The magical myths of Kos Island
Located in the south eastern Aegean Sea, Kos is an ideal location for a sunny week away. With bearable flight times for little ones and warm climates for the great outdoors, it’s a no brainer. Great resorts? Check. Fantastic beaches? Check. Culture? Check. Greek gods and goddesses? Er, yes please, and check.
While you most probably expect a little side order of ancient history from the Greek isle, an exploration of Greek mythology may have slipped the agenda.
Aside from beach volleyball, kid’s clubs and endless spa treatments, Kos comes with an array of eerie history and godly tales that will keep the kids entertained once they have settled down after the excitement of the water parks.
In the town centre, just south of the Castle of Knights (one for the boys), lies the ancient Agora. This is a large excavation site where ruins dating back to the 3rd-century BC have been uncovered. While it’s free to enter and fun to explore there are also some fantastical fables looming in the ruins that help bring those illustrious Greek myths and legends the kids love to life.
The north of the ruins houses what is left of the Shrine of Aphrodite. Legend has it that the divine goddess of love had some unknown connection to this small island and so a temple was constructed in her name. She is said to have safeguarded the sanctity of marriage and protected local sailors and fishermen on their deadly journeys after locals laid down sacrifices in this spiritual temple.
Moving on from the icky love stuff, boys might be more excited to run around in Hercules’ Temple. Built way back in 4th-century BC, this temple marks the many local stories that herald Hercules as the King of Kos.
It’s said that upon his return from Troy, laden with treasure, Hercules was shipwrecked on Cape Gourniatis on the island of Kos. While one of the town locals took him in and proclaimed him their new king, another took offence to his presence and their king, the son of Poseidon proclaimed war. After an intense battle Hercules killed his opponent and later married the newly appointed king’s sister. The pair had a son, Thessalos, who became the king of Kos and Nisyros. Got all that?
So in the town of Kos, Hercules is a pretty big deal and this temple represents that respect. Inside, a scene shows Hercules having dinner with his wife and son while a newlywed couple offers up sacrifices. You see, it wasn’t only Aphrodite who could yield a bit of romance, Hercules was also considered the protector of marriage and fertility and so local mythology claims that Hercules was always the most important god to worship in Kos.
Keeping it in the family, centuries later it seems the 20th grandson of Hercules was also making waves, medical waves, on this small island. Hippocrates is known as the father of western medicine. Born and raised on the island, Hippocrates studied hard and became a renowned and outstanding physician.
The details of his life are shrouded in uncertainty but what is known is that he is the central historical figure in Greek medicine of which many then followed suit. He led the way in clinical care and many say his work had a big impact on battling the sweeping epidemic of the plague.
Hippocrates, studied here in Kos at the Asklepieion before setting off to save the world, or maybe just Greece. Information on his work can be seen across the island. He is even supposed to have offered his services to the king of Persia, King Artaxerxi, during the period of the plague but the King turned him away.
So from mythology to medicine, the stunning island of Kos has much more to offer than pretty landscapes and exotic cocktails. There’s an abundance of history and some shady tales that certainly deserve a day of exploration as you combine sunshine and fascinating international culture.
Click on the link to find out more about Kos as a holiday destination.