2016.
The temple and the restaurant were treated as a single monumental ensemble. In their restoration proposal, the reintegration of a large number of surviving ancient architectural members was proposed. This is now one of the most important restoration projects in the Cyclades, since the monument will be significantly supplemented in height, to give its third dimension. With the completion of the works, the monumental character of a unique architecture of the archaic Cyclades that has survived in a landscape untouched by man-made interventions will be fully understood. The visitor will be able to perceive its size and grandeur even from the opposite coast of Antiparos.
Apart from the restoration works, of major importance for the protection of the archeological site is the work of its promotion and its transformation into an organized visitable space, accessible to the general public.