In certain versions of Greek mythology, no less a figure than Zeus himself was brought up on the island and he was worshipped there as Zeus Melosios, patron of sheep. Apollo was also associated with the island and associated locally with goats, shepherds and florists. Ares, the god of war and general trouble-maker amongst the Olympian gods, sought shelter in the bowels of the island – described as siderobrotin petran – the place of iron-eating rock (meaning emery, the island’s famous export material used to fine-polish the marble so often used in Greek sculpture).
The god most closely linked with the island was, however, Dionysos. In Greek myth he was believed to have been born on the island and it was also here that the god of wine married Ariadne following her rejection by Theseus. The life, death and rebirth of Ariadne were worshipped in a major nature festival on the island.