One of the so-called dragon houses (drakospita).

The Mystery of the Ancient Greek ‘Dragon Houses’

(Read the article on one page)

Mt. Olympus, the Peloponnesian War, Pericles, Athens, and, of course, the Parthenon. When one considers ancient Greece, these are only a few of the topics that usually spring to mind. The heroic age of gods and men, the historical wars between Greek city-states, powerful strategoi and their prominent cities and, of course, architectural feats beyond compare. What does not spring to mind, however, are the megalithic structures the Greeks call drakospita, or "dragon houses."

Megalithic Architecture of the Drakospita

Likely dating to the Preclassical period of ancient Greece, the dragon houses of Euboea are among the mysteries of the past which have yet to be understood. Resembling the stepped pyramid of Djoser in Pre-Dynastic Egypt and the temple complexes of Pre-Columbian Teotihuacan, these megalithic houses are structures built without mortar. Small, thin, mostly flat stones make up the buildings, stacked atop one another, kept in place with the uses of jambs and lintels. Large megaliths are used in various places throughout the structures, usually toward the roofs, positioned in a fashion that is similar to what is seen at Stonehenge.

A megalithic drakospita in Greece.

A megalithic drakospita in Greece. ( fainareti)

While little is understood of these dragon houses, the number of the structures is far more than expected. Around twenty-three of these houses exist on the island of Euboea—most between Mounts Ochi and Styra—each building made of megaliths. In fact, scholars are constantly boggled by the sheer size and weight of the single megalith resting on two equally large post stones, together forming a doorway. How this megalith could have been lifted and placed atop the posts is as much a mystery as the reason behind the building of these structures.

 

One of Greece’s megalithic drakospita.

One of Greece’s megalithic drakospita . (fainareti)

It should further be noted that, not only is the reason behind the houses a consistent question among scholars, but their location is equally astonishing. These dragon houses are situated at very high altitudes, making the weight and size of the megaliths even more shocking. The builders had to find a way to transport such large megaliths from a much lower altitude, and then construct the houses at a height at which it was likely unpleasant to work. Further, each structure possesses as Pantheon-like opening in the roof, likely intended for natural sun- or moonlight - to illuminate the interior of the structures.

Drakospita have holes in their roofs.

Drakospita have holes in their roofs. ( CC BY 3.0 )

 

What’s in a Name?

Some theories have arisen that the structures might have been shrines to Hera, Zeus, or Herakles. Theories regarding the rituals that might have taken place within, however, are few. Another popular belief is that these megalithic buildings were either stations at which guards were positioned during the Hellenistic period, or they were warehouses in which supplies may have been stored. If these locations had been stations, they likely would have served as a base equipped with food, supplies, and soldiers, prepped and ready for whatever battle might be on the horizon. As warehouses, the list of necessities would have likely been non-perishable food items; yet the premise would have remained the same: in case of emergency, break megalith.

Another question lies in the structures names: why are these buildings called drakospita? The first thing one must understand is that the ancient Greek conception of dragons is not the same as the current one. Drako, interpreted as "dragon" in the present, really describes a mythical creature akin to modern perceptions of giants. In light of this description, one can more easily understand why these mountain houses have been named drakospita by archaeologists.

A victorious Hercules stands over the body of Geryon the giant.

A victorious Hercules stands over the body of Geryon the giant. ( Public Domain )

Until more is understood about how these buildings were made and/or by whom they were constructed, referring to them as abodes of the supernatural is a surprisingly fitting description. After all, who else would have the strength to lift and move megaliths across the ancient world?

A Significant Site for Megaliths

Though the uses of these megalithic houses are unknown, their location is likely of great importance. For now, Euboea is the only known island in the Aegean upon which these houses stand. Further, Mt. Oche, where one of the best-preserved houses remains, is the tallest point of south Euboea. Perhaps there is a correlation between proximity to both air and sea, as Mt. Oche is near the prominent bay city Karystos. Might these structures have some relationship to an ancient more elemental religion than the Classical Greek traditions recorded by Hesiod and Homer? While this theory uses only one of over twenty known sites as an example, perhaps readers will use this as a stepping stone to investigate possible explanations for the purposes of the ambiguous drakospita.

Comments

Does anyone know of any archeological excavations at these sites? Would be very interesting to see what , if anything was found.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Human Origins

Map of sites and postulated migratory pathways associated with modern humans dispersing across Asia during the Late Pleistocene.
Most people are now familiar with the traditional "Out of Africa" model: modern humans evolved in Africa and then dispersed across Asia and reached Australia in a single wave about 60,000 years ago. However, technological advances in DNA analysis and other fossil identification techniques, as well as an emphasis on multidisciplinary research

Ancient Technology

Detail of a star chart dating to the Middle Kingdom.
The calendar is one of mankind’s most important inventions. Calendars allowed societies to organize time for religious, social, economic, and administrative purposes. The calendar, or rather, two sets of calendars, were invented by the ancient Egyptians. One of these was a lunar calendar, which was used mainly for the organization of religious festivals.

Ancient Places

Smuts house
The farmstead of General Jan Smuts on the outskirts of Pretoria, is reputed to be one of the most haunted private homes in the country, according to Mr Mark Rose-Christie, raconteur and social scientist, who regularly takes brave visitors on a tour of haunted sites on his mystery ghost bus.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article