Astypalea History

Astypalea is known with the same name from antiquity. According to Greek mythology, Astypalea and Europe were the daughters of Finikos and Perimidis. According to the several excavations, the island of Astypalea was first inhabited in the 2nd millennium BC by the Caraes, who came from the ancient region of Caria in Anatolia (present-day Turkey). They were followed by the Minoans of Crete. Astypalea seems to have been a wealthy place during Classical times as it is evident from the high annual tribute they used to pay to Athens. There were many temples on the island at that time, another symbol of prosperity. Fruits and flowers practically covered the whole island, which is why the ancient Greeks used to call it the Table of the Gods.

During the Hellenistic period (4th-1st century BC), Astypalea was an important naval base of Ptolemy of Egypt and remained as such until the Roman period, while the natural assets of the island provided an exquisite spot for the expeditions of the aristocratic navy against the pirates of the Mediterranean. During the Byzantine years, (4th - 13th century BC) the constant attacks from the pirates forced the inhabitants to abandon their houses at the coast and create new settlements inside the island with the strong walls as protection. The castle of Saint John was also built at that time, parts of which you can still see.

The Venetians occupied the island of Astypalea from 1207 to 1269, when it was surrendered again to the Byzantines. After the Fourth Crusade which almost destroyed Constantinople, the sovereignty of Astypalea passed on to the noble Querini family of Venice who built the most important monument of this island. The family of John Querini ruled the island of Astypalea for 300 years and built several fortifications. The Venetians lost the island from the Turks in 1537. The period 1537-1912 was a peak for the history of Astypalea, as the island enjoyed certain privileges that offered their autonomy to the inhabitants. The island took part in the Greek revolution in 1821 but it was still under the Turkish rule. After it was occupied by the Germans and the Italians, in 1948 it became part of the Greek State.

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