Σύντομη Ιστορική Αναδρομή
Ancient Epoque (Age)
Starting from its name, we can see that it has been differentiated with the passing of time. We come across it by the following names” Iperia, Patayi or Platayi, Pagali, Psichia, Karkisia. As the years went by, the name Amorgos changed and therefore the island is also known as Amolgos, Amoulgos, Amourgos, Amourgia and Amorgia.
The word Amoulgos is found in the 5th century A.D, when in 431, under the rule of Patriarch Menas in Constantinople, a doctrine was signed, according to which the ruler of the island was Theodore, the bishop of Paros, Sifnos and Amoulgos.
The story of Amorgos begins since Ancient times. It was a significant centre of Cycladian civilization.
The rare geographical position of the island, opposite the coast of Asia Minor, where during ancient times, cities such as Militos, Halicarnasos and Ephesos flourished, is evidence that the first seeds of Greek civilisation sprouted here, and is proof that Amorgos was a passage way for Ancient Greek tribes and as a consequence, for Greek culture in Greece.
However, apart from these testimonies, stronger proof of ancient activity in Amorgos is the historically documented settlement transitions from Samos, Crete and other civilizations, and evidence of their culture can be found in archeological excavations that have taken place on the island.
During Ancient times, Amorgos consisted of three City-States: Minoa, Aegiali and Arkesini. Each one of them had an autonomous constitution and its own currency, many samples of which have been preserved until this day. The coin reserve of the three cities was on the isle of Nikouria, close to the bay of Aegiali. Until 300 B.C. the currencies of the Amorgian Commonwealth depicted stars and a crescent on the one side and two crosses or the head of Asklipios and a bee with the heading AMO. After 300 B.C. the cities had their own currencies with various depictions. Aegialis’ bore AIGI, Minoa’s MINO and Arkesini’s ARK. The names given by Stephan the Byzantine that is, Arkesini, Minoa, and Aegiali (or Melania) are the most correct according to the material bearing the writing.
The locations of the cities of Amorgos were: Aegiali in the Northern part of the island which is also its current location, Minoa in the
centre above Katapola, and Arkesini in the Southwestern part, which has retained its name until today.
The view that these three cities are colonies of the people of Samos (and were founded by Simian) is not held to be entirely correct. Many researchers believe that only Minoa is a Samos colony, while Arkesini is of Naxos, and Aegiali of Militos. This view is confirmed by the documented division of Naxians, Samians, and Militians that was endorsed in the Ptolemaic period.
These three cities stood out for their naval and commercial strength, something that is witnessed by ancient writings. They were a Commonwealth. This is confirmed by the lists of the Athenian alliance in Delos, where the taxes mentioned therein were referred to as Amorgioi, which meant the three cities together. Amorgos joined the Athenian hegemony in 437 B.C.. From the following y ear i.e. 436 B.C. the tax that all three cities paid was a ‘talanto’ per year.
Amorgos had an intense and glorious presence in prehistoric times and especially in the first period of Cycladic civilization (3200 – 2000 B.C.). A multitude of artifacts, figurines and cemeteries amply evidence of this. The latter are scattered throughout the island. The excavations of Ch. Tsountas in 1984 brought to light numerous finds of the first period of Cycladic civilization. The entire island is full of cemeteries and archeological sites, such as Arkesini, Dokathismata, Ayia Paraskeyh, Xylokeratidi, Kapsala, Vouni, Stavro, Kokkina Chomata, Aegiali and elsewhere. Many findings of illegal excavations now adorn foreign museums (Oxford, Louvre, Munich) as well as the Archeological Museum of Athens.
In addition, in Amorgos we also find traces of the protogeometric, archaic and classical periods (cups, funerary columns, head sculptures of the 4th century B.C. and others). The endless number of inscriptions provides abundant information about life on the island. From these inscriptions we can deduce that there were shrines of Delian Appollo, of Asklipios , of Hera, of Pan Temenite and others on the island.
In the 5th century BC burials were carried out in jars in the area of Arkesini. The early and pioneering culture of the island made it widely known in the ancient world. But two other events have contributed to that. The “battle of Amorgos” in 322 BC between the Athenians and the generals of Alexander the Great, Antipater, Craterus, and Leonato. This battle is considered the greatest of antiquity because the defeated Athens forever lost its naval power and hegemony. The other promoting factor of Amorgos is the famous “Amorgians Chitones.” These are transparent red tunics of excellent quality and brilliant technical manufacture. Not to mention their unique and coveted colour. The tunics are made from special flax, superb quality and the dye was processed on the island using an enhanced technique of a native and indigenous plant. The tunics of Amorgos were called “Amorgides” or “Amorgino” or “Amorgeia” from ”Amorgi”.
