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Kythera  

Nicolas Coldstream and Ioanna Bitha

[Cythera; Kithira; Ven. Cerigo; anc. Porphyrousa]

Greek island, 32×19 km, immediately south of the Peloponnese. It was credited by Herodotus (Histories, I.cv.3) with the oldest cult of Aphrodite, and its more romantic associations are recalled by Antoine Watteau’s Pilgrimage to the Isle of Cythera (Paris, Louvre). The landscape is rocky, with some fertile valleys. One such valley fed the eastern promontory site of Kastri (i), near the modern village of Avlemon, settled by Minoan Cretans from c. 2500 until c. 1425 bc. The historical Greek (c. 480–323 bc) city state of Kythera moved inland to the Palaiokastro hill and became a Spartan dependency, though with brief interludes of Athenian occupation. Kastri was fortified from c. ad 550 until c. 650 as a refuge against Slav and Avar invasions of Greece. After desertion in the 9th and 10th centuries the island’s mid-Byzantine recovery is attested by the building of numerous frescoed churches, continuing after annexation by Venice (...