Milos or Melos is a volcanic Greek island in the Aegean Sea, just north of the Sea of Crete. Milos is the southwesternmost island in the Cyclades group. The island is famous for the statue of Aphrodite (the "Venus de Milo", now in the Louvre), and also for statues of the Greek god Asclepius (now in the British Museum) and the Poseidon and an archaic Apollo in Athens. The Municipality of Milos also includes the uninhabited offshore islands of Antimilos and Akradies. The combined land area is 160.147 square kilometres (61.833 sq mi) and the 2001 census population was 4,977 inhabitants.
Mesolithic Period & Neolithic Period (10.000 BC.-3.200BC.)
The historic data and findings prove that there has been human presence on the island since the Mesolithic period, around 8.000 years BC. The island’s first inhabitants were probably Phoenicians or Kares, whereas the Melian obsidian found in the cave of Frachthie in Peloponnesus (7.000-8.000BC.) as well as the palaces in Crete (7.000BC.) prove that Milos had begun its development already from the prehistoric period.
Thanks to its strategic location between the mainland of Greece and the island of Crete, thanks to its natural and safe port and mainly thanks to the mining of obsidian (black, hard, volcanic stone that was used for the manufacture of weapons and tools), Milos was the one of the first Aegean islands to have prospered and which started to create an important civilization.
During the Neolithic period in the areas of Nychia and Demenegaki, there used to be installations for the mining of obsidian out of which knives, blades, spear-heads and many more tools and arms were made. The obsidian tools discovered during the archaeological researches in various Greek places (Thessaly, Peloponnesus, Crete and elsewhere), even in Egypt, are adequate proofs of the early commercial navigation developed by the Melians.
Bronze Age (3200BC.-1100BC.)
The scattered huts where the Melians used to live during the Neolithic age were abandoned and the most rural communities were united in one big settlement, called Fylakopi. Fylakopi, apart from being an important center of the Cycladic civilization, it is considered to be as one of the first European cities of a history over 1500 years.
The settlement’s habitation had already started since 3000BC, but it was abandoned in 1100BC after the passing of three historic periods. The building of houses started in the pre-residential age (3200BC-2300BC). In the 1st historic period (2300-2000BC), the settlement is of around 200 meters (quite big according to the data of that period in the Aegean sea), it does not have any organized laid-out disposition, but it presents a relatively organized cemetery. At the same time, during that period the use of stone is discovered and the obsidian exports are multiplied leading to the Melians’ complete commercial flourishing. In the 2nd period (2000-1600BC.) walls were built for the protection of any possible raids, the tombs were already located outside the walls, whereas the houses were in a terraced disposition on the hill. In that period the ceramic art was particularly developed with already clear Minoan influences and the trade relations of the Melians were further developed in various parts of Greece and mostly in Crete. This period ends with the destruction of Fylakopi, possibly by fire set by invaders, whereas the city’s 3rd historic period (1600-1110BC.) begins with the building of the third settlement. During this last period Fylakopi presents an organized, complex, town planning design, a fortification with high cyclopean walls exceeding the 6 meters in depth and bigger houses, some of which were two-storeyed. In the beginning of this period the influence of the Minoan civilization was intense (parts of a table with the Minoan Linear A were discovered), but slowly the Mycenaean element penetrates and finally it prevails. Around 1400BC a palace according to the Mycenaean style was built with a lot of rooms and a two-room sanctuary. In addition, great works of sculpture and ceramic art are produced, the most significant example of which is the “Kyra of Fylakopi”. (It is exhibited in the Archaeological Museum). Since 1200BC reorganizations take place in the Aegean area, known trading roads are abandoned, whereas the Minoan and the Mycenaean cultures have already faded. In that period the city of Fylakopi was no longer a commercial center and started to fall into decay until it got completely abandoned in 1100BC.
