History of Ios island Greece

The earliest evidence of human habitation on Ios Greece can be traced as far back as the Early Cycladic period, around 3000 BCE. During this time, the island thrived as a trading hub, benefiting from its strategic position in the Aegean Sea.

In ancient Greek mythology, Ios Island is believed to be the final resting place of Homer, the author of the epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. The island’s beauty and tranquility are said to have inspired Homer’s descriptions of the mythical land of the Phaeacians in the Odyssey.

Throughout antiquity, Ios Island experienced periods of prosperity and decline under various ruling powers, including the Persians, Athenians, Macedonians, Romans, and Byzantines. Its strategic location made it a coveted prize for empires seeking control over the Aegean Sea.

During the Middle Ages, Ios Island fell under the rule of the Venetians and later the Ottoman Empire. The island served as a refuge for pirates and was a frequent target of raids.

Ios is one of the seven cities claimed to be the birthplace of the great poet Homer. According to historical sources, Homer was buried in Ios, while his tomb is believed to be located on the northern edge of the island in the area of Plakoto. The proto-Cycladic settlement on the hill of Skarkos, as well as the many prehistoric sites on the island, show us that the island was inhabited from a very early time. The ancient gods most worshiped on the island were Zeus Polieus, Athena Polias, Poseidon and Pythian Apollo.

Proto-Cycladic civilization & Mycenaean rule

The first inhabitants of Ios are the Cares (3200-2700 BC), who came from Asia Minor and created a proto-Cycladic settlement, which flourished until the Minoan rule in the Aegean. The next inhabitants were the Minoans who developed the Minoan from 2000-1500 BC.

The Achaeans and the Phoenicians

Next came the Achaeans, who also built the walls of the ancient city and later the Phoenicians, who gave the island the name Phoenice and transplanted trees and plants from the countries they traveled and conquered. Characteristic is the cultivation of palm trees, which are even engraved on currency. These coins bore a palm tree on one side and Homer’s head on the other.

Classical period

In 10 BC century the Ionians conquer the island and many believe that it got its name from there. In the 6th century BC Ios joined the Athenian Alliance to protect itself from the Persians and acquires a democratic state. In 338 BC after the battle in Chaeronea, it is dominated by the Macedonians and King Philip II. In 215 BC it becomes independent and joins the “Community of the Islanders”, where it acquires commercial transactions with other Cycladic islands as well as Rhodes, while also minting its own

During classical times it was a member of the Ionian amphiktionia of Delos and then a member of the First and Second Athenian Leagues. During the Hellenistic era (323-30 BC) it participated in the Community of the Islanders, which united the cities of the Cyclades with its headquarters at Delos in 314 BC. Athena Polias and Zeus Polieus were worshiped on the island. There was a sanctuary of Pythian Apollo, as well as a sanctuary or hero dedicated to Homer. Also one of the months of the local calendar was called Homerion.

In the 3rd century BC (246-220 BC) Ios comes under the sphere of influence of the Macedonian territory. It follows the influence of Rhodes in the region which continues for at least a century. Ios has been closely connected with Rhodes since 220 BC. until at least the middle of the 2nd century BC. At the beginning of the 1st century BC the Cyclades were enslaved by the Pontic king Mithridates. Then, like most of the Cyclades, Ios is in the midst of Rome’s civil wars and finds itself in a difficult economic position.


Roman Period

Ios experienced Roman rule and from the 2nd century AD. it declined and became a place of exile. In the Roman period it was administratively under the province of Asia and from the middle of the 3rd c. A.D. joined the province of the islands (provincia insularum). during the Roman era, their political and economic importance is limited. Many islands, among them Ios, serve as places of exile during the roman times.

Byzantine period – Frankish rule

During the Byzantine period, churches were built in the places where the temples of the ancient gods used to be. It is characteristic that many of these Christian temples are built with marble and columns of ancient temples, which was an attempt to continue worship. In 1207 it was conquered by the Franks and joined the Duchy of Naxos which was led by Markos Sanoudos and a period of prosperity for the island follows. In 1269 it again passed into the hands of the Byzantines.

In 1296 it was occupied by Domenico Schiavi and remained under the rule of the Schiavi family until 1335, when for the second time it was granted to the Duchy of Naxos. In 1371, Francis Crispus captured Ios and created the Crispus dynasty, which lasted until 1517. In 1397, the Venetians led by Crispus Marco I built the island’s castle to protect the inhabitants from pirate raids. In fact, Markos Crispos brings Albanians to the island to strengthen his workforce. During the Frankish period, Ios, like most of the Cyclades, was at the mercy of pirates. The island’s natural harbor attracts their ships and protects them from rough seas.

Turkish rule

In 1537, Ios was captured by the Ottoman fleet led by Hairedin Barbarossa and became a tributary of the sultan, remaining however under the administration of the Crispos family. The Turks call Ios “Aine” or “Anza”, while due to its natural harbor and the security it offers, they also call it “Little Malta”. In 1558 Turkish pirates plunder and burn the island, take the inhabitants and sell them as slaves in the slave markets of the East. So for about 20 years the island will be deserted. In 1566 after the death of the last Crispus, Ios officially joined the Ottoman Empire. In the same year, the Ottoman sultan granted its administration, along with other Cyclades, until 1579 to the Jewish diplomat Joseph Nazi.

Modern Times

However, as piracy was not completely eradicated, Ios was often targeted by pirates. So in 1558 the island was plundered and the inhabitants dispersed to nearby islands, leaving it deserted for several years. In 1668 French pirates defeat the Turkish fleet with the battle site called Burlotto. In 1700 the island was inhabited by local Albanians and foreign pirates. 1770-1774 is the Russian rule on the island, which ends with the treaty of Kiucchuk Kaynartzis. During the Russo-Ottoman war (1768-1774), its inhabitants sided with the Russians. Until 1821, Ios and in general the islands of the Cyclades manage to develop trade and shipping, thanks to the privileges they have been given.

Greek revolution

In 1821 the struggle for freedom begins and Ios takes an active part in it because of its naval power. Ios took part in the naval battle in Kusadasi in the summer of 1821, in the 2nd National Assembly in Astros in 1823, but also in the 3rd National Assembly in 1827 in Troizina. There were many benefactors of the island during the Greek Revolution, the most important being Spyridon Valleta, who was a member of the Society of Friends and later a minister of the new Greek State. In fact, at that time a school was founded in which 100 students attended. In the spring of 1829, Ios was liberated and integrated with the rest of the Cyclades into the free Greek state. At the time of its incorporation with the new Greek state it is a barren island with few inhabitants trying to make a living by cultivating the land, raising animals and mining minerals from the subsoil.

World war II

In the Second World War it had the same fate as the other islands of the Cyclades. It was initially occupied by the Italian troops (1941-1943) and later, after the capitulation of the Italians, by the Germans, and was liberated after their departure from Greece.

20th Century

In the middle of the 20th century (1945-1960) there was a migration movement from Ios to the areas of Athens and Piraeus. This is the second wave of immigration experienced by Ios in its recent history. The first was of a smaller extent and duration, from the end of the 19th to the first two decades of the 20th century, and mainly concerned family-type migration to the cities of Athens, Piraeus and less to foreign countries, Egypt, Australia , America, Canada. After the 1970s, Ios, with new forms of orientation in the tourist sector, manages to become a popular destination mainly for young people.