From Ancient to Medieval times
Archaeological findings indicate that Spetses has been inhabited since the Early Bronze Age (also called first Hellenic Era, about 2500 BC). During the 15th century, the local population increased with people coming from the coast of the Peloponnese but they could not form settlements because of the frequent pirate attacks. The first settlements took place only around the 17th century. The very first Medieval settlement was Kastelli, built on the north-west side of the island and surrounded by thick walls. Once the island was settled, it began to develop a great marine power and tradition which is still the trademark of Spetses.
Participation in the Greek Revolution
The 18th century was the beginning of a golden era for Spetses that emphasized in the shipbuilding activity and the empowerment of its fleet. The impressive merchant fleet of Spetses was converted into warships that played a major role during the Greek Revolution against the Turkish yoke. Spetses had an equal contribution during the Peloponnesian War, in 1769, by taking part in the revolt, known as the Orlov's revolt, with numerous fully equipped warships. To punish the Spetsiots for that action, Turks organised a punitive expedition and completely destroyed the fortified town of Kastelli. That didn't stop the Spetsiots to help the revolutionary Lambros Katsionis in 1790 and to suffer again from Ottoman punishment. The patriotism and courage of the Spetsiots was unbeatable, therefore they were the first to respond to the revolutionary call in 1821.
Spetses, as one of the three important naval centers (along with Hydra and Psara), dedicated its powerful fleet and its soul to the fight against the Ottoman Empire. The Spetsiot ships participated to the liberation of Nafplio, Monemvassia, Mani and Messolongi as well as in the siege and conquest of Tripolitsa, and went in Crete to fight the Egyptian fleet, which was allied with the Turks. These powerful ships were also used to transport weapons, munitions and supplies to other islands that joined the Revolution and the main cause of the success during the decisive battle against the Ottoman fleet in the Argolic Gulf. This historical event is still commemorated today in Spetses, where a reconstitution of the battle is organised in the main harbour of the town on the second weekend of September.
One of the most famous heroes of the Greek Revolution was the Spetsiote female captain Lascarina Bouboulina, an important figure for the history of Spetses, who took the command of her husband's fleet when he died and became an active member of the "Filiki Etairia", a secret revolutionary organisation organising the revolt. She fought in many important battles and spent most of her fortune to finance the war. Other Spetsiot ship owners and wealthy merchants participated offering financial aid to empower the revolution. Most remembered among them are Hatzigiannis-Mexis, Cosmas Barbatsis, captain Tsoupas, captain Panou, captain Koutsis and captain Lambrou.
Spetses maintained its prosperity and power for several years after the Greek Revolution but started to decline at the beginning of the 20th century, when Piraeus became the center of merchant development, activity and trading. The two World Wars brought great poverty and misery on the island and forced a part of the population to move abroad. The island of Spetses recovered from its decline by quickly developing again thanks to the growth of tourism which started in the early 1900s.
This is the moment when the island gained the role of a popular resort for the middle classes, attracted by the education and wealth of the prominent families. The classy and cosmopolitan image of Spetses was increased by Sotiris Anargyros, a repatriated Spetsiot who became very rich in America, and used part of his money to build a road and a reservoir, the first luxurious hotel of the island (Posidonio Hotel), a prestigious private boarding school, the Anargyrios and Korgialeneios School, and financed the reforestation and conservation programme of the thick pine forest of Spetses. Today, tourism is the main resource of the island.