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Patmos before Christ

Only a small amount of scattered evidence (mainly potsherds near Kastelli) has been found of prehistoric settlements on Patmos, dating back to the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 2000 BC). Before that, around 3000 BC, Patmos was probably visited by primitive Greek tribes such as the Carians, the Lelegens and Pelasgians.

In ancient times, Patmos was inhabited by Mycenaeans, Dorians (ca. 500 BC) and later by Ionian settlers from Miletus (Greek: Miletos). The conclusion seems justified that Patmos did not play an important role in the Greek world of that time. Nevertheless, it is thought that in Hellenistic times there was a fairly large city and a flourishing trade centre on Patmos, as well as many temples dedicated to Greek gods and goddesses.

Patmos after Christ

The Romans occupied Patmos during the 2nd century B.C. Emperor Titus Flavius Domitian, who was assassinated in 96 A.D., banished St. John the Evangelist (or Theologian or Apostle), one of Jesus' apostles, to Patmos in 95 A.D. because he had propagated the then forbidden Christianity in Ephesus, Turkey. At the time, Patmos was a small Roman outpost used to house exiles.

According to his own account, John had a vision of the Apocalypse on Patmos, and during his eighteen-month stay there he wrote the book of Revelations, the last book of the New Testament.

Until the 7th century AD, Patmos was a reasonably prosperous place of pilgrimage, but then, until the 9th century, it was regularly plundered by pirates. The population of Patmos left and, as a result, hardly appeared in the history of the time. This changed radically in 1088 when the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos gave Patmos to the monk Christodoulos Létrinos, who was ordered to build a monastery on the island in honour of St. John. Patmos was granted various privileges and became an economic power with tax-free status and a large sea fleet with which it traded extensively. In 1091, Patmos was attacked by Seljuks, forcing Christodoulos and his monks to flee the island. Christodoulos died in 1093 on the island of Euboea (also Evia or Evvia), but his followers finished building the fortress-like monastery according to Christodoulos' instructions. The 12th century was again marked by pirate attacks and meddling bishops from other islands.

After the fall of Constantinople in 1204, the Monastery of St. John remained under papal protection, and this ensured that its integrity and independence was respected by the Venetians in 1207, the Turks in 1537 and again by the Venetians in 1659, although Chora was sacked and destroyed by the Venetian admiral Francesco Morosini in that year.

Refugees from Constantinople sought refuge on Patmos in 1453 after the fall of Constantinople and founded the district of Alótina, followed in 1669 by refugees from Candia (now Heraklion) in Crete who founded the district of Aportianá. In 1522, the conquest of Rhodes by the Turks brought a new wave of refugees to Patmos. They founded the Sofouli complex on Patmos with its own defence system, which was later followed by the construction of several more complexes in the first half of the 17th century.

The conquest of Patmos by the Turks in 1537 paradoxically marked the start of an economic and cultural golden age, despite heavy taxation. The Turks expelled most of the pirates to the western Mediterranean and left the local administration of the island, which was unattractive to them, to the monks of St. John's Monastery. This special form of autonomy allowed the Greek language and culture, as well as the Christian faith, to spread undisturbed.

From 1713, the monastery housed the Patmos Theological College founded by the monk Makarios Kalogeras (1688-1737), a high quality school and later one of the hotbeds of nationalist sentiment that would eventually lead to the uprising against the Turks. In the 18th and 19th centuries, a growing merchant class brought prosperity to Patmos and developed the port of Skala, which would become one of the safest and most important in the Aegean.

Emmanouil Xanthos, one of the founders in 1814 of the secret Greek Independence Party (Greek: Philikí Etaireía), was a man of Patmos. After Greek independence in 1832, Patmos remained under Turkish rule.

In 1911, during the Italian-Turkish War (from 29 September 1911 to 18 October 1912), Ottoman rule came to an end and the Italians occupied Patmos, as well as the other islands of the Dodecanese. This occupation lasted until 1943, when Adolf Hitler's Germans took control of the island. After the departure of the Germans in 1945, Patmos was granted autonomous status. This lasted until 10 February 1947, when Patmos, together with the other islands of the Dodecanese, finally returned to the fold of independent Greece.

In 1956, Patmos was hit by an earthquake which damaged the Monastery of St. John.

In September 2008, the Patmos administration refused to allow a group of 134 illegal refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq to enter the island. They were eventually shipped to the island of Leros.

In recent decades, Patmos has become known mainly as a tourist attraction.

See also the history page of Greece.



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Last updated May 2024
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