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Naxos before Christ

From the beginning of prehistory, ca. 4000 BC, Naxos was populated, archaeological findings show. It is believed that the first settlements were populated by settlers from Thrace of mainland Greece. They worshipped Dionysos, the god of wine. At some point after this, Naxos was occupied by the Carians led by their chieftain Naxos from Caria in southwestern Anatolia.

Naxos was not only an important center of Cycladic civilization in ancient times, but also an economic power. For example, as one of the first Greek islands, Naxos used marble on a large scale, even exporting it to Crete. On Naxos itself, the marble, which was of excellent quality, was also used by sculptors, who used it to make beautiful statues in the Archaic period and displayed their skills throughout Greece.

This period of growth and prosperity was brought to an end by a volcanic eruption on the island of Santorini (ca. 1614 BC), which, among other things, virtually stopped trade with important islands such as Crete by destroying ships and ports. Around 1000 BC, Naxos was colonized by the Ionians from Attica, the peninsula on which Athens lies. The Ionians founded the capital Naxos Town and introduced agriculture to the island.

From 545-524 BC, Naxos, which was booming at the time, was ruled by the tyrant Lygdamis. He was originally one of the oligarchs who ruled Naxos at that time and was on good terms with the Athenian tyrant Peisistratos. In 545 BCE, Lygdamis, with the help of Peiristratos, turned against the oligarchs who were increasingly enriching themselves at the expense of the population. He exiled his rivals and also assumed power on the island of Paros, one of Naxos' arch-rivals. In 524 BC Lygdamis was deposed by a Spartan army, but Naxos continued to develop for the time being under a new oligarchy. In 506 BC, Naxos withstood a four-month siege by Aristagoras, tyrant of Miletus, an important city in present-day western Turkey.

During the Persian wars in the 5th century BC between the Persians and the Greek city-states, Naxos sided with Athens. These wars were preceded by the Ionian revolt in 499 BC and its consequences for Naxos were disastrous; almost the entire island was destroyed by the Persians in 490 BC.

In 376 BC Naxos became a member of the second Attic-Delphic Sea League, a much less important military alliance than the first Attic-Delphic Sea League (479 BC - 404 BC), which was the counterpart to the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta, Athens' great rival. However, the city-state system in Greece meant that in time Greece did not really have much power in the Mediterranean. Like many other islands, Naxos was conquered over time by Egyptians, Macedonians, Ptolemy I Soter (field general under Alexander the Great, king of Egypt and founder of the Egyptian dynasty of the Ptolemies), Rhodes and Romans.

Naxos after Christ

In the 9th century AD, Naxos was plagued by raids by pirates and Saracens from Crete. The inhabitants of Naxos retreated to the highland interior during that Byzantine era, and during that time many religious buildings were also erected.

In 1204 Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Byzantine Empire, fell and the Greek territory was divided by the Crusaders. The French settled on mainland Greece. Administration of Naxos and other Greek islands came not long after to the Genoese and the Venetians (Naxos in 1207), in this case Marco Sanudo (ca. 1153 - ca. 1227), nephew of the Venetian doge Enrico Dandolo.

Around 1207 he gathered a fleet together and conquered Naxos, and that was the beginning of the Duchy of Naxos (also called Duchy of the Archipelago or Duchy of the Aegean and in Italian Ducato di Nasso), one of the Crusader states that emerged after the Fourth Crusade. From the fortress of Apalyros, the inhabitants of Naxos fiercely resisted Sanudo's men and held out for several weeks. In 1210 the Naxiots surrendered and Sanudo then conquered a whole series of islands of the Cyclades and Sporades. In 1227, Marco Sanudo's death brought an end to his rule, but the duchy continued to exist under his successors well into the 16th century.

Dukes of Naxos
House Sanudo
1207-1227Marco I Sanudo
1227-1262Angelo Sanudo
1262-1303Marco II Sanudo
1303-1323Guglielmo I Sanudo
1323-1341Niccolò I Sanudo
1341-1361Giovanni I Sanudo
1361-1363Fiorenza Sanudo
1364-1371Fiorenza en Niccolò II Sanudo
1371-1383Niccolò III dalle Carceri
House Crispo
1383-1397Francesco I Crispo
1397-1418Giacomo I Crispo
1418-1437Giovanni II Crispo
1437-1447Giacomo II Crispo
1447-1453Gian Giacomo Crispo
1453-1463Guglielmo II Crispo
1463Francesco II Crispo
1463-1480Giacomo III Crispo
1480-1494Giovanni III Crispo
1500-1511Francesco III Crispo
1517-1564Giovanni IV Crispo
1564-1566Giacomo IV Crispo
Ottoman time
1566-1579Jozef Nasi

From 1537 Naxos was occupied by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire, interrupted only by a brief period of Russian rule during the First Turkish-Russian War of 1770-1774. After that, Naxos came back into the hands of the Turks and this lasted until Greek Revolution of 1821. In this revolution, the inhabitants of Naxos fought against the Turkish occupiers. Greece officially became independent in 1830 and Naxos also joined the new state in 1832 and became the administrative center of the Cyclades. Until World War II, Halkí was the capital of Naxos.

Naxos was occupied during World War II from 1941-1944 first by Benito Mussolini's Italians and later for a period by Adolf Hitler's Germans. A notable role in the resistance was played by the later politician and writer Manolis Glezos, born in the village of Aperathos. Together with Apostolos Santas, he climbed to the Acropolis in Athens on May 30, 1941 and took down the swastika flag placed there by the Germans. This act inspired many Greeks to join the resistance. Glezos was arrested by Italian troops on April 21, 1943, but eventually managed to escape from captivity in September 1944.

In May 2014, at the age of 92, Glezos was still elected to the European Parliament for the left-wing SYRIZA party. He was voted for more than any other Greek candidate.

In late May 2014, it was announced that Greece wanted to sell about 90 popular beaches to private companies. Two beaches had already been sold, and the sale list included the Naxiotic beach of Agios Prokopios.

In early June 2014, the Turkish military frigate 'Gelibolu' sailed through Greek territorial waters for several hours. The Turkish ship sailed north of Naxos into Greek territorial waters and further rounded the islands of Paros and Milos. The ship was constantly monitored by Greek ships and the Greek Air Force.

See also the history page of Greece.



CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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