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Discovering ancient Delos


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

BA graduates (Dutch): BA degree (or equivalent) in Archaeology or relevant discipline. SAP and Exchange Students: BA degree.


The Island of Delos was famous for its sanctuary of Apollo throughout antiquity. In 314 BC the island gained independence from the Athenians. During the following 150 years Delos developed an important position as trading place. The island’s central location within the trading routes of the eastern Mediterranean, and its well protected harbour helped to strengthen its economic role. Being the custodian of a sanctuary of international importance and at the same time an emerging economic force, Delos differed from other Greek poleis. The difference became even larger once the island was turned into a ‘free port’ by the Romans in 166 BC. This prompted an influx of entrepreneurs from other Mediterranean regions, leading to the development of a thriving merchant community. Delos experienced an economic boom from 130 – 88 BC, taking over from other trade centres, e.g. Corinth and Rhodos which had been destroyed in 146 BC. The island lost its leading economic position in the 1st century BC and became increasingly marginalised until it was completely forgotten and almost uninhabited during the imperial period.

These circumstances helped to preserve an excellent archaeological record presenting the island in the height of its development in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. Moreover, 120 years of excavations and research by the French school offer a wealth of material, most of it published.

The seminar will explore Delos during its boom town phase.
We will be looking at the island’s archaeological remains through various, but interdependent thematic lenses: religious, economic and private – the sanctuaries, the business centres (fora and collegia), and the housing areas. The seminar will consist of lectures and student presentations.

Course objectives

  • Familiarise the student in depth with the material evidence (built environment and inscriptions) of commerce in the ancient world;

  • To train students to examine the past built environment to gain insights into the social and economic life of an island trading community;

  • To explore the ‘sacred bonds of commerce’ through the link between sanctuaries, collegia (guilds) and Delian entrepreneurs.


Course schedule details can be found in the MA time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Student presentations.

Assessment method

  • Presentation and presentation report.

Reading list

  • R. Etienne et al., Archéologie historique de la Grèce antique (2000).

  • N. Rauh, _The sacred bonds of commerce: Religion, economy, and trade society at Hellenistic Roman Delos, 166-87 B.C. (1993). Gieben;

  • M. Trümper, Wohnen in Delos: Eine baugeschichtliche Untersuchung zum Wandel der Wohnkultur in hellenistischer Zeit (1998). Rhaden: Verlag Marie Leidorf;

  • M. Trümper, _Modest housing in Late Hellenistic Delos, in ancient Greek houses and households (2006), ed. B.A.A. a. L.C. Nevett. Philadelphia: Penn, University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 119-39;

  • Additional literature will be assigned during class.


Register for this course via uSis.
Instructions for registration can be found in the uSis manual.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact mw drs J.J. Stöger.