History of Skiathos
Prehistoric times (-1100 B.C.)
Our earliest information about the history of Skiathos comes from
the "Travels"of an anonymous writer, previously thought to have been the geographer
Skymnos of Chios. According to the writer of "Travels" then, the island was inhabited
in prehistoric times by the Pelasgians, a pre-hellenic tribe which came down from
Thrace. It is possible, though, that before the Pelasgian settlement in Skiathos,
the island may have been inhabited by Careans who, as the historian Thucydides
tells us, settled in many Greek islands during those times. However, it is likely
that the island was inhabited by other peoples, too, after the Pelasgian settlement.
Amongst these, for instance, there may have been Cretans who, we know, had occupied
neighbouring Peparithos (or Skopelos, as it is called today). This hypothesis
is supported by the fact that one of the names by which the god Dionysos was called
in the islands occupied by the Cretans was "Skiathos" - an adjective which bears
a very close resemblance to the name of the island. Finally, it is also probable
that Thessalians, of the Mycenean age, had settled on Skiathos.
Early and Classical times (1100-338 B.C.)
After these ancient settlers, the islands were inhabited by the Chalcedeans.
These were Ionians who came to Skiathos during the period of their colonizing
activities from the 8th century on. They seem to have arrived on the island during
the 7th or 6th century, on their way to found colonies in Chalcidice (Macedonia).
They built their town on the southeastern side of the harbour, on a height, where
it could command a view and control the large bay and the inner double harbour.
The town was encircled by a wall of square marble blocks, large and rough-hewn,
and two gates assured communication with the hinterl and and the harbour. This
town survived all through the Classical, Hellenistic and Byzantine periods, until
the time when the medieval town, the Kastro (fortress) was built on the northern
side of the island.
Skiathos reappears on the historical scene during the Persian wars.
As the historian Herodotus tells us, in 480 B.C.,when the Persian fleet was sailing
down from Thessaloniki, the Greeks awaiting it at Artemision in Euboea, were warned
by lighted torches on Skiathos. It seems that, during this period, Skiathos helped
the Greeks and was perhaps one of the few cities which did not go over to the
Medes. When the 1st Athenian Alliance -known as the Delian Alliance was founded
in 478/7, Skiathos took the side of the Athenians. Allied towns were divided into
regions for tax-collecting purposes and from the "taxation lists", still pre-served
in attic inscriptions, we can see that Skiathos was included in the Thracian region
and paid 1.000 drachmae a year - a very small sum, which indicates that Skiathos
was poor at the time. During the period of the Athenian Alliance, Skiathos had
its own democratic and autonomous administration, as did the other allied cities.
That is, it had its own Boule (administrative/legislative council, its citizens'
assembly ("ecclesia"), and an eponymous archon (member of the executive in office
for a year,and whose name was used to designate that year). In the end, however,
the alliance developed into an hegemony with the Athenians exercising dominance
over their allies and an authoritarian form of goverment.
At the end of the Peloponnesian war in 404 B.C., when the Athenians
were defeated by the Spartans, Skiathos came under the rule of Sparta and her
system of goverment became that of an oligarchy. In 386 B.C. during the Antalcidean
or Basilean peace, in accordance with which all the islands with the exception
of Limnos, Imbros and Skyros where the Athenians allotted holdings to settlers
- were granted their autonomy,Skiathos, too, was officially declared independent.
The Spartans, however, violated the peace treaty and soon seized Skiathos again,
together with other islands,where they left a garrison and imposed heavy taxes.
In 378/7 B.C., Athens established the 2nd Athenian Alliance, a genuinely
defensive alliance this time, with the aim of opposing the expansionist intentions
of the Spartans. Skiathos once again ranged itself with Athens, following the
campaign of general Chabrias in Euboea and the Northern Sporades in 377 B.C. Skiathos
remained in the 2nd Athenian Alliance with its autonomy and democratic institutions,
approximately 40 years. And it seems that during this period, the island's financial
situation improved so much that it was able, towards the middle of the 4th century
B.C., to mint bronze coins with the head of Hermes on one side and his caduceus
(staff) with the word CKIAΘI in the other. Later, the island was used by the Athenians
as a naval port and a base for its expeditions against Philip II of Macedonia.
