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A Journey Through History
The Mythological Era
Many names were used for Milos: Vivlis, Gorgis, Melas, Memvlis, Mimmalis, Zefiria, Akytos. The name which has survived, however, is «Milos». It is said that the goddess Aphrodite sent Milo, a royal hero, from Cyprus to the island where he was the first settler, giving the island his name. Another notable opinion is, however, that the island got its name from a combination of the pre-Hellenic word «Vylos» with the ancient Greek, «Milou», (sheep).
Although there is no evidence, Milos is said to have been inhabited by the Carians or Phoenicians. However, it has been established that there was a Dorian immigration from the Peloponnese between 975 and 800 B.C.
The Neolithic Age (7,000-2,800 B.C.)
«The New Stone Age»,(7,000 - 2,800B.C.), was the age in which man began to fashion implements out of stone. Houses were built of reeds and branches coated with clay and Milos was not only inhabited during this period but became richer than its neighbours because of the existence of an important raw material in plenty. This was, a hard, black, volcanic material with a glass-like appearance known also as «glass mineral».The inhabitants of Milos were not only specialists in the working of this material but also exported it. In the Peloponnese, Crete, Egypt and elsewhere, tools, cutting implements, arrow heads and javelins of Miloan obsidian have been found. It should be mentioned that obsidian originating from other areas of Greece, for example Ikaria, is of a different type. In Milos, the mineral is found in rock form at Nihia, NW of Adamas, and at Demenagaki in the eastern part of the island.
Implements and partially worked items can be found all over the island, marking the positions of Neolithic workshops and habitations.
The Bronze Age. (2,800-1,100 B.C.)
After the discovery of copper, about 3000 B.C., and because of the relative ease of extraction from its ore, it became widely used for tools, weapons and statues.
The Miloans bought it from other places and its use revolutionised their lives. The English archaeologists, C. Smith and D. Hogarth, excavated the site in Filakopi 1896-99, discovering the ruins of buildings which they attributed to the Bronze Age. Milos developed greatly, becoming the centre of Cycladic culture. The wall-paintings, ceramics and earthenware made by the Miloans at this time, demonstrate the richness of the island and its developed interchange with the rest of the known world. Samples of the arts and crafts are displayed in the Archaeological Museums in both Athens, and Milos.
More should now be said about the dramatic developments of the period and how the excavations at Filakopi have brought light to the subject.
The Pre-settlement Period (3,300-2,300 B.C.)
Habitations were just beginning to be built, though there is little evidence of this, apart from the discovery of ceramic vessels. Commerce with other Cycladic islands such as Syros was developed.
Filakopi I. (2,300-2,000 B.C.)
The First Settlement Period
The houses were built of stone and there was a noticeable though primitive town plan, the graveyard being relatively large and well organised. Trade, and in particular the obsidian trade, was flourishing.
Filakopi II. (2,000-1,600 B.C.)
The Second Settlement Period
The habitation followed the boundaries of the previous period with no evidence of city walls. The craft of ceramics had developed further and articles were decorated with refined, complex designs and there was extensive trade with Crete - the ruling power in the Aegean at that time. This period ended with the total destruction of Filakopi, which was razed to the ground leaving no evidence of the enemys identity. Evidence of fire can be seen in nearly all the buildings, and household articles have been destroyed.
Filakopi III (1,600-1,400 B.C.)
The Third Settlement Period
The new city was built very quickly, with a completely modernised plan and with large forbidding walls to keep out enemies. These walls were as mucc as 6 feet thick, increasing to 9 feet near the gate. The buildings were rectangular with parallel streets in between, and with stairs leading to the different levels. In the NW of the city, there was a large building, probably for public use, and the import of Minoan ceramics began to influence the local craft. The Cretan craftsmen now became the teachers of the Miloans. Earthenware was painted with patterns from nature - like plants, animals and dolphins and several rooms were decorated with wall-paintings.
This period also ended with the destruction and looting of the city by outsiders.
Filakopi IV (1,400-1,100 B.C.)
The Fourth Settlement Period
Yet again, the inhabitants rebuilt their city, re-enforcing the fortress, even though their enemies, who were probably the Mycenaeans, did not leave them in peace. Evidence of this can be seen from the strong influence of the Mycenaean culture. To the NE of the public building, was the imposing residence of the ruler of the city. In the south of the city, there was a religious sanctuary, comprising two areas: the east and west shrine. Similar examples are to be found in Mycenae and Tiryns, with nearly all findings of Mycenaean origin or influence. Minoan culture was now on the decline, although modelling was flourishing and many figurines of idols were made. Unfortunately however, for reasons unknown to us, the city must have been abandoned again since there is a total absence of earthenware. Today, because of land subsidence, the greater part of the ruined city is under the sea.
The Archaic Period
After the city of Filakopi had been abandoned, a new city was founded on the hillside, above today's village of Klima. It extended north-east from the coast to Tripiti, and then north to the outskirts of Plaka, the present capital of the island.
