The Karystian marble columns

The columns from the Roman quarries of Karystos


The Roman marble quarries in Karystos belonged to the imperial estate from 17 to 206 AD and were in operation for a long period.


Most of the Karystian green marble was exported in large monolith columns (kylindri). They were transferred everywhere, especially in Rome and used in numerous monuments, such as the BASILICA EMILIA, DOMUS AUGUSTANA, the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, in public buildings, imperial markets, the Gardianon Emperors villa, the home of Mamuris and other villas mostly in Caesar's time.


The oldest use of marble in Rome was in 197 BC when the Emilia Basilica was built. The BASILICAS were public buildings used for courts and public transactions. VILLA MAMURANA  was built around 50 BC. Mamura was the first who built a private house and used Karystian columns in large quantities. That created a fashion which "imposed" the use of green marble in palaces and villas of wealthy Romans. So, the quarries in Karystos began to work feverishly.


Later, Octavian decided to use green columns in DOMUS AUGUSTANA, the House of August. Octavian took the title of Augustus in 27 BC. Since then, the orders and purchases by the Emperors were continuous and numerous.


In 17 AD, along with other public buildings, Karystos’ quarries were declared imperial!


60 columns were used in the temple of Antonius and Faustina in 141 AD. The Gordian Emperors (from 159 until 244 AD) decorated their villas with 200 Karystian columns. It is not known if the Karystos’ quarries belonged to individuals or local government in the pre-Roman times. It seems that after the conquest of the Romans, the quarries became property of the State (in 17 AD property of emperor Augustus).


A liberated slave is mentioned in a headstone as DISPENSATOR AUGUSTI (Butler of Augustus). He was appointed as an administrator of the imperial property in the area.


The emperor Severus (193-211) canceled all the State programs for artistic works not only under the pressure of the revolts of the German peoples but also of the general anarchy and economic hardship. Thus, in 206 AD the quarries got declassified as imperial property and is quite possible that the government canceled all the orders.


More than 50 columns were left in Karystos area up to this day and it is most likely that there was an abrupt closure of the quarries. There is evidence that in later times a mild and limited mining took place to acquire marble mostly for the construction of Byzantine churches.


Source: The book of Stamatis Papamihail "post-Christian KARYSTOS" Karystos 2002

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