Paros Island


Throughout the centuries Paros has had a rich history, which starts from mythology, continues through ancient times, the classic, the Hellenistic times, and the Roman times up to today.

During the First Cycladic Period in the 3rd millennium before Christ,  Paros civilization developed rapidly, based on the expansion of shipping and commerce and, together with other Cycladic islands, played an important role in the social life of the region, at a time when all shipping power of consequence was in the east Mediterranean.

During this period the Cyclades were under the power of the Minoan state of Crete. The dominance of Crete which expanded to all the Cyclades, guaranteed free and secure transportation of mineral wealth between the states of Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria and the Balkans.

According to mythology the first settler of the island of Paros and the one who build the first town where Parikia is today, was the Minoan Alkeos. Being in a central location towards Rhodos and Asia Minor was the reason why the port of Paros was so widely used by the Minoans for commercial as well as for military purposes.

This is the reason why at that time Paros was known by the name Minois or Minoa, which was an honorable title for a royal town. Later Paros had a variety of names like Taktia, Dimitrias, Zakynthos, Yria, Kavarnis and Platea.

The Mycenaean dominance followed after the Cretan. The Ionians with Kleethon and Melana attacked the island that since then was protected by the four sons of Minoa, Evrimedon, Chysos, Nifalion and Filolaos. The Ionians at the beginning were loosing the war, but in the end they managed to conquer the island of Paros. After their victory they destroyed the island, killed all the Cretans living on it and took their power.

The island was named Paros later when the Dories attacked Peloponnesus and forced all Arcades out of their country. The name Paros comes from the son of Parassion and grandson of the king of Arcade Lycaona, Paro, who settled on the island as the leader of Arcade’s emigrants.

The Arcades were not many in number and they settled only in one part of the island. Through the years the Arcades and the Ionians who lived together on the island, they developed agriculture and started the trade with the Phoenicians. As main product they had the marble of Paros, which was famous for its clarity, smoothness and color.

Trade with the Phoenicians brought economic wealth to the island and slowly Paros expanded into shipping construction. The population grew and different social classes were created together with piracy even among the Parian people.  Pirate attacks began and the island became a well known center for slavery.

The 8th century B.C. Parian people controlled the traffic in almost all the Aegean Sea. In 708 or 705 B.C. Telesicles, the son of Archilochou the Parian, established the first Parian colony in the island of Thasos. After the first colony many more followed like Galipso close to Paggeo, Esimi, Dato, Strymi close to Maronea and Parion in Hellespont. Another colony was Pharos on the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic Sea.

During the period of expansion, art and pottery were also developed. Paros was considered the origin of the “milean pots” of the geometric period. During the same period (725-654 B.C.) lived on Paros the well known ancient satiric poet, Archilochos the Parian, who was the one who found and used the iambic meter. According to history researchers, he used Iambus as a “dangerous sharp weapon” against the aristocracy of Paros Island, where he was also born as an illegitimate child. The theme in most of his work was the war. In one of his poems he speaks without shame about the loss of his war shield and how he preferred to put down his weapon instead of being killed. Despite his disregard for war, he was killed in a battle between the Parian and Naxians in 654 B.C.

During the 6th century B.C. the center of the Cyclades was Naxos rather than Paros. The royal government in Naxos helped bring about the fall of the democrats on Paros. In this period of history there existed all over Greece a conflict between the democrats versus the oligarchy.

Although Naxos and Paros continued their conflict for a long period of time, the progress of the island was not affected. Paros supported its economy by exporting to Athens more marble than Penteli, one of the biggest quarries in Athens. The Parian marble was used to construct parts of famous temples, like the temple of Apollo in Delphi in the 6th century or the temple of Poseidon in Sounion in Athens (5th century). Contemporary artists of that time like Skopas, Agorakritos, Aristiona and Aristando used the Parian marble for their works of art. Great masterpieces of classical times were carved in white Parian marble, for example the statue of Aphrodite of Milos and Hermes of Praxitelus.

In that period a new force had been established in the East. The Persians with Cyrus as their leader, had already conquered all the neighboring countries and had reached Asia Minor. The aristocrats of Naxos, who by that time had been defeated by the democrats, asked for the support of the Persians. The Persian fleet and armed forces came to the two islands under the leadership of Megavatis and succeeded in reinstating the aristocrats in power. After the reestablishment of the aristocracy on the two islands, Persia decided to make Paros their base in the Aegean Sea. In their first crusade against Greece in 490B.C. one part of the Parian fleet fought along with the Persians. Parians and Persians together first destroyed Evia and then disembarked in Marathon, where they were defeated by the Athenians.