Archaic Age (1100BC- 480BC)
After the abandonment of Fylakopi, Dorian settlers came to the island as colonists from Lakonia and together with the preceding inhabitants they built a new city more west in today’s region of Klima. (This region was located between the hills of Prophitis Ilias, of Pyrgianti and Klimatovouni, whereas it stretched out from the sea to Trypiti village and on the outskirts of Plaka). This new city allowed the Melians to oversee the island’s gulf for any possible pirates’ raids, the city had a port and it was naturally fortified by the presence of the three hills. Simultaneously, the inhabitants fortified it also with walls all the way to the sea and they constructed big public buildings, the ancient theatre, an aqueduct, a gymnasium, a market-place, sanctuaries and a cemetery.
In this period the city of Klima presents intense financial and cultural development. The ceramic art flourishes with the famous “Melian urns” decorated with elements from the Greek mythology, the sculpture, the miniature art, the seal engraving on stones, the goldsmithery with the filigree technique, whereas we have the mint of coins originally carrying the apple symbol. In addition, during that times, there is an increase in the trading activities, the exploitation of ores, whereas the local-Melian alphabet is also developed, samples of which are preserved till the present day in tombstones.
Classical Age (480BC-323BC)
In the Persians Wars, the Melians fought together with the rest of the Greeks against the Persians. They participated in the Naval Battle of Salamis (480BC.) and in the battle of Plataea (479BC.) by sending a team of hoplites to fight together with the Spartans.
In the Peloponnesian War, however, they tried to remain neutral. When asked by the Athenians, the Melians refused to participate in the Athenian- Delian alliance and thus they were lead to a siege that lasted many months and ended up with a total destruction. In 426BC the Athenians sent the general Nicias with 60 triremes and 2000 hoplites so as to force Milos to access to the Alliance. In spite of the destructions, the island was not conquered this time. However, 10 years later, with Alcibiades’ urge a new Athenian expedition was decided/set out with Cleomedes and Tisias as commanders. After vain negotiations, 3000 men besieged Milos for nearly two years. They destroyed the city, they killed most of the men and they sold the women and children as slaves, and in the end they sent also 500 cleruchs (klirouxous) in order to secure their rule over the island.
This expedition is described and narrated in length in the best possible way in the works of Thucydides (book E’) in the famous dialogue of between the Athenians and the Melians , where the love for freedom and neutrality yields to the might is right. (Moreover, Euripides in his play “Trojan Women” blames the Athenians for the destruction of Milos and for their expansionist policy, in general).
In 403BC with the end of the Peloponnesian War and the victory of the Spartans, by Lycander’s initiative those Melians who survived the massacres returned to the island and slowly started to rebuilt the ruined city.
Hellenistic Age (323BC.-146BC.)
After the year 311BC, Milos, just like all the Cycladic islands, goes under the sway of the Macedonians and then of the Antigonid Dynasty and the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt.
The peaceful status that reigned during those times, combined with the liberty and safety at sea, contributed to the beginning of a new era of flourishing and prosperity during which Milos mint coins and created great works of art, such as the statue of Poseidon ( a statue of 2,17m. made of Parian marble) representing the god Poseidon in a imposing look and with his right arm raised as if holding a trident. The statue was discovered in 1877 and it is kept in the Archaeological Museum of Athens). Moreover, in the Hellenistic Age, the island’s most famous statue was made: the famous Aphrodite of Milo.
Roman Age (146BC.-324)
During the Roman occupation, the island’s development carries on thanks to the preservation of peace and to the further exploitation and trading of the mineral wealth. The arts flourished, remarkable statues were made (e.g. the statue of Marcus Trophimos) and iconographic heads, whereas in that period the Ancient-Roman theatre was constructed on the island.
The region of “Tramythia” became the city center. There, in 1896 a unique mosaic of vines, fish and wild animals was discovered which was the floor of Dionysus’s sanctuary.
During that entire period Christianism began to spread on the island. In the Acts of the Apostles there is mention to the Apostle Paul’s trip from Crete to Athens and to the shipwreck on rugged coasts. Some researchers claim that Christianity in Milos was taught by the Apostle Paul himself, whereas others support that it took place through the Jews who used to live in Milos in those years and who were trading minerals. Whatever is true, Christianity spread in Milos very rapidly from already the 1st century, whereas the believers carved the rocks and created the pre-Christian Catacombs for their sacraments to take place and for the burial of their deceased ones.
