Ikaria History

Ikaria History
About the history of Ikaria island, Greece

Myth of Icarus

According to ancient Greek mythology, Ikaria owes its name to Ikaros, the son of Daedalus who was the architect hired by Minos (King of Crete) to built the famous Labyrinth where the Minautor was held. Since Daedalus and Ikaros were the only ones who knew how to escape from the Labyrinth, Minos forbade them to leave Crete, to avoid the spreading of the Labyrinth's plans. Daedalus created wax wings for him and his son in order to fly away from the island. Ikaros, ignoring the advices of his father, fled too close to the sun, because he believed that he could be as strong as the gods and fly as high as them. His extreme pride made him careless and he got too close to the sun, his wings melted and he felt into the deep sea surrounding Ikaria, which was then named after him.

Ancient times

Archaeological evidence show that the history of Ikaria starts in the 7th millennium BC, when it was first inabited. In the 6th century BC, Ikaria was a dependant of Samos. Since antiquity, the island was known for its spa springs. After the Persian War, Ikaria joined the Delian League and started flourishing to the point where temples such as the Temple of Artemis at Nas, were being built. This wealth declined after the Peloponnesian Wars, a period during which the inhabitants of the island suffered enormously from the numerous pirate raids.

Things started improving around the end of the 4th century BC, when the island became a member of the Second Athenian League. Ikaria came under the control of the Romans around 230 BC and was incorporated into the Roman province of Asia, along with Samos.

Byzantine period

In the 3rd century AD, Ikaria fell under the control of the Byzantine Empire. A couple of Byzantine castles and an odeon survive today from that era. But, by the end of the 12th century, the Byzantine Empire cut back its naval defence of the Aegean and the islands, among which Ikaria, a continuous pirate target, and the population moved inland, avoiding the coasts. In fact, they built Koskina Castle for their protection.

After the fall of Byzantium in 1204, Ikaria came under the rule of the Latin State in Constantinople. During the 14th century, the island became a part of the Genovese Aegean Empire, after the fall of Chios to the Genoese. Then it passed under the rule of the Knights of Saint John who had taken over the island of Rhodes and ruled over Ikaria until 1521, when the island was conquered by the Turks. The inhabitants of Ikaria fought fiercely their oppressors.

From Ottoman occupation till today

They killed the first Turkish tax collector, participated in the Greek War of Independence in 1821 and managed to break away from the Ottoman Empire in 1827. Nevertheless, the London Protocol, signed in 1830, stated that the North-Eastern Aegean Islands, including Ikaria, should remain under Turkish occupation. On the 17th of July, the inhabitants rebelled against the Turkish officials who were forced to leave. It was the day of the Ikarian Independence, but the Balkan Wars blocked the way and the island was unable to join the rest of the newly built Greek State until five months later.

Finally, in November 4th 1912, Ikaria became officially liberated by the Greek Army and joined the rest of the free Greece. The inhabitants of Ikaria were dissatisfied with the Greek government which did not invest in its development. They therefore cultivated self-sufficiency and received a lot of help from expats Ikarians to the USA and Australia. Till 1973 and the fall of the Greek Military Regime, Ikaria was used as an exile land for political prisoners and mostly communists.

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