Milos History

Milos History
About the history of Milos island, Greece

Prehistoric times

Milos is inhabited since the Neolithic Age (7000-2800 BC) and developed much quicker than its neighbouring islands due to its hard, black, volcanic material of glass-like appearance, known as obsidian that existed there. This materials were used by the Miloans who were specialized in making tools and weapons. Obsidian tools have been found in Crete, Cyprus, in areas of Peloponnese and Egypt. It is therefore believed that the locals flourished in export, mostly of goods and minerals from the sulfur mines.

During the Bronze Age (2800-1100 BC), Milos became the centre of the Cycladic culture. The most powerful city was Phylakopi, which ruins have been found on the north-eastern coast of the island near Pollonia, by two English archaeologists (Smith and Hogarth) in 1896-99 and 1911. The ruins represent three different historical phases that cover a period of more than 1500 years. The city was destroyed and rebuilt three times by its inhabitants. The final destruction of Phylakopi was probably by the Mycenaean, who built a new city with visible Mycenaean characteristics. Great works of art have survived from this period: amphorae, vessels, painting on walls, all of witch are displayed in the Archaeological Museums of Athens and Milos. The city of Phylakopi was abandoned after 1100 BC.

Ancient times

A new city was found under present village of Klima. This ancient city was built by the Dorians, who left Sparta to settle in Milos. After some years, Miloans and Dorians started to meddle, and everyone was considered as Dorian. Arts flourished, especially in the domain of ceramics, from which survived the perfect and highly decorated Miloan amphorae (vases). The Classical Period was a difficult time for Milos. Its inhabitants fought on the Athenian's side during the Persian Wars. Nevertheless, during the Peloponnesian War they tried to remain neutral in order to protect their independence.

This triggered a reaction from the Athenians who, in 426 BC, sent a part of their fleet, trying to force Milos to help them, without any success. In 416 BC, a new Athenian offensive was sent to Milos, an expedition that has been narrated by the famous ancient writer Thucydides. Milos was besieged for two years but the inhabitants kept refusing to join the Delian League led by Athens, giving away their freedom and autonomy.

After two years of siege, the Athenians destroyed the city, killed all of the men and sold the women and children to slavery. At the end of the Peloponnesian War, the Spartans helped the Miloans to return to their native land and rebuild their city. During the Hellenistic Period, Milos went through another period of prosperity, this time under the rule of the Macedonians, the Antigonids and the Ptolemy's of Egypt. It was a peaceful time during which superb works of art were created such, as the statue of Poseidon and the equestrian general, exhibited in the National Museum of Athens, as well as the Venus of Milos.

Roman period

The Roman times was a peaceful and prosperous period for the history of Milos where the mineral trade of the island grew and brought great wealth to its inhabitants. Arts and crafts surviving from this time prove the artistic development of the Miloans. The centre of the city was moved towards the north, to the area of Tramythia where a remarkable mosaic was discovered in 1896. This amazing piece covered the sanctuary floor of a temple dedicated to Dionysus. The marble amphitheatre of Milos dates from the same period. It was built on a site that offers a breath-taking view over the sea, and testifies of the great spiritual and cultural development of the Miloans during this period.

Christianity was spread rapidly in Milos. In the first century AD, catacombs were built to protect the Christian faith and permit to the Christian adepts to effectuate their religious ceremonies and to burry their dead far from the eyes and rejection of the pagans. Those spectacular catacombs can be visited today and they are located near the village of Tripiti.

Medieval times

After the decline of the Roman Empire, all the Cyclades became part of the Byzantine Empire. Very little historical evidence and writings has been preserved for that time but it is known that Milos, as well as many other islands, was a victim of many pirates raids. The town of Klima, capital of Milos, was abandoned after a disastrous earthquake and findings indicate that the inhabitants moved to areas like Komia and Emborios. Milos also suffered from numerous raids from Arabs and Slavs. In the 8th and 9th centuries the inhabitants often rebelled against the Byzantine Emperor, mostly for religious reasons, and were repressed with great ferocity. After the fall of Constantinople to the Franks in 1204, the islands of the Aegean came under Venetian domination. Milos was ruled by Marco Sanudo, which dynasty remained until 1361. Nevertheless, the Miloans never resigned to foreign occupation. When the pirate Barbarossa came to take over the island, the Krispon dynasty (following the Sanudo dynasty) didn't offer any resistance and gave Milos to the Turks.

Ottoman occupation

In 1566, all Cyclades came under Turkish rule. The administration of the island was given by Piali Pasha to a Jewish banker, Joseph Nazis. After his death, Milos came under the rule of Sultan Mourat III. The island was semi-autonomous and had to pay taxes to the Sultan's delegate. In 1675, a local pirate, George Kapsis, came to Milos and was named King by the inhabitants of Milos for his strong anti-Turkish feelings. The Turks arrested him in 1678 and hanged him in Constantinople. In 1771 Milos came under Russian rule but was re-conquered by the Turks three years later.

In 1771 Milos came under Russian rule but was re-conquered by the Turks three years later. The island of Milos was among the first islands of the Cyclades to take part in the revolution of 1821 against the Turkish occupation and the first naval battle took place in the sea surrounding Milos on the 11th of April 1821. During the revolution Milos became a shelter for refugees from the whole Greece. The island was united to the rest of Greece in 1830, at the same time as all the other Cycladic islands.

Recent years

Milos was used by the British and the French forces as a naval base, during the First World War. The island provided shelter for many refugees, after the catastrophe of Asia Minor in 1922. The Germans invaded Milos during World War II, in May 1941, and built fortifications in many villages for their own safety. The Miloans resisted the German invasion heroically and raised again the Greek flag on their island on the 9th May 1945. Many inhabitants left the island because of the harshness of the living conditions and moved to Athens and the United States. Nevertheless, with the appearance of tourism, Milos and its inhabitants experienced a quick development.

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