Hydra History

Very little is known about the history of Hydra until the beginning of Ottoman rule. Excavations indicate that the first settlers of the island were Mycenaeans. No major historical event is known, until the 15th century period (after the fall of Constantinople), when the inhabitants of the island started to move inland and in the mountains to escape from the numerous pirate raids and attacks of the Turks. Around 1460, Hydra welcomed refugees from Albania, Epirus, Crete, Evia, Kythnos, and Asia Minor, as well as refugees from the Peloponnese who wanted to escape the Russo-Turkish War during the 18th century.

During the Ottoman domination, the Turks had little interest in the island because of its lack of water. The island began to acquire a powerful merchant fleet during the 17th century but the plague of 1792 wiped out a great number of the population and those who survived moved away. Things improved in the 18th century, when the island became powerful and prosperous because of its highly developed commercial fleet, trading with Greece and foreign countries, like France, Spain, and America.

The superiority of the island's fleet reached its peak during the Napoleonic Wars and, with the creation of the Merchant Marine Academy, Hydra was able to monopolize sea transport throughout the Mediterranean. As inhabitants were in fear of attacks from the Ottoman fleet, they used their wealth to fortify the harbor with bastions of cannons.

The people of Hydra participated in the Revolutionary secret alliance against the Turkish yoke called the "Society of Friends" (founded in 1814) and many wealthy sea captains used their vessels as warships and helped the Revolution economically.
The heroism of their crews became famous all around Europe and is still honored today. Two of the most heroic figures of Hydra were the ship owners Andreas Miaoulis and Lazaros Koundouriotis, who contributed to the War of Independence. The superiority of the island's ships and the heroism of its inhabitants were determining factors in the success of the revolution.

After World War II, the economy of Hydra went through a difficult phase. It slightly recovered thanks to fishing and sponge fishing but declined again due to the restrictions of financial assistance to the sponge fishing enterprises from the Greek Agricultural Bank. In the 1950s, Hydra became a center of artistic creation for many artists who used its magical scenery as the main theme of inspiration. Many famous movies were also shot on the island, including "Boy on a dolphin" (1957) starring Sophia Loren and "Phaedra" (1962) starring Anthony Perkins and Melina Mercouri. To this day, Hydra attracts many artists, and various festivals take place in summer in the Melina Mercouri Auditorium.