Athens never forgave the Parians for their alliance with the Persians and after the war at Marathon they fought against them with Miltiades as leader. This crusade failed basically because Miltiades was reluctant to attack Paros, although the forces were already inside Parikia port. The story says that Miltiades was fatally injured in his thigh while trying to steal a sacred object from the temple of Demetra because, according to mythology, it was a prerequisite for winning the war.

During Xerxi’s crusade against Greece, the Parians were again on the side of the Persians, but after the defeat of the Persians in Salamina in 480 B.C. and that in Plateas in 479 B.C., the Athenian fleet with Themistocles as leader conquered Paros and forced the Parians to join the Athenian Alliance. Athens levied the highest tax of all the islands due to its wealth.

In the following years Paros was conquered by the Spartans during the Peloponnesian war, then by the Macedonians during the battle of Cheronea in 338 B.C. and after the death of Alexander the Great, Paros came to the Ptolemaist. At last Paros, together with the rest of the Greek world, was occupied by the Romans in 145 B.C. The Roman occupation was ended by the King of Ponto, Mithridates, who took power between 88 B.C. and 84 B.C.

In the years after Christ Paros was in obscurity. Paros, Sifnos and Amorgos were Episcopacies. A variety of graves and monuments prove that Christianity became known on the island during the 2nd century A.D.

In 267A.D. Goths invaded and ravaged the island. After that invasion quietness prevailed in the wider region until the end of the 7th century when the Slavs attacked Greece from the north, reached the Cyclades in 675A.D. and completely destroyed Paros.

Paros was again in obscurity until 1207 A.D. when the Venetian Marco Sanoudos, relative of Doge Eric Dandolo, occupied the island of Naxos and all the surrounding islands and founded the historical duchy of the Aegean Sea with Naxos being the capital. Paros remained under the control of the duchy crown from 1207 to 1389 A.D.

While in power, Sanoudos used the ruins of ancient temples to construct the Castle in Parikia and also to reconstruct the church of Ekatontapiliani. When Gaspar Somaripas succeeded Sanoudos, he reinforced Paros with more castles.

The Turkish fleet attacked the islands of Andros, Paros and Milos in 1416 A.D.

Afterwards only a few inhabitants were left in Parikia, and in Naousa remained only pirates.

Paros was ruled by Somaripa Krousinos from 1400 till 1462. He drove away the pirates and began trading in Parian marble again. He also undertook a lot of excavations and created a substantial collection of ancient findings. After his death his brother Dominic Somaripas (1462-1466) succeeded him and then the third brother Nikolas, who stayed in power for almost 42 years, until 1504. Krousinos the 2nd, the last Duke of Naxos, ruled until 1520 when John Krispis the 4th conquered the castles of Paros.

During the Frankish domination, Paros developed in many areas, despite the high tax that the Franks imposed. With the invasion of the Turks the parians were obliged to pay a much lower tax known as “charatsi”. The Frankish domination ended completely in Paros after the catalytic presence of the Turks in the Aegean Sea. During the wars between the Franks and the Turks from 1644 to 1669 & from 1684 to 1699, Paros suffered a lot of damage.

The admiral of Venice, Frangiskos Morozines, launched his furious hordes against Paros in the second Venetian-Turkish war, hunted the Christians and destroyed the olive trees and wineries on the island, while pirates made Naoussa and its port  their center.  By the middle of the 18th century the Turks completely domination  the Aegean Sea, had chased away the pirates and were using Paros as a base for their fleet.

During the Russian-Turkish war from 1770 – 1777 Paros became a Russian naval base under the orders of Spyridon Orlov. Captain of the Russian fleet was the Muconian Antonio Psarros. At that time on the island of Paros there lived about 4000 Russians, 1000 sailors, 12000 Albanian and 3000 Greek volunteers, but after the failure of the revolution in 1770 a lot of them left for Peloponnesus.

During the revolution of 1821 Paros didn’t provide any ships for the ensuing battle. Only a group of volunteers under the command of captain Tranda arrived in Peloponnesus and participated in the battle of Tripolitsa. We shouldn’t also forget the well known Manto Mavrogenous, who gave all her property for the good cause.

After 1821 Paros became a member of the New Greek state that was created and received refugees from Psara, Chios and Crete.

The historical and intellectual development of Paros during the 18th and 19th century was brilliant and written sometimes with golden pen and sometimes with blood and pain. Nevertheless Paros continued its enviable tradition through the centuries and reached modern times, turning to the tourism together with all the Cycladic islands.

This progress in tourism brought Paros once again into the spotlight of Greek culture and economic development.

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