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Kalymnos before Christ
Kalymnos, as far as we know at present, has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. The first inhabitants were Carians from Asia Minor and this is proven by ruins with ancient Caribean features found in the metropolis of Kastellas, near present-day Stimenia. Kalymnos was later inhabited by the Phoenicians, as evidenced by excavations at Emboreios. In the period 1150 B.C. - 800 BC, Kalymnos was colonised by the Dorians. Significant evidence of this are the still-used name 'damos', which means 'municipality' in the Dorian dialect, and the remarkable ruins of holy places dedicated to the Delian god Apollo.
Homer in his time called Kalymnos 'Kalydnos' and stated that the island took part in the Trojan War by sending, along with other islands, 30 ships, with Feidippos and Antiphanos as leaders. According to the Greek historian Diodorus of Sicily, four of Agamemnon's ships were shipwrecked off the island during their homecoming after the Trojan War. Their crews, coming from the mainland Greek cities of Argos and Epidaurus, settled permanently on Kalymnos and built a settlement on the island. They decided to name the settlement Argos, and for a long time Argos was the capital of Kalymnos.
At the end of the archaic period and the beginning of the classical period, Kalymnos was an autonomous state. The system of government can be characterised as republican, since decisions were taken by both the House and the Church of Demos. The autonomous status did not last long, however, as Kalymnos was conquered by the Persians at the same time as the Ionian cities in Asia Minor.
In 477 BC Kalymnos was freed from the Persians by the Delian League (or Delian Attic Sea League) and subsequently joined that alliance. In the Delian League, Athens formed an alliance with some Aegean Sea states as a counterpart to the Peloponnesian League. Paid taxes disappeared into a Delian League fund located on the island of Delos. The alliance was founded on the island of Delos in 479 BC and lasted until 404 BC, when the Delian League was dissolved. when the Delian League suffered a decisive defeat in the Peloponnesian War.
In 357 BC Kalymnos was occupied by Mausollus, the satrap of Halicarnassus, a city in Turkish Caria where Bodrum is today and also a member of the Delian League at that time.
15 years later Kalymnotic rebels managed to free themselves and rejoined the Delian League. During the classical period, Kalymnos also developed culturally, of which several remains can still be found on Kalymnos.
History of Kalymnos after Christ
Kalymnos was later occupied by the Romans, and in the Byzantine period, like the other islands of the Dodecanese, was an important and powerful island. In 554 AD, the present-day island of Telendos broke away from the present-day Kalymnos after a severe earthquake.
In the 7th century AD, Kalymnos was conquered several times because of its strategic location. In the 10th century Kalymnos was virtually destroyed by the Seljuk Turks and in 1313 the island was occupied by Knights of the Order of St. John of Rhodes. In 1522, Kalymnos was occupied by the Turks of Sultan Suleyman I (1494-1566) and in 1912 by Italy. The population had grown from 5,000 in 1821 to 23,000 in 1912. The Italian occupation had many negative economic and cultural consequences, and the historically independent character of the Kalymniots was completely exacerbated by the decision of the Italians to teach only Italian in schools and to ban Greek. In 1935, riots were violently suppressed and many Kalymniots were imprisoned or exiled from the island.
The Italians were followed by the British, who ruled Kalymnos until 1947. In 1947, Kalymnos joined the new Greek state, which became final on 7 March 1948, still a public holiday on the island.
Conflict with Turkey over Imia/Kardak
In 1996, a serious dispute arose with Turkey over the neighbouring islet of Imia or Kardak, consisting of two uninhabited islets (total area 10 hectares) located some 10 kilometres east of Kalymnos and about 7 kilometres west of the Turkish peninsula of Bodrum. According to Greece, the islets were allocated to the Greeks in 1932 by the Treaty of Ankara, but according to Turkey, this was not a legal treaty, as was revealed in 1996.
In any case, the islets were used by Kalymnotic farmers to graze their goats, but after an accident off the coast of Imia with a Turkish ship on 25 December 1995, the Turks informed the Greeks on 29 December that Imia was now Turkish territory.
Initially, there was hardly any reaction to this action by Turkey, including in the media. This only changed on 20 January 1996 when the Greek magazine GRAMMA published an article on Imia, one day after Kostas Simitis had been appointed prime minister of the Greek cabinet. There followed fierce reactions throughout the Greek press, after which the mayor of Kalymnos and a priest placed a Greek flag on Imia on 26 January in protest. After that, everything accelerated, Turkish TV journalists flew in a helicopter to Imia, took down the Greek flag and planted the Turkish flag on one of the islands, and all this was broadcast live on Turkish television.
Within 24 hours, on 30 January, the Greek navy changed the Turkish flag back for the Greek flag, followed by strong statements from Prime Minister Simitis of Greece and his colleague Çiller of Turkey. Not much later, Greek and Turkish warships, both NATO members by the way, were sailing to Imia. A few nights earlier, Greek special forces had landed on the left islet of Imia, followed on 31 January by Turkish special forces landing on the right islet of Imia. Again, flags were brought down and a Greek helicopter crashed over the islands, killing three Greek officers. Whether Turkey was responsible was never determined, probably to prevent further escalation of the conflict.
A military confrontation was prevented by American diplomats, who under the leadership of the American envoy Richard Holbrooke negotiated with the Greeks and the Turks, who could no longer bring themselves to the negotiating table. In the end, a renewed 'status quo ante' was agreed upon, which meant that they accepted that there were differences of opinion about the status of Imia, but that no more military activities would be undertaken. The crisis was thus resolved, but the territorial conflict remained.
See also the history page of Greece.
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country ProfilesLast updated November 2023
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