In 338 B.C., after the battle of Chaeronea, which virtually brought
to an end the independence of the southern Greekstates and marked the beginning
ofMacedonian domination, Skiathos came under Macedonian rule .
Hellenistic and Roman times (338 B.C. - 330 A.D.)
The Macedonians established an oligarchic system of government in
Skiathos and the island remained undisturbed for , many years. Historically, it
emerges again from the time of Philip V (238-279 B.C.), the Macedonian king who
was, at that time, at war with the Romans. This was a troubled period for the
island, as the surrounding areas became scenes of battle. When the 2nd Macedonian
war began, in 200/199 B.C., Philip ordered Skiathos and Skopelos to be destroyed
to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy fleet and being used against
him. And indeed, in the same year, the Roman fleet, together with that of Attalus
I of Pergamum,who was an ally of Rome, arrived on the island, and plundered whatever
was left after Philip's raid. Despite the great extent of the destruction, the
town quickly recovered and, following Philip's defeat at Kynos Kephales in 197
B.C., democracy was again restored. When the Macedonian Kingdom was overthrown
in 168 B.C., the Romans granted a degree of freedom to the Greek cities and states.
Finally, however in 146 B.C., the whole of Greece was subjugated
by the Romans and Skiathos followed the fate of the rest of the country. In 42
B.C., after the battle of Philippi the victor, Antony, handed over Skiathos along
with some other islands to the Athenians, as a token of gratitude for their friendly
attitude towards him. Skiathos thus re-established its democratic regime, along
with the Athenians, and retained it well into the years following the birth of
The Byzantine period and Venetian rule (330-1538 A.D.)
The information we have on Shiathos during the first years of the
Byzantine period is extremely scanty. All we know is that, administratively, it
belonged to the province of Thessaly, which constituted part of a Macedonian "theme"
(military district) and that, with the propagation of Christianity on the island,
an episcopate ( bishopric ) was created under the Metropolitan Bishop of Larissa.
In 758 A.d., during the reign of Constantine Copronymus, the Byzantine fleet anchored
in Skiathos harbour, whence it sped to the rescue of Thessalonica, where a Bulgarian
and Slav attack was imminent . During the 7th century A.D., Skiathos suffered
much from Saracen pirate raids in the Aegean.
Following the overthrow of the Byzantine Empire by the Franks, in
1204, and concession of the Aegean islands to the Venetians, Skiathos, Skopelos
and islands of the Cyclades were taken over by the brothers Andrea and Jeremia
Ghisi, Venetian merchants. The Ghisi brothers granted Skiathos self-deterrnination,
and several privileges, which are listed in the well-known "Capitula Sciati et
Scopuli", and which were still in effect during the 2nd period of Venetian rule.
However, they abolished the Orthodox episcopate. They built a new fortress called
Bourtzi in the great harbour for their residence and for the security of the town.
The Ghisi brothers ruled the islands until 1259, their successors
continuing for a further 17 years, until 1276, when the Byzantine fleet drove
them out of the N. Sporades. Skiathos remained within the Byzantine state until
1453. Byzantine rule, however, was rather nominal, as the pirate raids that plagued
the Aegean at that time did not allow Constantinople to make its presence effectively
felt on the islands which it had reclaimed. It thus appears that around the middle
of the 14th century, the people of Skiathos, desperate following the continous
raids on the island, both of pirates and of Turks, abandoned their coastal town
and built a new, safer one - the Kastro ("fortress',) on the northern side of
the island, on a steep rock which constituted a naturat fortress.
When Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, the people of Skiathos
chose Venetian rule, realising that Venice would from then on be their only possible
protection against the Turks. They therefore asked the Venetians to take over
the island on the condition, however, that they would confirm the privileges that
the Ghisi brothers had give the island, and that the see of the Orthodox bishop
would remain there, reguests which were granted. Thus began the second period
of Venetian rule in Skiathos, which lasted until 1538. The life of the island,
however, did not seem to improuve.
