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date: 30 January 2023



  • R. W. V. Catling


An archipelago in the southern Aegean, comprising some thirty habitable islands, ranging in size from a few square kilometres to over 400 sq. km. (155 sq. mi.), and numerous small islands deserted through most of history. They offer a favourable route across the Aegean where land is always in sight and refuge close at hand.

The Cyclades are part of a sunken land mass extending south-east from Attica and Euboea, composed of metamorphic rocks (predominantly marble and schist) with igneous intrusions of granite and gneiss. *Thera, *Melos, and Cimolos are volcanic islands lying along the south Aegean arc. All are mountainous (1,000 m. (3,280 ft.) on *Naxos (1)) and lack extensive arable land, but are rich in minerals; iron ores are widespread, precious copper, lead/silver ores, and gold localized to Cythnos, Seriphos, *Siphnos, and Syros. Their *marble, particularly Parian (see paros) and Naxian, is among the finest. An extreme Mediterranean climate with low annual rainfall and strong winds prevails, increasingly arid towards the south-east. Climate and geology suggest that they were as barren in antiquity as now. Schistic soils are preferred to the derivitives from marble and igneous rocks for cultivation. Barley and vines fare best. Animal husbandry is restricted by scarce water resources.


  • Ancient Geography

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