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Ionian Islands
Kythira Island
History of Kythira
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History

Minoans Cretans were the first to settle on the island during the early Copper Age, building a small settlement near Kastri. Pottery was inspired by cretan patterns and had the characteristic use of red colour, made from purple sea shells during the Meso-Minoic III Period (MMIII). The settlement in Kastri was abandoned during the mid 15th century. During the early 14th century the abandoned settlement was used as a base for the construction a of Mycenaic colony. Through the island must have also come phoenicians, although there is no archaeological evidence for this. According to Herodotos (I,105) they built the renowned, during the ancient times, sanctuary of Kytherian Aphrodite, whose worship was brought, as it seems, from the east. This sanctuary is said to be placed in Paliokastro, where the fortified acropolis was.

The oldest written reference of Kythera are the verses of Heliad K 261-270 where the kytherian fighter Amfidamas from Skandeia is mentioned and O 429-440 where there is word about Lykofron. The island during the 8th and until the 6th century was inhabited by argeian dorians, who were then forced to leave after a war against spartans. Two of the administra-tive measures the spartans took, were the installation of a permanent garrison and the establishment of the decree of Kythirodikes, commander of the island sent annually from Sparta.

During antiquity Kythera was an important station for the sailing between Greece and Egypt or Libya. Due to that the island was disputed between spartans and athenians. During the Peloponessian War and until 300BC the island changed hands between the two of them many times. Its neighbouring with Sparta gave athenians the opportunity for raids against their enemies, while on the other hand its occupation by spartans secured their home city.

During the first byzantine times, the island was almost deserted and during the 4th century AD hermits from Peloponess came to it. Among them was Aghia Elessa, who has been connected with many legends and in order to honour her, a monastery has been built and named after her. Pirate raids, especially those made by saracens from Crete were very often during the 9th century and forced a lot of the people to refuge to Peloponess. But because of its important position, the island wasn't totally deserted. The victory of the byzantine emperor Nikiforos Fokas over the saracens and the destruction of the Arab State allowed Kythera to meet a new era of progress, prosperity and commercial relations with Peloponess and espe-cially with Monemvasia. Finally the island came in the hands of Eudaimonogiannides (or Daimonogiannides) family from Monemvasia.

In 1204, during the Fourth Crusade, the island came in possession by venetians who assigned Marco Venieri with the title of Marchese as the commander of Kythera. But he had many feuds in Crete, so he left on his post Daimonogiannides. Venieri family with other great families revolted against Venice. Their defeat signed the annexation of Kythera among the other venetian acquisitions and its rigging from the Duke of Crete until the 17th century. In 1537 Hayredin Barbarossa lead a raid against Kythera capturing 7,000 inhabitants of the island's capital, Aghios Demetrios.

Until 1571, year of the great naval battle in Nafpaktos between the western allies and turks, Kythera suffered a population decrease due to the continuing war between Venice and Turkey, because of the fear for raids. The ending of this war signed the reorganisation and strengthening of the island by Venice, as it held an important strategic position.

During the 17th century while a lot of venetian colonies fell in turkish hands, in the island found shelter many refuges from Peloponess and Crete. In 1715, during another war between Venice and Turkey, the fort of Kapsali was surrendered to the turks by the venetian commander Marceli after a capitulation. In 1718 Venice took Kythera back with the Passarovic Convention. This was the only period that Kythera suffered from the turkish occupation. In the 18th century the island met high development, which was continued even after the breaking of venetian domination with Campoformio Convention (1797), which gave the Seven Islands - a complex of islands which Kythera is a part of - to France, that had just become a republic and gave hope to the island's people. In 1798 France was forced to surrender the island to the russian-turkish fleet. Until 1800, when the State of the Seven Islands was founded, the island suffered from conflicts and bloody fights. The State and the Constitution of 1803 became one of the first signs of hellenic regeneration and independence which didn't come until the hellenic revolution in 1821. The second french occupation during 1807-1809 contradicted the people's hopes for freedom, while the Ionian State which was created by Paris Convention in November 1815, became an english colony. Kytherians made many efforts to free themselves from the british and unite with Hellas, something that was finally achieved in 1864, when the Ionian Islands were given as a "dower" to George A King of the Hellenes.


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