Portara gate: the trademark of Naxos is perhaps the most photographed spot on the island of Naxos and an idyllic place to enjoy the sunset. The famous Portara is located on the small island of Palatia (palaces) or Bacchus' Island, at the northern tip of the harbor of Naxos. Thanks to its impressive size and construction, it’s still standing solid and firm, proudly through the centuries, like an enigmatic door that leads nowhere.
Portara (meaning big door) was the huge marble gate of a temple that began to be built by tyrant Lygdamis in the 6th century BC, according to the specifications of the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens and Hera in Samos. This Ionian temple had a length of 59m and a width of 28m.
Some archaeologists say that the temple was dedicated to Apollo, because Portara is facing Delos, the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. Others believe that this impressive temple could only belong to the “owner” of Naxos island since the mythical years: Dionysus. According to Greek mythology, this was the place where Theseus abandoned Ariadne after kidnapping her and taking her away from Crete. Ariadne was later abducted by god Dionysus, who fell in love with her.
We don’t know why this temple was not completed. We can only assume that the cause was a war that broke out between Naxos and Samos island. Centuries later, and more specifically in the 6th century AD, a Christian church was built on the ancient temple. Under Frankish rule, the temple was completely destroyed. Its marbles were used in other constructions, such as the Castle of Chora (Naxos town).
The islet was not connected to Naxos until 1919. It was then that the small road that connects it to the rest of the island was built. Today, Portara still stands upright, accepting the blows of the sea and air, like a timeless symbol, reminiscent of our unbroken ties to the past.