Amorgos Island


In the ancient time, Amorgos was known as Hyperia, Platagi or Patagi, Psychia, Karkisia (from its Naxian settler, Karkisio) and Tripoli (Three Towns) because Amorgos had at the time 3 towns. The one was Arkesini, on the northwest side of the island, close to today’s Kato Meria. The second one was Egiali also on the northwest end where today is Tholaria and the third one was Minoa in the bay of Katapola, where according to tradition were the summer palace of King Minoa of Crete.

The 4th millennium B.C. according to the findings of a settlement on the hill Mantoulia, above the port of Katapola, proves that the island of Amorgos appeared on the pages of history. During the 3rd millennium Amorgos became very important for the establishment and development of the first Cycladic civilization. A proof for its importance is the discovery of 12 Acropolis from that period and of settlement’s and cemetery’s ruins.

In the cemeteries, especially in Kapsala and Dokathismata, were found a lot of marble or ceramic statues and various findings which shows the grandeur of a developed civilization. Each acropolis was built on the top of a hill or on very steep rocks, but still close to the coast, with narrow hidden paths in order to be as best protected from attacks as possible. The inhabitants of that era on Amorgos were basically farmers, fishermen, hunters and sailors.

At the beginning of the 2nd millennium B.C., Amorgos, like most of the Cycladic islands, was under the domination of the Minoans, who at the beginning used it as a station and then after the settled on it they made it their nautical and commercial centre of Crete. The own of Minoa, in the bay of Katapola and on the hill of Mantoulia, was thriving around 1500 b.C.

After the big explosion of Santorin’s volcano (around 1650 B.C.), the Mycenaean start to invade and influence the islands of Cyclades and Amorgos. The Mycenaean civilization becomes very evident and strong.

During the 9th and the 8th century B.C. arrive from Naxos the Ionians. They settle on Amorgos and found the town of Arkesini on the peninsula of Kastri. On the 7th century the Ionians of Militos found the town of Egiali on the north part of the island. Some historians believe that at the same period arrived the Ionians of Samos ad stayed in the area of Minoa.

During the 6th century Amorgos took advantage of its geographical position and had a significant economical and intellectual development. The 3 cities united and thrived until the middle of the 4th century B.C. The colonization from the Ionians is the reason why Amorgos developed relations with Ionian cities on other parts of the world and through that become an important communication and commercial centre. During the Classical Period the relations with the Ionian cities developed even more, commerce was flourishing also in the form of exportation of products of Amorgos. During this period the Commonwealth of Tripoli’s was established.

In 480 B.C Amorgos took part in the Battle of Salamina’s with her own ships and two years later in 478 B.C. the island joined the Athenian Alliance which cost her many privileges and independence.

In 337 B.C. starts the Macedonian domination. The Macedonians constructed many fortifications in key areas of the island. In 322 B.C. the big battleship of Amorgos took place. It was one of the most important fights between the powers of the Athenians against the generals of Alexander the Great. Athens lost the fight and therefore her domination in the area. Amorgos had good relations with the Ptolemians of Egypt during and after the Macedonian domination. When the Romans took over, Amorgos, like almost all the islands of Cyclades, became the land of exile for Roman officers. During that period became known for the excellent quality of wine and local products.

During the Byzantine time, Amorgos was part of the union called “Theme of the Aegean” and received on the island the first Christians. From the beginning of the decline of Byzantium the island of Amigos suffered pirate attacks who continued for almost 3 centuries. From the 7th to the 10th century B.C. the inhabitants of Amorgos in order to protect themselves from the attacks abandoned the coast and moved inland where they established a safe settlement.

Around 1088 A.C. the emperor Alexios Komninos renovates the monastery of Panagia Chozoviotissa. The monastery was first built in 1017 A.C. and constitutes one of the finest examples of Cycladic ecclesiastic architecture on the Aegean Sea. According to tradition the icon of Mary, piece of Evangelist Louca, arrived on the island inside a boat. A wealthy woman from Chozova in Palestine had put the icon in the boat during the iconoclasm. The monastery stands overwhelming on a very steep rock on the hill of Profit Elias, 300 meter above the sea and is the jewelry of the island.

After the fall of Byzantium the island of Amorgos was under the domination of the Venetians and in particular of the brothers Andrea and Jeremy Gyzy. A bit later, in 1209, became part of the Ducat of the Aegean Sea under Marco Sanoudo and with Naxos as the capital city.

In the years that followed the island of Amorgos suffered more severe attacks from the pirates that forced the people to leave from the island and go to Crete.  After disagreements between Venetian aristocrats in 1446, Ioannis Kouirini, the count of Astypalea, became the master of Amorgos.

In the following years the island was attacked by Catalans and Turks and finally in 1537 it was conquered by the Turkish admiral and pirate Chairedin Barbarossa on behalf of the Sultan. The Sultan gave special economical, religious and political privileges to Amorgos and since the island was relatively safe during the Turkish domination lived another prosperous and progressive period. The establishment of a Greek School takes place in 1751 in the monastery of Agia Marina.

From 1770 to 1774 Amorgos is under the Russian domination together with all the Cycladic islands.

During in the revolution of 1821, Amorgos participated with its nautical fleet and many of the inhabitants fought in Peloponnese. The liberation of Amorgos happened in 1832.

During dictatorship Amorgos became exile for the political opponents.

For many years the people from Amorgos, as from most of the small Cycladic islands left their home in search of a better life in Athens or in other countries of the world. Now that tourism develops the situation is very different on the island.

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