One of the most interesting factors of the cipollino quarrying is the problem of transportation from the mountain slopes down to the sea for shipment to the various destinations, particularly of the very large columns found in the Aetos quarries, which are recognised as being some of the biggest extracted by the Romans and comparable in size with those taken from the granite quarries at Mons Claudianus in Egypt. In the account of the Mons Claudianus quarries there is a discussion of the size of marble columns on Roman buildings and the author writes, ‘Mr Wilson Jones informs me that the usual sizes in Roman buildings are 10, 12, 15, 25, 30 and 40 ft, but other sizes might have been required by the architect and those sizes might not have been precisely whole numbers of feet’.25 (1 Roman foot = 29.6cm). The only whole example of the Aetos columns, and the biggest, measures 13.15 m (about 44 Roman feet) and might well qualify as 40 footer.

There is no clear evidence of how these very large and heavy columns were brought down to sea level. Professor Chapman makes some suggestions in his book on Karystos, based on a book on mechanics written by Heron of Alexandria, who lived in the first century AD. In the section on lifting and lowering of large stones Heron describes a method which involves using two roads, one for lowering the columns down the mountain from the top of the road, and another which contains a balancing cart of stone pieces from the excavations at the bottom of the road, slightly lighter than the columns, fastening these two carts together and hitching draught animals to the cart atthe bottom of the second road and dragging it upwards, thus lowering the marble columns down very slowly.

Chapman suggests that ‘the ancient marks of dragging to be seen on the rocks along the shore below Aetos are now taken to be the principal embarkation point for marble in Roman times; the place is just below where the present road turns off for Bourros; the deep man made grooves run into the sea. Here the water is deep enough to allow cargo ships to moor close in, and parts of columns have been seen half-buried off shore, where they must have slipped in the process of loading them from barges’.26

No one has a definite answer either to the question why the columns remained hewn out of the rock and not removed. Chapman suggests that it might be due to some general alarm or universal calamity. ‘As we have seen the marble works were run by the army; perhaps the army revolts of the mid-3rd century AD extended to insurrection in the provinces. Such an insurrection could well have accompanied the Goths’ invasion of mainland Greece.’27 That the marble works were run by the army is corroborated by Hans Goette’s identification of the mausoleum of the Roman procurator, Sergius Longus, whose name is inscribed on the plaque in Karystos at the archaeological site.28 Chapman also writes ‘Near one of ancient quarries above Myloi, in a niche in the rock beside a spring, an inscription in Latin was found, to be dated about 132 AD, Hadrian’s period. It is a private dedication: “T. Sergius Longus, Centurion of the 15th Legion, the Apollinarian; to Hercules”. A centurion, commanding a company, was the equivalent of a captain. Sergius Longus’ dedication was, appropriately, to the god who lifted heavy weights. This same centurion appears in an inscription on a block of Karystian cipollino found in a garden on the banks of the Tiber at Rome.’29


Other reasons for the columns’ remaining in the quarries which have been suggested are an excess of stockpiling with too great a supply for the demand. Could such large columns not have become less fashionable or just too heavy for the limited means of transport available at that time? There are some cipollino columns lying abandoned by the sea in Leptis Magna, also of a similarly large size, which were supposedly offered to the French by the Turks in the 16th century but were never removed because they were said to be too big to be transported.

Since Chapman collected the material for his book in the 1970s and 1980s many new roads have been blasted out of the countryside near Aetos, and new houses built, and it is difficult now to find the traces of dragging which Chapman describes. However the archaeologist, Els Hom, a member of the Southern Euboea Exploration Project (SEEP), working on the roads and paths in the Karystos area, has found possible signs of transportation of columns down to sea level. These consist of traces of dragging on rocks situated approximately half a kilometre above the point at sea level where remains of cipollino columns can be found, one lying half submerged in the sea (Plates 1.16, 1.17 & 1.18) and one now in the garden of the Svolis house, recently constructed nearby (Plates 1.19).

25 Peacock D.P.S., Maxfield V.A., Mons Claudianus: Survey and Excavations 1987-93, Topography and Quarries, FIFAO, 37, 1997, pp 213 Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale.

1993, p. 71.
27 Chapman, W., p.72.
28 Goette H.R., ‘Der Sog. Romische Tempel von Karystos: Ein Mausoleum der Kaiserzeit’ Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archaologischen Instituts, Athenische Abteiling. No.109

29 Chapman, W., p.69.

Maps and Plates

Plate 1.16.jpg

Plate 1.16 Fragment of cipollino column lying in the sea at a possible embarkation point, Aetos, Euboea

Plate 1.17.jpg

Plate 1.17 Close up of cipollino fragment lying in the sea, Aetos, Euboea

Plate 1.18.jpg

Plate 1.18 Fragment of cipollino lying on the beach below the Svolis house at a possible embarkation point, Aetos, Euboea.

Plate 1.19.jpg

Plate 1.19 Single cipollino column lying in the Svolis’ garden, near possible embarkation point, Aetos, Euboea