Byzantine Age (324-1204)
After the split of the Roman empire into west empire and east empire, Milos passes under the rule of Byzantium, whereas in 842 it is included in the 17th theme of the Byzantine empire, in “the Theme of the Aegean” with Rhodes as capital. The data for this long period is scarce, since the Empire was vast and the piracy was extremely extensive.
The important facts of the period take place in the 5th-6th century, when Klima- that used to be the capital back then- was deserted due to raids and earthquakes and in the 8th-9th century in the age of the Iconoclasm when the Melians along with the rest of the islanders revolted for religious reasons against the central authority of Constantinople, but the revolution was crushed.
Venetian Domination & Turkish Domination (1204-1820)
After the fall of Constantinople by the Franks , Milos along with most of the Aegean islands gets conquered by Marcus Sanoudos, who founded the Archipelagos duchy, with Naxos as its capital and on the inhabitants of Milos the financial and social system of feudalism is imposed. The discontent and the overwhelming of the local farmers leads to a revolution in 1268. The Melians seize the Castle hoping for the aid of the byzantine fleet, which however never arrived and thus the revolt was put down.
The Sanoudian Dynasty lasted till 1361. Afterwards, they were succeeded by the Krispi Dynasty until 1566. During their dynasty the Castle was abandoned and the capital was moved to the interior of Milos, to the region of Zefyria. In that period, Milos began to turn into a pirates’ hide-out. The empire of the East Mediterranean (Venice) was unable to control the pirate raids and in 1537 Milos is occupied by the notorious pirate Khayr-Din Barbarossa, on behalf of the Turks.
At the start of the Turkish occupation (1566-1579), Milos is ruled by Joseph Nazis who was also the last duke of the islands. Afterwards, all the Cycladic islands, including Milos are under the command of the Sultan Murat the 3rd . In the years of the Turkish occupation, Milos was relatively favored, as the Turks did not inhabit the island permanently; they just collected their taxes through the Delegates (local commissars who were elected by the people every Sunday of the Orthodoxy and who had administrative and religious duties). Thus, the inhabitants of Milos were able to preserve a relative freedom and to cultivate their relationship with the sea. During this period, the corsairs retreated and the Saracen pirates (Muslims) began their sacks and raids.
The Turkish rule was stopped in 1770 when the Russians appeared in the Aegean area, but some years later it was restored once again. An important event of this period is the decline of Zefyria from being the island’s capital, and the city’s complete abandonment in 1767.
Modern Hellenistic Age (1821-1945)
Milos was the third island in Greece to revolt against the Turks. On April 11, 1821 the first naval battle of the revolution took place in Adamantas port. The Melians, who did not have their own fleet, helped the squadron of the ships from Spetses to destroy the Turkish ships.
The Melians’ participation in the naval battle of Navarino was also important, when the death of Petros Mikelis from Milos gave rise to the prevalence of hostilities. Petros Mikelis, by order of the English admiral Codrington met the Egyptian admiral Moharem Bey so as to tell him to withdraw his fleet and to remain neutral. However, on his way back, Petros Mikelis was shot by a sailor of the fleet and his death gave rise to the start of the naval battle of Navarino which ended with the destruction of the Turkish- Egyptian fleet.
In 1830 Milos is officially included in the Greek state and it starts to prosper based on the exploitation of its mineral wealth.
In the Balkan Wars many Melians were killed. In their honor the War Memorial in Plaka (for 97 deceased) as well as the War Memorial in the central square of Adamantas were built.
In the First World War Milos sheltered the English-French fleet and Adamantas was used as a naval base for the control of the East Mediterranean Sea against the attacks of the German submarines.
In the Second World War, the island was occupied by the Germans on May 6th, 1941 and it was liberated 4 years later, being almost the last one, on May 9th 1944. During the German occupation, the Germans put strong anti-aircraft systems and radars and guns, whereas they opened tunnels in Adamantas for the safe-keeping of foods and ammunition. The inhabitants resisted bravely all those years, many of them died of hunger and in wartime, whereas many more catastrophes and bombardments took place.