History of Karpathos

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Prehistoric Times – Antiquity

The oldest traces of habitation date from the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age (4000-3000 B.C.). In 1700-1500, the Minoan Civilization also spread to the island, with Pigadia being the chief settlement. Within the area of Agiartis, at the southern part of Karpathos, recent excavations have uncovered two Minoan domanial villas. From the 14th century up to the early 13th century B.C., the Minoans were succeeded by the Mycenaeans. Remnants of the Mycenaean civilization intensively influenced by the Minoan tradition have been traced all over the island. The excavation at Pigadia recently uncovered a workshop with two pottery kilns, whereas a hewn chamber tomb with numerous vessels had been previously found. There was also a Mycenaean center at Arkasa, with an acropolis on Paliokastro hill and a necropolis at Vonies.

In the early 1st millennium, Dorians settled on Karpathos. The island’s cities during historical times were Karpathos, Arkasia and Vrikous. 1st century geographer Strabo referred to a fourth city called Nisyros, which has been doubted, even though many researchers think it was located at Palatia of Saria. At the 5th century B.C., the three cities joined the 1st Athenian League, along with autonomous communities of Saros (on the island of Saria) and the Eteokarpathians, descendants of the native pre-Dorian population. In 408 B.C., after the confederate Rhodian state was founded, they were integrated as municipalities, following a common historical course ever since. From Hellenistic times on, Potidaion or Poseidion –modern Pigadia– turned into a chief center.

Roman and mostly paleochristianic times (5th-6th century B.C.) were a period of growth for Karpathos, as demonstrated by the 20 known paleochristianic basilicas and the settlements that turned into seaside locations after Later Roman Times.

Byzantine Period – Later Times

Arabic incursions during the 7th century, as well as later ones in the 9th and 10th century, following conquest of Crete in 824 by the Arabs, marked a difficult and shadowy era for the island. After Nikephoros Phokas liberated Crete in 961, peace was reestablished in the Aegean. According to 11th century historian Michail Attaliatis, Karpathian ships showed Nikephoros Phokas the way to Crete.

After the Franks conquered Constantinople in 1204, noble lord Leon Gavalas declared himself lord of Rhodes, Kos, Kalymnos, Leros and Karpathos. First him, and then his brother Ioannis, held the island under their suzerainty up to 1255/6. From 1282 up to 1306, Karapathos was ruled by Genoese brothers Andrea and Ludovico Maresco, and in 1306 by Venetian lord of Crete Andrea Cornaro. After the Maresco family failed to recover the island and the short rule of the Knights Hospitaller of Rhodes (1313-1317), the Cornaro family recovered the island in 1316. They ruled up to 1538, when the Ottoman fleet with infamous pirate Hayreddin Barbarossa took it over.

During the Ottoman Rule, it enjoyed privileges granted by the Sublime Porte, as it was self-governed with elders and proestoi, whereas the Ottoman authorities only collected taxes. During the 1821 Revolution against the Ottomans, Karpathians’ participated actively financing the revolution. In 1828, the island was integrated into the Greek state, only to return to the Ottoman Empire, as the rest of the Dodecanese.

In 1912, the Italians took the Dodecanese over. Their seemingly temporary rule became harsher after fascism ruled over Italy (1922), whereas from 1937 on teaching the Greek language was prohibited. A German garrison was soon established on Karpathos during World War II because of its proximity to Crete, and because of the British-American embargo, food supplies were inadequate. After the Germans were defeated and left the island, many  Karpathians  leading the way– disarmed the Italian garrison, which was ruling the island once more, on October 5th 1944. They were the first amongst other Dodecanesians to declare the integration into mother Greece. On March 7th 1947, the island was integrated into the Greek state, as the rest of the Dodecanese, after a short rule by Great Britain.