A fertile island in the SE Aegean, on the north–south trading route along the coast of Anatolia and onwards to Cyprus, Syria, and Egypt. The island was colonized, in the Dark Age, by Dorians. It was a member of the Dorian hexapolis (with Camirus, Cnidus, Halicarnassus, Ialysus, Lindus).
In the late Archaic period the island was subject initially to Persia and to the Lygdamid (see artemisia) dynasty of Halicarnassus, and then to Athens. In 366, the Coans, previously organized in separate cities, united to form one city‐state (see synoecism), founding a new city on the NE coast, which was fortified and where a good, artificial harbour was built. The island fell under the control of Mausolus and probably remained Hecatomnid until ‘liberated’ by Alexander 2 the Great's admiral in 332.
For most of the 3rd cent. Cos was independent, an ally, of the Ptolemies (see Ptolemy 1), enjoying a democratic constitution, and trading, political, and cultural links with Alexandria; the poets Philitas, Theocritus, and Herodas exemplify the literary ties. The rich corpus of Coan inscriptions indicates the continuing vitality and importance of ‘traditional’ Greek cults through the Hellenistic period. The corpus attests too the continuing activity of Coan doctors, deriving from the local ‘school of medicine’ founded by Hippocrates in the 5th cent., whose services Greek states asked for, and gained, usually in times of famine, war or revolution.
There are rich archaeological remains on Cos, from e.g. the excavations of the Asclepium (see asclepius), outside the city, to those of the agora, the port quarter, a gymnasium, and the Hellenistic temple and altar of Dionysus.
Subjects: Classical Studies.