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Mythology and Antiquity

According to Greek mythology, Thasos was the island of the Sirens, demigoddesses with the body of a bird and the head of a woman. The most famous sirens were Parthenope, Ligeia and Leucosia.

Thasos was most probably inhabited from the beginning of the Paleolithic, but remains of the earliest inhabitants date from the middle and late Paleolithic and were found near the village of Limenaria. These remains are very similar to those found in the Drama region of north-eastern Greece. In contrast are the remains from the early Bronze Age, which correspond to objects found on islands of the Cyclades and Sporades in the southern Aegean.

Thasos before Christ

The first known inhabitants of Thasos were Thracian tribes. Around the 7th century BC, Thasos was colonised from the island of Paros by the Greeks, who discovered that the island was rich in minerals, especially gold and marble, and was covered in forests. Thasos therefore became a real trading island, and from Thasos the Greeks founded settlements in Thrace. Thasos became even more influential in the 5th century BC, as in 477 BC it became a member of the Delian League (based on the island of Delos), an alliance that Athens formed with several Aegean states as a counterpart to the Peloponnesian League, which was led by Sparta. In 465 BC, the inhabitants of Thasos revolted against Athens, but the revolt was crushed in a bloody fashion and the capital of Thasos was destroyed. The struggle between Athens and Sparta, which culminated in the Peloponnesian War, ended for Thasos in 404 BC with the occupation of the island by the Spartans. Athens thus lost the battle against Sparta, resulting in the dissolution of the Delian League. In 378 BC a second Delian League was founded, but it was much less important than the first.

In 393 BC Thasos was reconquered by Athens, who, however, now brought democracy and granted Thasos independence. This status lasted only a short time, however, because already in 340 BC Thasos was occupied by the troops of Philip II of Macedonia. The Macedonians were particularly interested in the mines of Thasos, which thus became part of the Macedonian Empire.

In 197 BC, Thasos was conquered by the Romans, who rebuilt the capital and made the island a trading centre again.

Thasos under different rulers

In the 1st century AD, Thasos was visited by the apostle Paul the Baptist, who brought the Christian faith to the island and had some churches built.

Around 565, Thasos was occupied by the Arabs, but was soon liberated by the Heraclids, who at that time occupied the Byzantine throne. During the 7th century Thasos, like many other Greek islands, was attacked by (Slavic) pirates. Around 900, Thasos came under the control of Saracens, who were driven out around 970 by armies of the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus II Phocas.

In 1161 Thasos was attacked and plundered by a French count. Several people were killed in this attack and others were taken as slaves. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Thasos became part of the Byzantine Empire. In the 14th century Thasos was occupied by Jacomo Gattilusio from Genoa, at that time the most powerful Italian naval force. They reinforced the Byzantine castle on Thasos and contributed to the further fortification of the island.

At the end of the 15th century, Thasos was conquered by the Turks and in the 18th century, many of the residents of Thasos left the island due to the heavy taxes that the Turks imposed on the Greeks. In 1813, Thasos was given by the Turkish Sultan to the vizier of Egypt, Mehmet Ali, founder of the Egyptian Basilica dynasty, but born in Kavala, Greece. Mehmet Ali was not very popular on Thasos, even after he abolished most of the taxes. In 1821 there was a revolt against Egyptian rule, but it was of little avail and Thasos remained ruled by the Egyptians until 1902.

Thasos part of Greece

After many unsuccessful attempts, Thasos was liberated by the Greek Navy in 1912 and became an official part of the Greek state. In 1922, refugees from Asia Minor settled in Limenas and Limenaria. Like the neighbouring island of Samothrace, Thassos was occupied by Bulgarian troops in the 2nd World War. In 1944, the occupiers surrendered to the Allies. Around 1960 oil was found in the sea around the island and after that discovery Thasos was only in the news as an emerging tourist destination.

See also the history page of Greece.



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Last updated May 2024
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