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History of Mykonos

Description

Ancient Mykonian mythology tell us that the island was the battle ground where Hercules slew the Titans who rose in opposition to his father Zeus. Their testicular "stone" remains became the boulders found jutting out all over the island. The island was later named Mykonos after Mykons, the demi god son of Apollo and first King of the island of Mykonos.

 

 

During ancient times, Mykonos, due to its proximity to Delos, which was then highly populated, became very important as a supply island. The short 2-kilometer distance between the islands was frequently traveled. By the 5th century, Delos, as the birthplace of the twin gods Apollo and Artemis, had became one of the most important religious sites of the ancient world. It was purified by the ruling city state of Athens so that no one could be born or die on Delos. With proximity to such a sacred religious center, Mykonos most likely had its roots as a vacation island long before modern times.

From an archeological point of view, excavations at the ancient site of Ftelia reveal that the first inhabitants of the island were the neolithic Kares (dating back as far as 3,000 BC), succeeded by Phoenicians, Egyptians and then Minoans, Ionians (11th century BC), Athenians and Macedonians who all left their mark on the island. Alexander the Great's desire for revenge against a weak Persian Empire, put Mykonos on the map as a commercial center for agriculture and maritime trade. High quality clay deposits also improved the island's importance, as ceramic containers were the best means of preserving and exporting goods during ancient times.

Due to its geographic location as a crossroads for shipping and it's close proximity to Delos, the island's future continued to flourish reaching a state of enormous wealth during the time of the Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus Caesar and later became part of the Byzantine Empire.

With the fall of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade in 2014, Mykonos was occupied by Andrea Ghisi, a relative of the Doge of Venice. The island was ruled by the Venetians until the late 16th/17th centuries when the Ottomans eventually defeated them (Venetian-Ottoman wars (1645-1669 and 1684-1699). Mykonos was left to ruin: torn apart by pirates and plagued by poverty up to the 19th century.

In the Greek War of Independence (1821 - 1832), Mykonos played an important strategic role when, in 1822, Mykonian enlightenment educated  heroine Manto Mavroyenous rallied the island's people to defeat a Turkish onslaught. As a result, Mykonos developed into an important naval center with a growing population; many people migrated to its shores during this time to escape mainland fighting. 

 The "Chora" (main town) grew outwards towards Barkia, which became the focal point of he expanding settlement, then to Limni, Matoyannia and Niohori (dialect for New Village). The shape of the town was influenced by the thriving maritime trade industry and population influx. Unlike most Aegean island towns, which are built amphitheatrically, Chora is built like a horse-shoe and is entirely flat except for the 10 meter hill of Kastro and the elevated Kato Myloi. At the height of its prosperity (1750-1815), many captains built themselves two story houses (kapetaneika), which can be seen in the famous Mikri Venetia and other neighbourhoods. These became the most common form of residence with a door and a window on each floor, a skylight to ventilate the upper level, a little brightly painted balcony and an outdoor stone staircase and have become iconic features of the Mykonian landscape.

With the coming of steamships in the late 19th century also came the first signs of modern day tourism which ended with World War II and German Occupation (1941-1944). Mykonos like the rest of occupied Greece suffered greatly through deprivation, starvation and occupation. It wasn't until the mid 1950's that tourism began to return.

 Due to the islands unique architecture, relative seclusion and hospitality, it  gradually became a haven for the rich and famous. By the 1960s, artists, writers, politicians began to regularly visit Mykonos. This, along with local tolerence and acceptance of liberal lifestyles allowed Mykonos to become the celebrated island that it is today. Among the rich and famous who visited in the early days are;  Aristoteles Onassis, Maria Callas, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (Jackie O), Soraya (princess of Persia), Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Barton, Marlon Brando, Rita Heyworth, Valentino, Gianfranco Ferré to name a few. 

Today Mykonos is still one of the most famous vacation islands in the world. International visitors from all over the world most recently from the Middle East, the Americas, China, India are visiting in record numbers. Their influence adds to the wealth and diversity of Mykonian culture. Many young and talanted Greeks are flocking to the island setting up new businesses, catering to the new wave of jet setters and discriminating travellers alike. Mykonos has received numerous superior service and product awards in the areas of gastronomy, hospitality, entertainment, luxury, art and fashion.

 

In spite of its success as a luxury destination, remnants of "old" historical Mykonos still remain in its streets, houses, churches and archeological sites. Its charm and magic, ever present, keep people coming back every year.

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