Pausanias, Stephen the Byzantine, Efstathios and others make mention of them. And the great comedian Aristophanes in his work encourages women to wear “Amorgians tunics” to excite the love of men!! (Note: The advertised and transparent clothing presented nowadays (see – through) was born in Amorgos 2500 years ago.)
Certainly the encouragement of Aristophanes was not at all easy and widely feasible because these luxurious garments were only for the rich.
The intellectual production of the island is attributed to the iambus and elegy writer Simonidis of Amorgos. He was an important personality of Amorgos with broad significance in the field of lyrical poetry. He lived in the 6th century.
The history of Amorgos is soon expected to bring miraculous evidence to light, and many other testimonies, due to the excavations conducted on the island over many years by the Professor of the University of Ioannina, Lila Maragos. The difficulties in her work, the majority of which are objective as a whole (hand labor, etc.), force us to wait anxiously official announcements of her rich and arduous excavation work. All over the island the remains are abundant. A monument that remains intact on the island is the Tower “in the village” of Ayia Triada, in Arkesini of Amorgos. It is a monumental structure of the 4th century B.C. (for details see the relevant leaflet by Professor Lila Maragou).
Byzantine Era During the Byzantine Empire the island did not display any particular signs of distinction or progress.
There are many reasons for this. The most significant of which were the constant conquests by various invaders as well as the indifference of the Byzantine Empire to settle all matters of the islands of the Aegean sea in time.
Administratively it belonged to the “County Islands” the headquarters of which was in Rhodes and ecclesiastically it was connected with Paros and Sifnos. In the 8th century the Empire underwent an administrative reorganisation of some sort and the “theme of the Aegean Sea” was founded, i.e. as a region. This process was done scrupulously as it aimed at creating a naval force, to be staffed by the Byzantine fleet in defense of Arab forces. From this point of view, Amorgos was favoured and some prosperity began to occur on the island. However, during the preceding period, the island had been ravaged by pirates, and the population had declined significantly. After the conquest of Constantinople by the Franks (1204) Amorgos came into the hands of the brothers Andrea and Jeremiah Gyzi (1207), who had become the sovereigns of Amorgos and some other Aegean islands. This status of rule did not last very long because the hegemon of Amorgos and Duke of Naxos Marco I Sanudo imposed upon the island. The Franks were expelled from Amorgos by the Emperor of Nice, John the Third Doukas Vatatzi (1222-1254).
This Byzantine rule lasted until 1269 when thereafter Amorgos came into the hands of Jeremiah Gyzi who organised the defense of the island. He is accountable for the construction of the walls over the bedrock (Castle) of Amorgos, the Acropolis of the Hora.
The successor of Jeremiah Gyzi was his son, Ioannis the First. But after his death, the Duke of Naxos William the First Sanudo conquered the island by deploying the fleets of admiral Dominikos Skiavos and placed his coat of arms (a lion holding a flag) on the Monastery of Hozoviotissa.
Amorgos, remained under the rule of the Sanoudos family until 1352, after which it was divided by the Duke of Naxos giving half to the oppressors of Ios island, Dominikos and Markos Skiavos and the other half to Markos Grimanis.
After a short time, the Duke of Naxos Nicholas Sanudos wanting to restore his relations with the powerful Gyzi family, gave them the half of Amorgos that was owned until then by the Skiavos family.
However, even at this point it was not possible to keep the island under the sovereignty of the Gyzis for a long time. This was the case because the youngest son of the family, Ioannis (Zannakis) the Third had taken part in the 1363 rebellion of the Venetian colony of Crete against the Metropolis, and in retaliation the Venetian Admiral Dominikos Mikelis occupied the island in the name of Venice. However, once the Venetian fleet had sailed away, the Duke of Naxos Nicholas Sanoudos, also known as Spetsavantas (meaning fragmented) regained Amorgos, and this time he left half of the island to its previous owners although he refused to give up the rest. In 1370 there was a compromise between him and Venice and one fourth (1/4) of the island became Venetian property.
Meanwhile, Amorgos and its residents suffered badly from the pirates, so they fled the island gradually and took refuge to Crete. They had lost their faith and hope. They thought it was useless to keep providing for the island all the time knowing that a new invasion by the Turks, the Venetians, or anyone else would devour their toil once again.