In view of the disastrous experiences of the past, the normal fortification of the area was reinforced with a city wall, parts of which are still standing. The building of the city was begun in 1000 B.C. coinciding with the advent of the Dorians, who subjugated the Miloans. After some years, however, integration of the two peoples became so complete, that the Miloans began to boast that they too were Dorians.
The arts began to flourish again, especially the craft of ceramics and the unique Miloan amphorae, were widely praised for their perfection.
The Classical Period
During the Persian Wars, the Miloans were on the side of the Greeks. They are mentioned at the sea battle of Salamis and at Plataion, 480-479 B.C. During the Peloponnesian war, however, they tried to take a neutral stand, putting their independence in jeopardy. So it was, that in 426 B.C. the Athenians set out to subjugate the Miloans who refused repeatedly to join the Athenian alliance. Sixty triremes with two thousand fighting men under the command of General Nikias, pillaged the island, but the inhabitants did not submit. Nikias therefore withdrew empty-handed with his fleet.
In 416 B.C. a new Athenian offensive set out for Milos, with thirty-eight triremes and 3,020 men led by Kleomidis and Tisias. They realised that it would not be easy to conquer the Miloans in war and therefore tried to persuade them to surrender. An extremely important dialogue ensued between the would-be victors and the defendants in which the Miloans eloquently expressed their right to freedom and autonomy but refused to submit to the Athenians. Hence their city was besieged. Twice the Miloans broke out heroically in order to secure supplies of food. The Athenians sent reinforcements under the command of Philocratis and at the beginning of 415 B.C., due to betrayal, they managed to destroy the city, kill the adult men and sell the women and children into slavery.
The Miloans who had survived the slaughter, returned to their island only after the Athenian defeat by the Spartans at the naval battle of Aegospotami in 405 B.C. They extradited the 500 Athenian cleruchs, who had become established on the island and began re-building their city.
The destruction of Milos was condemned by the Athenian intellectuals of the time, who were horrified by such an inhuman act.
Thucydides, the most revered historian of that period, reported the dialogue between the Miloans and the Athenians, which has been justly characterised as «perhaps the most famous, invented dialogue in a historical work». This dialogue (History of the Peloponnesian War, Chapter V, para. 84-116) provides indisputable evidence of the claim of the Athenian historian that his work has «value for all time».
The Hellenistic Period
From this point onwards, the history of the city of Milos resembles the history of the rest of Greece and the islands, as in the Macedonian era. After the battle at Cheronea, the city came under the rule of the Macedonians and later the successors of Alexander the Great, the Antigonos and Ptolemy families. It was a time of peace and quiet in Milos and so the trade of minerals and the arts again began to flourish.
The prosperity of Milos is evident in the masterpieces created to decorate public buildings and which can now be seen in museums, notably: the world famous sculpture of Aphrodite, (Venus de Milo) in the Paris Louvre, the larger than life statue of Poseidon, and the equestrian general in the National Museum in Athens.
The Roman Period
With a few minor exceptions, peace continued. The increasing importance of the mineral trade brought wealth to the islands inhabitants and arts and crafts also progressed. Statues of officers and men in breast plates, figurative heads and imperial coins, bear witness to the continuation of Miloan culture during the Roman dominion. The centre of the city was moved northward to the area of Tramythia where, in 1896, an exquisite mosaic (19 x 5.40 square metres) covered the floor of the Temple dedicated to Dionysus and his priests. Vines, fish in a lake, birds and a wild animal combine to form an attractive colourful design. Nearby, there was a bust of a priest of Dionysus with an epigraph which is now in the museum of Milos. The marble amphitheatre, with its breath-taking views over Milos Gulf, was also built at this time, of which a large portion is still intact. This is yet another example which demonstrates the great spiritual development of the inhabitants of the period.
At the same time, Christianity appeared on the island and spread with amazing rapidity. The protection of the believers of this new faith from the first century A.D. was undoubtedly due to the building of the Catacombs, used as a burial ground but also for the observation of religious rites.
The Ancient City was not the only populated area however. Evidence of habitation has been found at many other places such as Komia, Pollonia, Panagia Kastriani, Paliochori, Ag. Kyriaki, Provatas, Kypos, Ag. Eleni, Angathia and Embourios. The people who lived outside the city walls were probably farmers and miners.
The Byzantine Period
After the decline of the Roman Empire, Milos, with the rest of the Cyclades, became a part of the Byzantine Empire.
Little has been written about the islands by historians of the period, mainly because of the insignificant size of the islands in comparison to the vastness of the empire. To facilitate government and to deal more effectively with the marauding pirates, the empire was divided into areas. Milos belonged to the Aegean region, centred in Rhodes. This was a period of unrest, with the islanders rebelling against the Emperor. Religion was one of the main reasons for this conflict and resulted in the spilling of much blood during the 8th and 9th centuries A.D.
Historians believe that Klima was inhabited until the 6th century A.D. when it was abandoned, possibly due to destruction by earthquake. Findings including the foundations of temples, indicate that the inhabitants moved to areas such as Komia and Emborios.
