Skiathos Island

Skopelos Island

Alonisos Island

Sporades Sightseing & Beaches

 

History of Skiathos Island

The Skiathos History is a familiar refrain throughout the Aegean: settlement, development of the city, commerce, invasion, defeat, events which in early Mycenaean times and Middle Ages led the cities to build defensive settlements - castles, on impregnable hilltops. Most of them invisible from the sea.

The Sporades islands occupy a strategic position at the crossroads of the former trade routes between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea and the traditional invasion route south from Macedonia along the plain between the mountains and the sea.
In former times anybody sailing from Athens to Salonica would pass between Skiathos and Pelion.

In Ancient times early settlers on the island of Skiathos were the Pelasgians that arrived here from Thrace, The MinoanCretans, theMycenaens ,  the Thessalians and the Chalcidians.
The Minoans introduced the olive oil and wine production 1700 years ago, The Thessalians stepped on the island probably during the Geometric dark times when the island was probably abandoned to piracy and war and 7th - 6th centuries the Chalkidians who used it as a basis for their expansion developed the first city of Skiathos on the South East side of the harbour (the end of the old harbour today) , and used Skiathos as a naval basis
for their fleet ,as from Skiathos they could control their enemies moves. It was during this time  that the city was surrounded  with huge marble rock walls leaving only two points of entry. We are talking about the 6th century B.C.
There was also another small city next to the Xanemon beach toward the North  thats why Skiathos was mentioned  Dipolis which means it had 2 towns.

Skiathos played an active part in the Persian War, because of it strategic importance there were always triremes boats in the harbour and lookout posts on the cliffs controlling the North and the East West and Skiathos people were informing by fire signals the other Greeks about the moves of the enemy.
The places used to transmit fire signals were called °pyrsoriesĘ and there are 2 in Skiathos that you may visit . The one by the Chapel Pyrgi -Aghia Anastasia and the other close to Banana. The best preserved is the Aghia Anastasia one and looks like a round stone built small  tower. 
In 480 those sentries would have had a chillingly clear view of Xerxes fleet as it made its way down the mainland coat, keeping pace with the army which was marching southlands on land.
Xerxes preparing to attack the outnumbered Greek fleet which lay in wait off Cape Artemisio (northern Eeuboea) stationed his ships off the coast opposite Skiathos. It was the last manoeuvre the fleet would make ; overnight a terrible storm blew up and 400 ships were lost. Xerxes took Skiathos with what remained and had repaired as many ships as he could salvage ,building a fort at Mandraki also known nowadays as Xerxes beach.
On the rocky reef of Lefteris between Skiathos and the mainland, the remains of a stone column have been found: this is though to be the world s first lighthouse, built by Xerxes so that he could move his ships at night to avoid being seen and keep his rowers cool. It did him no good - he was later routed at Salamis.

When the Persians withdrew from Greece, Skiathos enlisted in the Athenian Naval federation in 478 BC. The island was twice defeated by the Spartans and liberated by the Athenians during the Peloponnesian civil war.

In year 378.BC when the Second Athenian Alliance was created ,Skiathos once again became an ally of Athens. During that period, and for approximately 40 years Skiathos now autonomous, enjoyed a spectacular growth. Typical of the grate economic prosperity that had prevailed back then is that is had its one bronze coin which depicted on one side the head of God Mercury and on the other the word  °CKIŃ»…Ę

After passed into the hands of the Macedonians, but remained on friendly terms with Athens.

It formed part of Alexander the Great s empire and was subsequently invaded by Mithridates, Attalos, the Rhodians, the Romans, Philip III and Demetrios, only to become a haven for pirates, eventually reverting to Roman control ¬’ 146 B.C.

In 42 b.c.Anthony returned the island to the Athenians as a gift wishing to thank them for their friendly behaviour and under Septimus Severus it became self-governing.
At that time it was famous for its wine called Alypiakon and was sufficiently wealthy to have its own currency.

After the division of the Roman Empire, Greece and the Sporades became part of the Eastern Empire, remaining under Byzantine control for several hundred years.

1207 AD the Sporades  suffered great poverty and were then seized by the Franks, who gave them to the oppressive House of Ghizzi,Venetian owners of Myconos and Tinos as well. Under Phillip Ghizzi they degenerated into the headquarters of a band of pirates who were the scourge of Pelion and Euboea . The Ghizzis remained on the island till 1276, at which point the Byzantine fleet chased them away fro Nothern Sporades.
The island remained under Byzantine rule till 1453 when Constantinopolis  falls in the hands of the Turks.
At this time pirate raids were plaguing all the islands especially Skiathos so the Skiathians then  decide to declare obeisance to Venice.
The Venetians held Sporades until 1538 , when they were expelled  by the infamous Turkish admiral Barbarosa. It was at this time that the inhabitants of Skiathos built their rocky retreat at Kastro, which remained the island s capital until 1829.
Over the intervening years the islands were ravaging by war until virtually uninhabitable but the survivors always returned and eventually, under relaxed Turkish rule, regained a degree of autonomy.

In the General Uprising of 1821 Skiathos participated and the Monastery of Evangellistria provided its safety and support  to many famous warriors amongst them Nikotsaras, Karatasos and others . Even the famous general Kolokotronis passed from here to attend serious meetings and inform the local generals about the stragedy against the enemy.
Many meetings of the pre-revolution generals well held there and it is the place that the first flag of Greece  was designed and blessed by father Superior Nyfon in year 1807.
A bright white cross on a clear blue background.
The Armatoli and kleftes , the guerrillas who first started attacking the Turks declared their faith to freedom and the coming revolution in this Monastery.
The Monasteries in Greece, built in safe and hidden places were acting and had the same role like the Castles in Western Europe.

The Turks attempted to retake the island in 1823 but were defeated. After the liberation of Greece in 1829, the islanders left Kastro and built the new town of Skiathos in its present site and as Skiathos town grew, Kastro declined.

Many of today s islanders came to Skiathos in 1921 as refugees. The convention which ended the Greek Turkish war arranged for the compulsory exchange of Moslem and Greek minorities and around 1 Ĺ million Greeks then moved from Asia Minor to the islands and mainland.

During the second world war, Skiathos became a staging post for allied troops cut off by the German advance, following the same route Xerxes used over a thousand years earlier. The survivors were ferried to Skiathos to wait boats for Turkey, and hidden in Castro by local resistance workers, notably a woman called Kaliarina who, when finally run to ground by the Italians ,wounded one soldier before being forced to surrender. She and the fifteen New Zealanders she had been hiding were sent to Italy as prisoners of war.

In the Town hall, there is a framed letter of thanks from general Freyburg to the people of Skiathos, who suffered the burning of their town in August 1944 as well as Koukounaries bay, in reprisal for their resistance activity. Much of the present town is new, though a few of the original buildings still remain.

In the far end of the old port there is a monument devoted to the ones killed in the second world war amongst them  Skiathians navy people that were killed when the Germans attacked a Greek submarine on the 14th September 1943

More changes were to come in the 1960 s with the last invasion, the tourists. Hotels Villas and an airport followed, though the first direct charter flight was until 1983.Many of those early tourists fell in love with the island and stayed, adding their names to the long, diverse catalogue of settlement through centuries