Naxos History

Naxos history
About the history of Naxos island, Greece

Mythological background

Naxos is the largest island in Cyclades, renowned for its rich history and beutiful architecture. According to mythology, Zeus, the king of gods grew up in Naxos, hidden away from the ferocity of his father, Cronus as well as his son Dionysus, the god of wine. Dionysus loved so much Naxos that he made it a fertile land, full of vineyards, producing a wine of excellent taste and fine quality. The locals then built a temple to Dionysus to honour their god.

Naxos is also the place where Theseus, after killing the Minotaur of Crete, took Ariadne, the daughter of the Cretan King, Minos, who helped him find his way in the labyrinth were the Minotaur was kept, and stopped in Naxos on his way back to Athens. There, he left Ariadne (or Ariadne left him, depending of the version of the legend) for whom Dionysus fell madly in love with.The god took the young girl to Mount Drios and, from there union, Oinopion (Wine Drinker), Staphylos (Grape) and Evanthi (Lovely Flower) were born.

Ancient times

Historically, Naxos was the most important centre of civilization of all the Cyclades during the ancient period, 4000-1000 BC. The Thracians were the first inhabitants in Naxos who remained for two centuries, until the Carean took control of the island. It is believed that the island owns its name to their leader of Thracians called Naxos. Then the island was dominated by the Ionians who contributed in the development and growth of Naxos, with the sea trading which brought wealth during the 7th century BC. Prelude to the Persian war, Naxos revolt encouraged other cities to join the strugle against the Persians. Then the Peloponnesian War came, during which the Athenians lost from the Spartans taking under control of the island. Then, Naxos felt under a succession of authorities which were the Macedonian Empire, the Ptolemy of Egypt, the Rhodians and, in 41 BC, the Roman Empire. Christianity appeared on the island during the 1st century AD.

Venetian period

The Venetians marked an important period in the history of Naxos. In 1207, Marco Sanudo took the Cyclades and established a duchy, called the Duchy of the Aegean where Naxos was the headquarters and the new ruler was installed creating the begining of a long line of Dukes in Naxos. The first reaction of the inhabitants of Naxos was negative against the Venetian ruler but they were obliged to admit their defeat.

During those years, Marco Sanudo divided the island into 56 provinces, distributed among the various Venetian nobles, and built the beautiful and powerful castle on top of Naxos Town. The Jesuit Commercial School was also founded inside the castle. The power of Marco Sanudo last until 1564, when the Turks took the entire Greece.

During the Turkish Ottoman rule, Naxos had a privileged place for the Venetian negotiate to keep their authority and their monarchic administration and the Turks never established on the island and, the only thing there were demanding was to receive their taxes in time. The island of Naxos became part of the liberated New Greek State in 1831.

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