The pirate raids continued and Venetian rules were so harsh, that
when, in 1538, the fortress was besieged by Barbarossa, some of the inhabitants,
in order to rid themeselves of the tyranny of the Venetians, did not hesitate
to surrender it to him. The period of Turkish domination (1538-1821) The Turkish
domination of Skiathos began in 1538 officially in 1540 - when the Turco-Venetian
peace treaty was signed. During this period the island was ruled by a Turkish
governor the voivode, who was assisted by the elders of the town one or two initially,
but later more - who were elected each year. Skiathos along with the other islands
of the Aegean, belonged to the Kapudan Pacha that is to the admiral of the Turkish
fleet. Each year, the inhabitants paid a certain amount of money as "harach" or
tax. There was also a cadi (jude) for legal affairs, an «agha» for administrative
affairs and "zambites" who collected the taxes. There were also quite a few Turks
living on the island at that time. The inhabitants of Skiathos, as was the case
with all the other islanders generally, were requisitioned to serve for a period
in the Turkish navy. Later this compulsory service was converted into a contribution
in money, the "melachica" . However, in the years before the Greek War of Independence,
impressment was again brought into effect.
In the mid-17th century, in the year 1660, the Venetian admiral,
Francesco Morosini, seized the Kastro and Venetian rule was re-established for
the third time. Not for long, however, as the Turks soon took the Kastro again.
Thus their domination continued until the beginning of the Greek War of Independence.
The Turkish population of Skiathos gradually dwindled. The office of voivode was
bought by the locals and there were often no other Turkish officials on the island.
Their functions were thus performed by the elders, who gradually acquired more
rights. The inhabitants, however continued to suffer pirate raids which still
harried them relentlessly. In spite of their trials, the islanders did not lose
their interest in navigation.
From the beginning of the 18th century,the people of Skiathos began
to build small ships and carry on transportation and commerce with the surrounding
areas. Later, on larger ships, they sailed as far as Egypt and the Black Sea.
The longing for freedom, however, was still alive in the hearts of the islanders.
Thus, in 1770, they took part in the victo- rious sea battle of Chesme,alongside
the Russian admiral Alexis Orlov, and soon afterwards they contributed men and
ships to the legendary sea-captain, Lambros Katsonis, who was active against the
Turks at the time. In later years (1805-1816) Skiathos effectively helped the
chieftains of Mt. Olympus, Giannis Stathas and Nikotsaras, who, after Orlov's
revolt had been quashed, continued the fight against the Turks with raids on Turkish
shores and attacks on Turkish ships.
An act of great importance both for the island and the whole of Greece was
the creation and raising of the first official Greek flag in September 1807, at
the holy convent of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, in Skiathos.
The Greek War of Independence (1821)
In spite of the fact that it was far from the entre of military operations and
thus an easy prey for the Turkish fleet, Skiathos soon joined the ranks of those
fighting for Idependence. At that time, it possessed a good number of fully equipped
ships, with trained and experienced crews, from the previous sea battles in which
they had taken part up until 1816 with the Olympus chieftains. The ships from
Skiathos contributed greatly to the War of Independence. At that time many people
who had to flee from their homelands when the revoluonary efforts failed, found
refuge in Skiathos. An estimated 30,000 refugees from the Pelion villages, from
Mt. Olympus, Euboea and Epirus arrived on the island. This influx of population
in a restricted space caused problems, as shelter and food became scarce. Many
of the people were armed, and it was not long before fighting broke out and anarchy
began to reign. The island was plagued for years by violence and looting, the
main offenders being men of Albanian descent ("Liapides") who remained on Skiathos
even when most of the refugees had returned to their homelands or settled in safer
areas. In 1823 the Turks tried to take the island again but were utterly defeated.
In 1829, after the signing of the Protocol of London, on which was based the founding
of the Greek state - which, however, remained tributary to the Sultan the inhabitants
of Skiathos abandoned the Kastro and resettled along the harbour, where the ancient
town had stood.
This text is cited Sep 2002 from the Municipality of Skiathos URL below, which contains images.