Poros History

Poros may be small in size, but it has a huge history behind it! Below, you will find plenty of information about the history of Poros.

Prehistory - Mythology

Thanks to the writings of Pausanias, Poros is known to have consisted of two islets in ancient times: Sferia and Kalavria. The former, where today’s port and town are located, was of volcanic origin, having emerged after the eruption of the Methana volcano during the pre-historic era, around 100,000 years ago, while the latter was formed much later. Over the centuries, the gap between them was bridged as a result of the deposits of streams, so a canal bridge was eventually built in 1890. Sferia was named after the charioteer Spherus, who helped the mythical Pelops win the crown from King Oenomaus in a chariot race, while Kalavria is generally thought to mean a "place of good winds".

Evidence of human presence on the island can be traced back to the Neolithic period, in the area where the Temple of Poseidon was later built. The numerous prehistoric settlements revealed by archaeological research are indicative of the considerable development of maritime trade during the Early Helladic period. Seals stand out among the findings, reflecting an organized management of commodities in a hierarchically structured society. Inhabitancy of Poros continued in the Mycenaean times, and there are a number of myths associated with the island.

According to ancient Greek mythology, Poros, who gave his name to the island, was the son of the hero Kalavros. In various sources, a deity called Poros also serves as a personification of abundance and wealth. Moreover, Poros is the birthplace of a romantic tragedy. When the Cretan King Minos was fighting the city of Megara, the daughter of the besieged city’s King, Scylla, fell in love with the Cretan King. To show her love, she cut off a lock of her father's hair, which was the source of his immortality, stole the keys to the city's gates and gave them to King Minos. But when the king finally took the city, he rejected Scylla and prepared to return to Crete. In desperation, she jumped into the sea and followed the ships until she drowned of exhaustion. The area where she died was named after her and is called Cape Skili to this day.

Yet another myth associated with Poros is that of Theseus, son of Poseidon. He was the famous Athenian hero who killed the Minotaur of Crete, a monster that was half-man, half-bull. The famous Temple of Poseidon was built in his honor.

Ancient times

During the Mycenaean times (1400-1100 BC), the powerful nautical station of the area was situated on a rocky island called Modi (or Liontari), on the eastern coast of Poros. During the 7th century BC, the sanctuary of Poseidon was the seat of an amphictyony called the Calaurian League, formed by the city-states of Ermioni, Epidaurus, Aegina, Athens, Prasies, Nauplia, and Orchomenos. This alliance was a nautical, religious and political confederation, founded for the protection of their independence and trade from the Argives.

During the 5th century BC Poros was drawn into the Greco-Persian Wars, along with other Greek city-states. In the middle of the 4th century BC, Greece came under Macedonian rule. As a result, the sanctuary of Poseidon became the setting for the tragic end of the renowned orator Demosthenes. Persecuted for his struggle against Philip of Macedonia, he was eventually forced to commit suicide by poisoning himself with hemlock in 322 BC. After the death of Alexander the Great (323 BC), the Ptolemies of Egypt were the next rulers of Greece and Poros.

From the Middle Ages to Modern Times

Like the rest of Greece, Poros came under Roman domination between 146 BC and 395 AD. During the Goth raids in 396 AD, the regions of Trizinia and Kalavria were completely destroyed, while a powerful earthquake nearly leveled the island just a few years later, and Poros never managed to recover from these catastrophic events. Subsequently, it became a part of the Byzantine Empire till 1204. However, being almost uninhabited, it became a lair of the pirates who preyed on the Saronic islands and the coast of the Peloponnese. In 1484, Poros was occupied by the Venetians, who used it as a strategic port for their naval battles against the Ottomans. Population increased again as settlers came to the island and it came to boast one of the largest towns in Greece. Ottoman rule began in 1715, much later than in the rest of Greece. During the Turkish yoke, Poros developed a powerful merchant fleet, though it did not acquire such a great reputation as those of Hydra and Spetses. After the Russian-Turkish Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji (1774), which gave Russia the right to free navigation in the Mediterranean Sea, the famous Russian Dockyard was built in the early 19th century as a supply station for the Russian fleet. 

The role of Poros in the Greek War of Independence was very important and worth mentioning, as the merchant ships were converted into warships for the needs of the cause. As a matter of fact, the island of Poros became an important place of passage (because of its proximity to the Peloponnese) as well as revolutionary meetings. The first navy yard and Naval Academy of independent Greece were established in Poros in 1828, close to the Russian Dockyard, and remained there until 1878. Also, in September 1828, Poros was the seat of one of the most important meetings for the future of Greece: the ambassadors of England, France and Russia came to meet Kapodistrias and discuss the fixing of the borders of the Modern Greek state, which was eventually established in 1830.