Milos has been inhabited since the Neolithic Age (7000-2800 BC) and developed much quicker than its neighboring islands due to its hard, black, volcanic material of glass-like appearance, obsidian. It was used by the people of Milos, who specialized in making tools and weapons. Obsidian tools have been discovered in Crete, Peloponnese, Cyprus and Egypt. Therefore, it is believed that the locals flourished in export, mostly of goods and minerals from the sulfur mines.
During the Bronze Age (2800-1100 BC), Milos became the center of the Cycladic culture. The most forceful city was Phylakopi, the ruins of which were found near Pollonia by two English archaeologists (Smith and Hogarth) in 1896-99 and 1911. The ruins represent three different historical phases that cover more than 1500 years. The city was destroyed and rebuilt three times by its inhabitants. The final destruction of Phylakopi was probably by the Mycenaean, who built a new one with visible Mycenaean characteristics. Great works of art have survived from this period: amphorae, vessels, and paintings on walls, all displayed in the Archaeological Museums of Athens and Milos. The city of Phylakopi was abandoned after 1100 BC.
A new city was founded under the present village of Klima. It was built by the Dorians, who left Sparta to settle in Milos. After some years, the people of Milos and Dorians started to meddle, and everyone was considered Dorian. Arts flourished, especially in the domain of ceramics, with perfect and highly decorated amphorae (vases) surviving until this day.
The Classical Period was a hard time for Milos. Its inhabitants fought on the Athenian's side during the Persian Wars. Nevertheless, during the Peloponnesian War, they tried to remain neutral to protect their independence. That triggered a reaction from the Athenians who, in 426 BC, sent a part of their fleet, trying to force Milos to help them, without any success. They retried in 416 BC but failed once again. A year later (415 BC) they started besieging the island. After months of siege, the Athenians destroyed the city, killed all men, and sold the women and children to slavery. At the end of the Peloponnesian War, the Spartans helped the people of Milos to return to their native land and rebuild their city.
During the Hellenistic Period, Milos went through another span of prosperity, this time under the rule of the Macedonians, the Antigonids, and the Ptolemys of Egypt. It was a peaceful time during which excellent artworks were created, including the world-renowned Venus de Milo exhibited in the Louvre and the statue of Poseidon exhibited in the National Museum of Athens.
The Roman times were a peaceful and prosperous period for the history of Milos when the mineral trade of the island grew and brought great wealth to its inhabitants. Arts and crafts surviving from this time prove the artistic development of the Miloans. The city center was moved north, to the area of Tramythia, where a remarkable mosaic was discovered in 1896. The impressive piece covered the sanctuary floor of a temple dedicated to Dionysus. The marble amphitheater of Milos dates from the same period. It was built on a site that offers a breathtaking view of the sea and testifies to the spiritual and cultural development of the Miloans during this period.
Christianity spread rapidly in Milos. In the first century AD, catacombs were built to protect the Christian faith and permit the Christian adepts to effectuate their religious ceremonies and to bury their dead far from the eyes and rejection of the pagans. Those spectacular catacombs are located near Tripiti village and can be visited.
After the decline of the Roman Empire, all the Cyclades became part of the Byzantine Empire. Very little historical evidence and writings have been preserved for that time, but it is known that Milos, as well as several other islands, was a victim of many pirate raids. The town of Klima, the capital of Milos, was abandoned after a disastrous earthquake, and findings indicate that the inhabitants moved to areas like Komia and Emporios. Milos also suffered from numerous raids from Arabs and Slavs. In the 8th and 9th centuries, the inhabitants often rebelled against the Byzantine Emperor, mainly for religious reasons, and were repressed with great ferocity. After the fall of Constantinople to the Franks in 1204, the islands of the Aegean came under Venetian domination. Milos was ruled by Marco Sanudo, the dynasty which remained until 1361. Nevertheless, the people of Milos never resigned to foreign occupation. When the pirate Barbarossa came to take over the island, the Crispi dynasty (following the Sanudo dynasty) didn't offer resistance and gave Milos to the Turks.
In 1566, all of the Cyclades came under Ottoman rule. The island's administration was assigned to a Jewish banker, Joseph Nazis. After his death, Milos came under the rule of Sultan Murat III. The island was semi-autonomous and had to pay taxes to the Sultan's delegate. In 1675, a local pirate, George Kapsis, came to Milos and was named King by the inhabitants of Milos for his strong anti-Ottoman feelings. The Ottomans arrested him in 1678 and hanged him in Constantinople.
In 1771 Milos came under Russian rule but was re-conquered by the Turks three years later. The island of Milos was among the first islands of the Cyclades to take part in the revolution of 1821 against the Turkish occupation and the first naval battle took place in the sea surrounding Milos on the 11th of April 1821. During the revolution, Milos became a shelter for refugees from all over Greece. The island was united with the rest of Greece in 1830, at the same time as all the other Cycladic islands.
British and French forces used Milos as a naval base during the First World War. The island provided shelter for many refugees after the catastrophe of Asia Minor in 1922. The Germans invaded Milos during World War II (May 1941) and built fortifications in many villages for their safety. The people of Milos resisted the German invasion heroically and raised the Greek flag on their island on the 9th of May 1945. Many inhabitants left the island because of the harsh living conditions and moved to Athens and the United States. Nevertheless, with the appearance of tourism, Milos and its inhabitants experienced major development.