The Sanctuary of the Great Gods, where the famous statue of Nike (Nike Precict: 12) was found in 1863, covers an area of ca. 12 acres, ca. 400 m. from the present NW coast of the island. The most important and earlier structures are crowded together on the gentle slope between two streams: the Hall of Choral Dancers (17, ca. 340 BC), the Altar Court (14, ca. 340-330 BC), the Hieron (15, 325-150 BC), the Dedication of Philip III and Alexander IV (24, 323-317 BC), the Rotunda of Arsinoe II (20, 288-270 BC). On the western periphery of the site the Stoa (11, first half of the 3rd c. BC), the Neorion (29, second quarter of the third c. BC), the Milesian Dedication (6, second half of the 3rd c. BC), and on its eastern extremity the Propylon of Ptolemy II (26, 285-281 BC) are located. Indications of religious activity date from the 7th century BC, but construction of monumental buildings began only in the 4th century BC and is associated with the munificence and the political interests of the royal house of Macedon, already from the reign of Philip II. The sanctuary, which attained its greatest glory in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, was abandoned towards the end of the 4th century AD. Archaeological research has provided a picture of its development, although neither archaeological data nor literature are able to penetrate the veil of secrecy that covers the mysteries.

Although explored as early as 1444 (Cyriac of Ancona), the Sanctuary was first systematically excavated in 1873 and 1875 by two Austrian expeditions directed by A. Conze. Since 1938, work at the site has been conducted under the auspices of the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University (K. Lehmann, J. R. McCredie, B. D. Wescoat) supervised since 1964 by the ΙΘ΄ Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. Efforts have been directed toward excavation, publication, and presentation of the ancient monuments. During the last two decades the ΙΘ΄ Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities has undertaken an active role in conservation and site management.
Dimitris Matsas