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Skiathos before Christ

Skiathos has had the same name since pre-Hellenistic times, and it is believed that it was given this name by the Pelasgians or Peladgoi, the pre-Greek people. The name was chosen because of the many shady (=skia) spots on the tree-lined island. Another explanation for the name Skiathos is that the inhabitants of the island worshipped the god Dionysos, whose cult name was Skianthos.

After the first settlers, Skiathos was successively inhabited by Cretans and Mycenaeans, who also occupied other Sporadic islands. The fertile island and its strategic position in relation to mainland Greece attracted many invaders. In the 7th-6th centuries BC, Skiathos was colonised by inhabitants of the town of Chalkis on the island of Evia. They began cultivating olives and making wine, which is still very important to Skiathos today. It was also they who founded the first fortified town on Skiathos.

During the Persian Wars (490 to 479 BC), Skiathos was a staunch ally of Athens and the harbour of Skiathos was used as a fleet base. Therefore, it was not surprising that in 478 BC, Skiathos was welcomed as a member of the Delian League (also called Delian-Attic Sea League or Attic-Delian Sea League), an alliance consisting of Athens and several states of the Aegean Sea as a counterpart of the Peloponnesian League. After the Peloponnesian War (404 BC between Athens and the city-state of Sparta), Skiathos officially became autonomous and independent, but Sparta tried to occupy the island. With the help of Athens, this failed and a short period of prosperity of about forty years began.

This period of prosperity came to an end when Athens turned Skiathos into a military base in the war against Philip II of Macedonia. Skiathos was eventually also occupied by the Macedonians, a dictator was installed and democracy was only restored in 341 BC. After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, Greece and thus Skiathos suffered greatly from the many, often dictatorial successors of Alexander the Great. It was not until 197 BC that Skiathos was ruled again in a democratic manner.

In 146 BC, the Romans conquered Greece, but Skiathos was given some privileges because they lived in peace with the Romans. In 88 BC, the king of Pontus, Mithriades VI, destroyed Skiathos in his fight against the Romans, but in 42 BC, Skiathos was ruled by Athens again.

Skiathos after Christ

In the following centuries, Skiathos was attacked many times by pirates and in 221 AD, Skiathos once again became part of the Roman Empire, Skiathos Town prospered and expanded. In 325, Skiathos came into contact with Christianity and the first church was built in 530. During the Byzantine period, Skiathos was part of the ecclesiastical province of Thessaloniki and the bishop belonged to the Metropolis of Larissa. In the 7th century, Saracen pirates wreaked havoc on a number of islands in the Aegean, including Skiathos.

In 1204, the end of the Byzantine Empire, crusaders conquered the Aegean islands and Skiathos was given to the Venetians. Skiathos, like the island of Skopelos, was then governed by the Ghisi brothers, who were helped by Marco Sanudo from the island of Naxos. The Ghisi brothers and Marco Sanudo later came into armed conflict with each other. The Venetian brothers built Fort Bourtzi (Kastelli tou Adiou Georgiou - Castle of St. George) on a peninsula, which was destroyed in 1660. The Ghisi family ruled Skiathos until 1276, when other Venetians took over until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. This was extended to 1538 at the request of the islanders, who feared Turkish domination of the island.

In 1538, however, Skiathos was conquered by the Turkish pirate Barbarossa and Skiathos came under Ottoman rule. At the beginning of the 19th century, shipbuilding activities flourished on Skiathos, which is why Skiathos was involved in the Greek War of Independence with the Turks (1821-1831). Klefts (freedom fighters, literally thieves or robbers) and Armatoloi (local militias) took refuge on Skiathos, including the famous patriot and folk hero Theodoros Kolokotronis (1770-1843). At the time, Skiathos was also very active in the secret revolutionary organisation Filiki Eteria, which played an important role in the War of Independence. In 1830, Skiathos became free along with the rest of Greece. After the independence of Greece, most of the Skiathos residents settled near the harbour and shipbuilding was resumed.

During the Second World War, Greece was occupied by the Germans and Skiathos Town was heavily bombed by German bombers. On 14 September 1943, a submarine carrying some of the heroes of Skiathos sank and on 23 August 1944, the island was set on fire and the Germans executed seven young men from Skiathos. Commemorative events are still held on these dates and are considered some of the most significant events in the history of the island.

Kastro, under German occupation, was a refuge for Greek freedom fighters, Britons, Australians and New Zealanders.

After the war, Skiathos developed economically and socially, thanks to tourism.

See also the history page of Greece.


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CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
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