Donoussa History

Donoussa is the easternmost island of the Cyclades group in the southern Aegean Sea. The small Cyclades islands were once the center of the Cycladic civilization. The history of Donoussa starts from the prehistoric times. According to Greek mythology, it was to Donoussa that Dionysus, the god of wine, took Ariadne from Naxos in order to hide her from Theseus.

The remnants of two ancient settlements on Donousa have provided evidence that shows traces of inhabitation on the island during the Early Cycladic period (around 3,000 BC). The Cycladic civilization on the island reaches its pinnacle during the Geometric era (1,000-700 BC), according to the ruins of a fortified settlement and cemetery that were discovered at Vathi Limenari, in the southeast area of Donoussa.

When we come to the Roman period, there are more factual records about Donoussa, which is mentioned as a place where the exiled were sent. Later, the island was a favorite haunt of Mediterranean pirates. Donoussa then came under Venetian and Turkish rule at various times. Local oral tradition tells us that the islanders had to pay the poll-tax during the Turkish occupation of the Cyclades, which was collected by a Turkish ship that used to anchor off the bay of Kalotaritisa.

Around 1830, the shepherds of Aegiali, on the island of Amorgos, settled permanently on Donoussa (which used to be their summer residence since the beginning of the 18th century) in order to rent the land and cultivate it. Donoussa was home to around 3,000 people at the beginning of the 20th century, many of whom worked in the iron, aluminum and copper mines of Kedros until they were shut down in 1938.

Donoussa became world famous by playing a prominent role at the beginning of the First World War (1914-1918) during the Battle of Gallipoli, in what came to be known as the Dardanelles Affair. The German cruiser Goeben escaped the pursuit of the British Royal Naval Fleet by taking refuge in the harbor of Donoussa and, after replenishing its fuel, Goeben later managed to enter Turkey into the war on the side of Germany. Donoussa came under Italian occupation during the Second World War, after having been a self-ruling community since 1929.

The 1960s saw Donoussa struggling with poverty and with its agriculture (onions and tobacco) in ruins caused by large-scale emigration and consequent depopulation. With the arrival of tourists in the 1980s, even before electricity and the building of a port, life began to change for the better for the residents.