During the ancient times, Tinos was known as Ophioussa (ophis, meaning snake in ancient Greek), because of the great number of snakes crawling on the soil of the island, and Ydroussa (hydria = water places) because of its abundant water. According to ancient Greek mythology, Poseidon, who was the island's protector, chased the snakes away from the island and that was the reason he was highly worshipped in Tinos. An important sanctuary to Poseidon was even dedicated to him in Kionia.
The first inhabitants in the history of Tinos were probably the Phoenicians, followed by the Ionians in the 11th century BC. Two tombs from the Mycenaean period have been discovered in the area of Kyra Xeni, and about fifty archaeological sites with elements from the Geometric period to the 5th century as well as from the era of the Venetian Ghizzi family have been found in the area of Xombourgo. During the 6th century BC, Tinos was seized by Eretria and, during the Median Wars, the island came under the authority of the Persians in 490 BC. The inhabitants of the island regained rapidly their freedom after the battle of Marathon. Tinos became a member of the Delian Alliance, who was ruled by Athens and instituted democracy.
In 386 BC, the island became independent. The new era of Tinos hardly favored prosperity, as it soon came under the authority of Philip of Macedonia. After the death of his son Alexander the Great, the island was ruled by the Egyptian Ptolemies, the successors of Alexander the Great. In the 2nd century BC, Tinos, with all the other islands and the mainland of Greece, became a part of the Roman Empire. During Byzantine times, the inhabitants moved from the sea town to the interior of the island in order to protect themselves from the many devastating pirate raids, which were in that period the great plague for all the Greek islands. The few things known about Tinos during the Byzantine times is that those were times of epidemics, fear, and insecurity for Tinos as well as for many of the other islands.
In 1207, Tinos was conquered by the Venetians, like all Greek islands. The Venetian rule lasted longer there than any of the other islands in the Cyclades and the Venetians managed to repulse the Turkish attacks with the help from the locals. As a result, this was a chance for Tinos to flourish in agriculture, art, industry and more. At the time of the Turkish rule, Tinos had already been a town with many privileges.
The inhabitants had the right to wear their local uniform and to build churches and schools, the Turkish fleet was not allowed to come close to the island, the island was self-governed and the only Turkish residents were the Governor and the judge. During the Ottoman period, the present-day capital began to developed, concentrating shipping and commercial activities.
This period was characterized by a great development, as commercial, industrial and shipping activities were strongly flourishing. The abroad influence on the everyday life of the inhabitants gave Tinos the surname of Little Paris. Many inhabitants of Tinos went to found prosperous businesses in other places such as Constantinople, Smyrna, Alexandria, and Trieste. Until 1821, Tinos was the most populated island of the Cyclades and the economic capital of the group.
Tinos highly contributed to the Greek Revolution against the Turkish rule. The island became part of the Modern Greek State in 1830. After the liberation, Tinos became a pan-Hellenic religious and cultural center. It is the birthplace of famous artists, who had a great contribution to the development of modern Greek art. The history of Tinos is marked by the torpedoing of warship Elli in the port of the island in August 1940. During World War II, the inhabitants of the island suffered a lot from the Italian and German occupation but managed to contribute to the Resistance against the oppressors.