Tilos History

Tilos History
About the history of Tilos island, Greece

Archaeologists have discovered that Tilos was first inhabited in the Neolithic times and during antiquity the island was well-known for its perfumes and salves. Excavations in Charkadio Cave, in the centre of the island, have revealed the bones of a strange kind of animals, the dwarf elephants, that dominated the island about 6 million years ago. These findings are exhibited today in the Paleontological collection in Megalo Chorio.

According to Greek mythology, the island took its name from a man named Tilos, son of god Helios. It is believed that Tilos used to gather therapeutic plants for his ill wife on this island and later on they built a temple to which he became the priest. The first inhabitants were Pelasgians and Minoans. In the 7th century BC, the residents of Tilos and Lindos, on Rhodes, founded a colony in Sicily, Italy, and in the 5th century, Tilos became part of the Athenian League, as most islands of the Aegean.

In the 4th century BC, the island was independent and issued its own coins. In the centuries to follow, Tilos was a dependant of neighbouring Rhodes, which had a powerful naval power. In the second century BC, it was dominated by the Romans and then it was included in the Byzantine Empire. In 1309 AD, the history of Tilos is marked by the Venetian occupation. The Knights of Saint John conquered the island and built a Castle in Megalo Chorio to protect it from pirates.

In 1523, Tilos was conquered by the Ottomans and then in the 20th century by the Italians. It was incorporated to Greece in 1948, as the rest of the Dodecanese did. In the 1950s, the inhabitants were facing an economical decline and a large part of them moved to Rhodes, Athens or abroad. The rest were trying to make their living with agriculture and fishing. Now, Tilos is a small and remote island with about 500 inhabitants. Its economy is still based on agriculture, cattle breeding and fishing, while in summer, it receives few tourists seeking for peaceful vacations.

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