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Paros before Christ

It has been proved that Paros was already inhabited ca. 3200 BC, in the Bronze Age, perhaps even earlier. Important settlements of the early Cycladic period included Drios, Avyssos, Galana, Gremna, Kampos and Plastiras. The relatively high cultural level of the early Bronze Age is evident from the wealth of decorated pottery found and from Cycladic sculpture in which elegant marble figures were made in a minimalist style. For example, on the very nearby islet of Saliagos, remains of a Neolithic settlement dating from the 5th-4th millennium BC have been found.

On the west coast of Paros, near the capital Parikia, the first indications have been found that settlements were established at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC. Then the area was occupied by Minoans from Crete. At that time Crete provided a safe transport of minerals between the kingdoms of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria and the Balkans. The Minoans found that Paros had safe harbours to offer, and its central location in the Cyclades made it of strategic importance. The mix of safe harbours and fertile plains surrounding them made Paros an important naval base.

Of these harbours, Parikia faces the Peloponnese and Naoussa faces north, while Drios faces Naxos and the island as a whole is on the route to Rhodes and Asia Minor. The important role of Paros in the Minoan Empire is shown by the name the Cretans gave it: Minoa, an honorary title given only to royal cities.

The first traces of settlements inhabited by Minoans and Mycenaeans at the site of the present capital city of Parikia date back to the 2nd millennium B.C. Paros was eventually settled by settlers from Attica from 1000 to 700 B.C. On the north coast near Naoussa a settlement also arose, which grew into a large flourishing Mycenaean settlement in the 13th century B.C., but was destroyed in c. 1200 B.C. In the 10th century B.C. another settlement was built, and it too flourished from the 9th to the middle of the 7th century B.C, In the 10th century B.C. another settlement was built and it also flourished from the 9th to the middle of the 7th century B.C. Koukounaries on the east coast was also an important Mycenaean centre from the 13th/12th century B.C. until the mid-7th century B.C. It was here in Koukounaries that the oldest temple on the island was built, the temple to the goddess Athena dating from about 700 B.C.

From 700-500 BC Paros was a flourishing trade centre, partly due to the good sea connections and the design of new, fast and manoeuvrable ships. Trade was mainly between Paros and the other Cycladic islands, especially agricultural and craft products. The importance and influence of the sea on the culture of Paros at that time is shown by the discovery of coins depicting a dolphin. The wealth on Paros led to the colonisation of the island of Thassos, located in the northern Aegean, in 680 BC. Because of the gold mines that were opened on Thassos, Paros became even richer. Paros also participated in the foundation of the commercial city of Parion (Parium) at the Hellespont (now: Dardanelles, strait in the north-west of Turkey) and generated remarkable cultural contributions to the entire Greek world with, among others, the works of the classical poet Archilochos and the creation of a 'Melic' (originally from the island of Melos) style of pottery. In 385 BC, with the support of the city of Syracuse in Sicily, Paros founded the colony of Pharos (now: Hvar) on the Dalmatian coast. It is estimated that Paros must have had about 12,000 inhabitants in this period of prosperity.

Paros also became famous at that time for its 'lychnitis' marble, which from the Archaic period onwards was exported all over Greece and even beyond. Famous for its high degree of translucency and pure whiteness, this marble became the favourite of architects and sculptors. For example, the great masterpieces Hermes of Praxiteles in Olympia (4th century BC) and the Nike of Samothraki (2nd century BC) were sculpted in marble from Paros. Paros also had its own famous school of sculpture and famous sculptors such as Agoracritus of Paros (2nd half 5th century BC) and Skopas of Paros (4th century BC) learned the craft here and worked on, for example, the temple of Athena on Tegea and the temple of Artemis in Ephesus. Parian sculptors continued to do excellent work even in Roman times, as evidenced by the many marble sarcophagi that have been found.

Paros was by no means always peaceful, despite, or perhaps because of, its prosperity. Conflicts with the neighbouring ancient rival Naxos often ended in defeat for Paros, and in 489 BC the Athenian general Miltiades the Younger besieged the island for several weeks without success. The reason for the attack was the fact that Paros was pro-Persian during the Greek-Persian wars and was accused of supplying ships to the Persians for the Battle of Marathon.

In 478 BC, Paros was forced to join the Delian League (also called Delian-Attic or Attic-Delian Sea League) and wealthy Paros became one of the main financiers of the alliance.

In 403 BC, when Attica lost the Peloponnesian War, Paros came under Spartan control until the Athenians recovered and forced the Cyclades and thus Paros to join the Second Delian League in 374 BC. After the Macedonian invasion in 338 BC by Philip of Macedon, father of the famous Alexander the Great, the League was dissolved and Paros was declared a free and autonomous polis or city-state. In 145 BC Paros came under Roman control, but continued to develop financially and culturally.

Paros after Christ

From the 7th century AD, Paros, along with its Cycladic neighbours, became a headquarters and refuge for pirates and gradually the long period of prosperity came to an end and many of the inhabitants of Paros left the island.

Between 1207 and 1389, Paros became part of the Duchy of the Archipelago or Duchy of the Aegean, initially ruled by the Venetian Marco Sanudo. In the 15th century, the Fortress of Naoussa was built to protect the island from pirates, but the pirate Hayreddin Barbarossa managed to conquer Paros in 1537 after a four-day siege. At that time, the Venetian Bernardo Segredo ruled Paros and he returned to Venice.

Another long period of occupation followed in 1560 when Paros was occupied by the Turks and became part of the Ottoman Empire until the Greek Revolution in 1821. In the 17th century, Paros suffered greatly from pirate raids and many inhabitants fled from the coastal regions to Lefkes in the interior. At that time, Lefkes was declared the capital of Paros and remained so until 1832. In 1666, the monastery of Panagia Ekatontapiliani was destroyed by pirates. It is remarkable that a Dutch consul was stationed on the island in that period. In 1770, the Turks were expelled from Paros by the Russians, who stationed their Aegean fleet in the port of Naoussa until 1774. The Russians were at war with the Ottomans at that time.

Soon after the outbreak of the Greek Revolution in 1821, Manto Mavrogenous, an aristocrat with Enlightenment ideas, became a Greek heroine by successfully repelling an attack by the Ottoman fleet in 1822. Manto Mavrogenous 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. After Independence, a scandalous love affair caused Manto Mavrogenous to be exiled to Paros, where she died in 1848.

After Independence, the island of Paros, like all other Cyclades, became part of the modern Greek state.

During the Second World War, Paros was occupied by the Germans and suffered greatly. As a result, after the war, many islanders sought refuge elsewhere on the Greek mainland or emigrated to countries such as the United States or Australia.

Since the 1960s, Paros has developed into a major tourist destination.

On 26 September 2000, the ferry MS Express Samina collided with the Portes rocks in the bay of Parikia, 82 people on board lost their lives.

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 watched by Greek ships and the Greek air force.

See also the history page of Greece.



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Last updated April 2024
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