The Period of Venetian and Turkish Rule
After the occupation of Constantinople by the Francs, the Venetians took over the Aegean Islands. First came Mark Sanoudo who founded a dukedom of the Aegean Sea in 1207, centred in Naxos. This dynasty was in power until 1361. In 1268, the Miloans again showed their love of freedom when they rebelled against the Venetians, seizing Castro, in the hope that the Byzantine fleet would come to their aid. This, unfortunately, never happened and the rebellion was quashed with much spilling of blood by William I.
The Sanoudo dynasty was succeeded by the Krispon dynasty, and in 1566, Piali Pasha managed to complete Turkish control of the whole Cyclades area. The Sultan appointed a cunning Jew, Joseph Nazis, as the last Duke of the islands and he was authorised to collect a tribute of 14,000 ducats a year. His rule lasted until 1579 and he was represented by the lawyer Francisco Koronelo.
After the death of Nazis in 1580, the islands came under the direct rule of Sultan Mourat III with several political privileges. The islands were semi-autonomous with the obligation to pay «haratsi» (tax per head) to the Pasha Kapoutan, the Sultans delegate. It is worth mentioning that during all the years of Turkish rule, Milos was never occupied by the Turks but only visited by travellers and persons who came to inspect how the islanders lived.
Besides the Admiral, Pasha Kapoutan, a lawyer called Kadis came to settle the more serious differences between the islanders, often staying for long periods of time. The taxes were collected by the island committee and handed over to Pasha Kapoutan every two or three years.
Throughout these years of Turkish rule, there was frequent destruction and pillaging by the Venetians, the Turks and pirates. If the pirates did not rob the islanders, they stayed for long periods, to sell their booty.
A local pirate, John or George Kapsis, an experienced navigator with anti-Turkish persuasions, put himself in charge of a social rebellion and was named King by Kamili, the Catholic bishop of Milos. He reigned from 1675 to 1678 and he had such a great influence on his countrymen, that the Turks were obliged to sail to Milos and arrest him by fraudulent means. He was taken to Constantinople where he was hanged.
In the winter of 1771, Milos and the nearby islands were conquered by the Russians of Orlof. This continued until 1774 when the Turkish dominion was re-established.
During the same period, Hora, todays Zefiria, was destroyed. The town which had grown from the Middle Ages, reached its zenith in the 16th and 17th centuries. However, in the middle of the 18th century the environment became increasingly inhospitable. Earthquakes, noxious gases escaping from the ground, floods and malaria, were the reasons that, by 1767, the towns-folk had fled and resettled in Castro and outside the castle walls in the area which is todays Plaka. So it was that the beautiful, rich town with a population of 5,000 described in 1700 for us by the Frenchman, Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, was destroyed. In its place is todays Zefiria, with just a handful of villagers.
The 1821 Revolution and after
The Miloans made a memorable contribution to the overthrow of the Turkish conquerors, both financially and in terms of fighting men.
Milos was the third area of Greece to rebel, and here, the first naval battle took place on 11th April, 1821.
Fifteen fully-equipped Spetses-built ships, en route to Asia Minor, found out that three Turkish ships with 42 cannons together with a transport ship loaded with armaments, were anchored in Milos Gulf - reinforcements for the Turkish fleet in the Ionion. The Greek ships immediately changed course, attacked the Turks, took possession of the warships, and led them to Spetses.
Haris Bambounis, the historian, estimates that the Miloans gave 37,000 piasters in cash, towards the revolution. It was also significant that the Pilots of Castro, refused to navigate the Turkish ships of Pasha-Kapoutan in the summer of 1823. It was the death of Petros Michelis, one of the pilots, which initiated the sea battle of Navarino in 1827. Admiral Edward Codrington had sent him with a few chosen men to the Egyptian Commander, Mouharembey, in a final attempt to avoid bloodshed and to negotiate the withdrawal of the Turko-Egyptian fleet to the Dardanelles and Alexandria. However, aggravated by previous skirmishes, the Egyptians killed Michelis, and as a result, the English flagship, the Asia, opened fire on its Egyptian counterpart, sinking it within a few minutes. This event started the naval battle which resulted in the victory of the allied powers and positively influenced the outcome of the Greek Revolution.
As a result of the wars in which Greece was involved between 1912 and 1922, the Miloans mourned 107 soldiers killed in battle. During the First World War, Milos Gulf was used as a naval base by the Anglo-French fleet and Adamas was used as headquarters for Allied Command in the Aegean.
During World War II, on 6th May, 1941, the Germans invaded Milos and immediately fortified several strategic positions for their own protection. At points such as Bobartha, Pollonia and Castro they set up bases with heavy weaponry, traces of which are still in evidence. Beneath the village of Adamas, is a network of passages, used for storing food and armaments. The Miloans resisted the occupation forces heroically, and the flag of liberation flew again on 9th May, 1945. So then, the strong support of Milos was felt, in each and every endeavour to preserve the existence, independence and freedom of the Greek Nation.