Tinos Island


Greek mythology holds that God POSEIDON sent a flock of storks to free the island from snakes. The grateful islanders worshipped him and his wife AMPHITRITE and they became the patron saints of Tinos (there is large temple dedicated to them at Kionia). The people of Tinos praised the couple for their healing powers. This temple became a religious centre of Greece and attracted many pilgrims. Astonishing is the similarity to the present pilgrims who also seek the help of the healing powers of the Panagia.  During ancient times Tinos was called “OPHIOUSA” (ophis=snake). This sanctuary at Kionia is probably older than the one for Apollo on DELOS.

The first traces of human presence on the island go back to the Neolithic and Protocycladic periods. Historically proven is the habitation of Tinos by the Myceneans. The Mycenean period last from about 1600 – 1100 BC. Main archeological evidence is a Myenean tomb, discovered at Kyria Xeni in the North of Tinos, ceramics and foundations of various buildings. In the area of the Mount Exombourgo the remains of an ancient acropolis, probably erected by the Ionians, were found.

During the 6th century Tinos was under the Eretians then under the Athinians. The Peisistratian Aqueduct was built in the years 549-542 BC under the Athenian tyrant of the same name. It supplied the town until 1934.

In the beginning of the 5th century BC Tinos was rules by the Persians and had to take part in their campaign against the rest of Greece. The battle of SALAMIS (480 BC) changed everything. The Tinian leader Panaetios decided to abandon his position and supported the Athenians. He gave them valuable information that contributed to the victory. Thus the Tinians were considered among those who fought the Persians and the name of Tinos was included on the Sacred Tripod set up at Delphi. In the following year Tinian soldiers took part in the battle of Plataeae. After the Persian wars Tinos became member of the Delian Alliance.

During the following Hellenistic period the temple in Kionia became an important religious centre and also the capital was in this area. The Poseidonia or Posideia were religious ceremonies were conducted in January and February. In the 3rd century BC the worship of Poseidon’s wife, the nymph Amphitrite was included. After Alexander the Great Tinos was under the rule of the Ptolemaic Dynasty.

In 146 BC Tinos became part of the Roman Empire. Christianization took place in the 5th century AD. Churches were built on the sites of the ancient temples.

Byzantine times were the “dark ages” for Tinos. During the Byzantine Empire, Tinos was part of the province Thema. In these times, the Aegean Sea was a dangerous place. Tinos was repeatedly the victim of attacks and raids by pirates, Arabs and Saracens. Plagues and epidemics also played their role in the decline of the island.

After the fall of Constantinople on the 12th April 1204 to the crusaders the Cycladic islands fell to the Venetians under Marco Sanoudo. Tinos was allotted to the GHIZI family who remained in control until 1390. Historians call this period “Republic of Ghizi” since the dependence on the Venetian republic was limited. After the death of the last Ghizi Tinos fell under the direct control of the Venetian Republic until 1715. With the Venetians came a period of economical and social prosperity especially compared to other islands or even the main land. The land was divided and most Tinians were engaged in farming. Over centuries terraces were constructed to pursue the cultivation of vegetables, cereals, wine, figs and olive trees. The Tinians were also involved in animal breeding, poultry farming, fishing, marble carving and the production of silk and linen fabrics. A good indication for the high level of organization is the record of land property of the 15th century.

The strongest sign of the Venetian dominance war the strong fortress on the Mount Exombourgo as the Venatian capital of the island. The strong wall protected important buildings as the headquarters, the keep, water tanks and Catholic churches. A second wall was erected around the houses of the Venetian noble men. The settlement BOURGOS developed outside of the wall.

This Venetian castle was the strongest in the Aegean. The Turks tried to take it 11 times, but failed for centuries. Tinos remained the only Christian post until the 5th of June 1715.

After the surrender the Tinians were granted special conditions and privileges by the Ottomans. The social organization and institutions were kept apart from some minor exceptions, Tinians could follow their religion, had their own schools, not wear a fez. Only a few Turkish officials remained permanently on the island.

After the demolition of the castle on the Exombourgo the settlements around were gradually abandoned and the Tinians began to settle around the harbor. The new town was called “Limani” or “Chora”, which developed fast around the churches. But not only Tinians moved here. The favorable conditions of life on Tinos attracted refugees from other parts of Greece as well. Trade and commerce developed fast and in this time strong Tinian communities in Constantinople, Smyrna, Alexandria and elsewhere were established. The contacts with Europe and Asia Minor influenced attire, household furnishing and the way of life on Tinos, which became the commercial centre of the Cycladic islands. During the last years of the Ottoman occupation, the political situation changed, many privileges were taken back and heavy taxation was imposed.

On 31st of March 1821 the Greek revolution was first proclaimed on Tinos in the village of PYRGOS by Georgios Palamaris and a little later, on the 20th of April 1821 in the capital.

Tinos played an important role in the struggle for independence. About 5000 Tinians joined the forces, Tinian sailors manned warships and Tinian shipowners offered their vessels for the revolution. Many refugees took shelter on Tinos. There were big contributions of money and goods and through their communities in Asia Minor essential information was given to the Revolutionary Government.

During the fights on the 30th January 1823 the icon of the Virgin Mary from early Christian times was found. This supported the revolutionary spirit in the justification of the struggle. Donations from all over Greece helped to built the church which became after the liberation an important pilgrimage site for the Greek Orthodoxy.

In the following decades the colonies abroad were strengthened and especially in the end of the century many Tinian marble workers emigrated to Athens and Ermoupolis on Syros.

Tinos always was welcoming refugees such as from Crete in 1866 or from Smyrna in 1922.

Another significant event in the history of Tinos was the torpedoing of the Greek warship “ELLI” on the day of the feast of the Virgin Mary on 15th August 1940 by an Italian submarine in the port of Tinos. This happened although Greece and Italy were not in a state of war.

During the Italian-German occupation many inhabitants of Tinos died from hunger and deprivation. Still the spirit of resistance prevailed. Tinos was used as a station for the escape to the Middle East by small boats. Information was broadcasted to the Allies via the Middle East to damage and sabotage the Nazis.

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