Eventually, Amorgos was conquered by the Duke of Astypalaia Ioannis Kouirinis, to which Venice gave its share of the island, as well as that of the Gyzi brothers.
The rest of the island that belonged to Markos Grimanis was inherited by his son, Iakovos the First, after this death, who appeared to be the main ruler of that specific part according to documents dating back to 1348. He maintained dominance of the left part of the island that belonged to him until 1446, after which he sold his land share to Kouirinus, who thus became the owner of the entire island of Amorgos. In 1447 Amorgos was considered as part of Astypalaia.
There are not many traces of the Venetian occupation found on the island. The main monument is the castle of the island and a square tower which was used as an observation point. The tower is preserved until this day and is called Vigla. It is a noteworthy site, which dominates the village of Tholaria. Recent years
Amorgos remained under the domination of the Kouirinus family until 1537, after which it was conquered by the Ottoman admiral Chaiderin Barbarossa. Throughout the period of Ottoman occupation, Amorgos experienced many pirate raids, the stories of which have survived mainly through folk poetry, songs and the general folklore of the place. A typical poem is “The invasion by the people of Mani” that followed after the savage and predatory attack on the island in 1797.
Amorgos was freed in 1829 and under the Treaty of London, it was included in the newly formed Greek state and constituted the most eastern boundary of the Greek Republic. Shortly before the declaration of Greek independence, the conditions and the people of Amorgos were ready for the Great Battle. Many eminent people of the Amorgian community were members of the Society of Friends (Filiki Eteria) and prepared the ground for the big change, for the Free Life. During the Revolution, many youngsters of Amorgos volunteered to fight for Independence, at the revolutionary centres of the Peloponnesus, Attica and Crete. A particularly known figure of those times, was that of Theodore Passaris who while fighting on the side of Constantine Kanaris, was killed by shrapnel of a fire gun, at the Battle of Trikeri 1824. As Kanaris mentions the body of the brave warrior was thrown into the sea from the waist up, while what was left remained on board the fire ship. Another infamous freedom fighter of 1821 was George Exarchopoulos. All the vessels that were available in Amorgos were constantly deployed in the Aegean Sea in order to drive away the emerging Turkish ships. In 1824 Amorgos became the refuge of many refugees who fled Asia Minor and the island regions nearby – victims of Turkish reprisals. During the rule of the Franks, the church of Amorgos followed the fate of other island churches that were also under their domination. And when in 1537 the island was occupied by the Turks, the United Church made Amorgos a patriarchal province. In 1646 it became part of the Archdiocese of Sifnos in 1797 and part of the Metropolis of Sifnos and Milos, until 1831 when it became part of the Archdiocese of Cyclades. In 1835 the City of Amorgos was founded. In 1828, the first Greek school on the island was founded by the monastery of Hozoviotissa and one (perhaps the first) of the independent Greek state.
The new Amorgos, independent now, fared in the late 19th and early 20th century as a classical, however not a very rich island of the Cyclades.
However, the love, the faith, the patience and the perseverance of the residents were able to utilise the barren land and thus produce several agricultural products. Also, the people of Amorgos developed livestock farms and where possible, they transported their goods to markets of other islands via sailboats. This is the beginning of trade in Independent Greece.
The first half of the 20th century passed peacefully for Amorgos, just like for the rest of Greece. Gradually the wounds of previous centuries of foreign domination faded out. The development begins.
During World War II, Amorgos, like the rest of the Greek people, experienced difficult times. But not even then did the brave people of Amorgos give up.
Among the waves of Greek immigrants in the mid 60s there were several people from Amorgos, who left behind their home, family and friendships seeking a better life, away from the poverty and misery of post-war Greece. The place was stripped of its human resources. The residents, however, resisted with all their might. Having loved their country they restored it day by day. They utilised it. They preserved the rich folk culture. They began to develop their island for touristic purposes.
Today, the cultural and technological advancement of Amorgos is growing at a good rate. However it grows respectfully and hand in hand with the preservation of its heritage. The buildings of Amorgos, even the most modern ones architecturally speaking, retain their natural beauty and strong Cycladic style. The hospitality of the residents speaks volumes of the heritage and richness of the place.
Modern Amorgos teaches us. It teaches us dignity, respect and love. An image that is starting to disappear from Greece of 2000.
Perhaps this reason alone is worth a visit!