Mykonos Island


In ancient Greek mythology there are two references to Mykonos. First that the Giants killed by Hercules in a fierce battle, are buried on the island under imposing blocks of Mykonian granite that you find spread around the island. A later tradition attributes the name of the island to a hero by the name of Mykonos. The name “Mykonos”, somewhat pejoratively, means a mass of stones’ or a rocky place;

After the Kares and Phoenicians, which may have been the first inhabitants, but by around 1000 B.C the Ionians from the Mainland and Athens were the established colonists and in control of the island after having expelled the previous occupants. In ancient times there were two cities on Mykonos, one of which was near the site of the present town, but the exact locations could not be definitely confirmed up to now. Mykonos almost vanished in comparison with the much more important Delos. Most probably for some time Delos was used as a refuge for the LEPRAKRANKEN. In 490 B.C, the Persian generals Datis and Artaphernes made a brief stopover in Mykonos; It was a poor island with limited agricultural resources.

Initially it was under the rule of Athenians, but at that time it took second place to Delos, which was a major religious center for many centuries. As a member of the … it had to pay only a few taxes, which again indicates the minor importance of Mykonos. Known though was the wine from Mykonos – to be seen on Dionysos coins.

Later in history the island belonged to the Romans and subsequently to the Byzantines, who have fortified the island against the Arab raids of the 7th century, kept control of it until the 12th century.

In the year 1207, after the fall of Constantinople, at the end of the 4th Crusade, Mykonos together with Tinos was occupied and ruled by Andrea and Jeremia Ghisi – relatives of Dandolo, the Doge of Venice.

In 1390 after the last of the Ghizi dynasty died Mykonos was governed directly by the republic of Venice. In 1537, while still under Venetian domination, the island suffered a catastrophic attack by Chareddin Barbarossa, the admiral of Souleiman the Magnificent. Since then it was under the domination of the Turks, almost 200 years before Tinos.

Later, under Kapudan Pasha, the head of the Ottoman fleet the island is practically self-governed, according to the system of the period, by a functionary called a “voivode” and a council (body of “syndics”) who always tried to maintain an equal distance from both Turks and Venetians (the last of whom withdrew definitively from the region, in 1718, after the fall of the castle of Tinos to the Ottomans).

The population of  Mykonos was increased by colonies of immigrants (from nearby island and as well as from Crete) during time of starvation and epidemics which often followed the periods of conflict, until the late 18th century.

The Mykonians , who were known as excellent sailors, were both successful in trade and shipping and, also, piracy. These talents brought considerable wealth to the island.

Many islanders were active in the “Orlof Insurrection” ( led by the Orloff brothers, 1770-74) and resulted in the Russian-Turkish war.

The Myconians participated actively in the Greek Revolution of 1821 with their fleet.  Soon after the out break the Mykonians, roused and led by the lady Mando Mavrogenous (an aristocrat, well educated daughter of a Myconian family- who become a popular nation heroine) successfully impeded a landing of a squadron of the Ottoman fleet in 1822.

Lady Mando Marvrogeno financed the fleet and before the war was over she had spend almost all of her, considerable, family fortune. A monument at the central Platia at the port reminds of her.

After the liberation (1830) and the establishment of the Greek State, the activity the Mykonians managed to re-establish its commercial fleet and revived the island economy through trade relations with south Russia, Moldavia and Walachia. Myconian merchants were established in Constantinople, Smyrna, Alexandria, Livorno and Marseilles.

After the stream technology became predominant over the traditional commerce of the sailing ships, at the end of the 19th century,Mykonos had to gradually cut down the shipping activities. The construction of the Corinth Canal (1904) and the World War I resulted in a depression of the local economy; many Myconians had to leave the island to find work. Many went to the centers of mainland Greece (Piraeus, Athens) or left Greece at all.

Especially the excavations of the French School of Archaeology, begun in Delos in 1873, focused attention on the region- at least that the happy few who, attracted by the charm of classical Greece, had the means and the opportunity to travel.

In the early 30s already, many famous artists, politicians and wealthy people, mainly from Europe, began spending vacation on the island, attracted by its unique atmosphere. Mykonos has adapted well to the post-war situation and the gradual growth of the tourism industry in south Europe. The island has turned into a cosmopolitan locale and is one of the most successful growth – models of its type.

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