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Mykonos before Christ
Archaeological findings show that the Neolithic Kares tribe settled on Mykonos around 3000 BC. Before that, it was the Ionians of Athens who lived on the island from the 11th century BC. Delos, which is close to Mykonos and is densely populated, was at that time much more important than Mykonos as the transit port of the Aegean. Mykonos also had only two settlements on the island at that time.
In 490 BC, the Persian generals Datis and Artaphernes made a brief stop on Mykonos, at that time a poor island with limited agricultural resources. The inhabitants were pantheists (everything and everyone is divine) and worshipped gods such as Dionysos, Dimitra, Zeus, Appolo, Poseidon and Hercules.
Mykonos after Christ
Later in the history of Mykonos, the island belonged to the Romans and then the Byzantines came to power. They strengthened the defences of Mykonos in response to the Arab invasions in the 7th century and kept control of the island until the 12th century.
After the fall of Constantinople in 1204, at the end of the Fourth Crusade, since 1207 Mykonos was under the rule of Andrea and Geremia Ghisi, members of an Italian noble family and relatives of Dandolo, the Doge of Venice. In 1292 Mykonos was sacked by the Catalans and in 1390 it came under the direct control of the Republic of Venice.
In 1537, still under Venetian rule, Mykonos was overrun by the army of Barbarossa Khair ad-Din, a Grand Admiral of the Ottoman Sultan Suleyman I. The islanders were allowed by the Turks to arm their ships against pirates. However, this had the opposite effect and the islanders became involved in piracy, which was much more lucrative than cultivating dry and infertile land. Ultimately, piracy led to the establishment of a legitimate and flourishing trade network.
Since 1615 Mykonos has been practically self-governing as a semi-autonomous community, with a kind of governor and an island council that managed to manoeuvre between the Turks and Venetians at the time. The Venetians withdrew definitively from the Aegean region in 1718 after the conquest of a castle on the island of Tinos by the Ottomans. The population of Mykonos increased until the late 18th century with immigrants from other islands such as Crete fleeing famine and epidemics due to the many conflicts that were fought. The original inhabitants of Mykonos were known at the time as excellent sailors and were successful in trade and shipping, and piracy was not unknown to them. Many of the islanders were active in the "Orloff Uprising" (defeat of Russian troops led by the Orlov brothers against the Turks, period 1770-1774), which benefited them and Catherine the Great of Russia through the profitable trade treaties concluded between the Ottomans and the Russian Empire.
Soon after the outbreak of the Greek Revolution in 1821, Mykonos played an important role in the revolt under the inspiring and financial leadership of Manto Mavrogenous, an aristocrat with Enlightenment ideas. She became a Greek heroine by successfully repelling an attack by the Ottoman fleet in 1822. Manto Mavrogenous also took an active part in the war with four armed ships, two of which were equipped and manned entirely at her expense. Before the war was over, she had lost almost her entire family fortune. In total, Mykonos sent a fleet of 24 ships to fight the Turks. In 1830, Mykonos also joined the new Greek state. After independence, Manto Mavrogenous was exiled to the island of Paros due to a scandalous love affair, where she died in 1848.
After the establishment of the modern Greek state, the economy of Mykonos was boosted by the consolidation of trade relations with, among others, southern Russia, Moldova and Wallachia. Furthermore, Mykonian merchants settled in important trading cities such as Constantinople, Smyrna, Alexandria, Syros, Livorno and Marseille. The development of steamships over traditional sailing ships at the end of the 19th century, the opening of the Corinthian Canal in 1904 and the consequences of the First World War led to a decline in the Mykonian economy. Many Mykonians left to find work abroad (especially in the United States) and on mainland Greece in Athens and the port of Piraeus.
The development of tourism provided favourable economic developments in the following decades of the 20th century. Already in the 1930s, famous artists, politicians and wealthy people, mainly from Europe, celebrated their holidays on Mykonos. This continued after the Second World War and Mykonos took full advantage of the ever-increasing tourist activity in the Mediterranean. Mykonos has developed into a very successful cosmopolitan holiday destination in the 20th and 21st centuries.
See also the history page of Greece.
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country ProfilesLast updated November 2023
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