History of Karpathos island – the short version

Karpathos is firstly mentioned by Homer as Krapathas and the earliest occupation of the island is placed in the 2nd millennium BC by Cretans. After all, due to its geographical position, was a “bridge” between the Dodecanese and Crete. Historians and archeologists found many proofs that makes sure that this island has a rich history throughout centuries.

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1. Neolithic Period

The first human occupation is placed around 4000-3000 BC (Late Neolithic – Early Bronze Age). The first inhabitants it it looks like they came from Crete and this is testified by the findings of their settlement in Pigadia and the two farmhouses that were excavated in Afiarti.

2. Neo-Palatial Period

During the “Age of Minoan Seafaring and Minoan Colonization” (about 1700-1450 BC) Karpathos seems to have a purely Minoan character. The historian Diodorus Sikeliotis mentions that the first inhabitants were sent as colonists by King Minos. During this period the island is economically and culturally developed. A characteristic find of the period is the Acropolis of the Mycenaeans on the hill of Paleokastro in Arkasa.

3. Archaic Period

There aren’t many findings about this period apart from the Tetrapolis of Karpathos, as Strabo implies. It was consisted of four ancient cities, as the name suggests. More information about Tetrapolis you can read in the article Karpathos Sightseeing.

4. Classical-Hellenistic Period

Karpathos is economically vibrant and culturally thriving. It developed cultural and economic relations with Rhodes as the island was included in the great naval and cultural power of the Rhodian state.

5. Roman & Byzantine period

In 42 BC the island was conquered by the Romans. Because of its geographical position, it seems to have been one of Rome’s three great naval stations in the Mediterranean. It controlled the passage of Roman ships from the south-eastern Mediterranean to the Aegean Sea. Under Diocletian (284-305 AD) it was included in the Provincia Insularum (“Province of the Islands”) with Rhodes. The presence of Christianity in Karpathos dates back quite early as evidenced by the findings of twenty early Christian basilicas found on the island.

6. Mid 7th to mid 10th century AD

The prosperity of the early Christian years of the island was violently interrupted in the 7th century with the invasions of the Persians, the Arabs and the Saracens. This was an era of decay and desolation, when pirates spread terror in the abandoned coastal settlements. This lead to the relocation of the inhabitants to the interior of the island for security reasons and creation of the medieval mountain villages that survive to this day.

7. Early history

From 1206 to 1224 the island, together with Kassos and Rhodes, came under the rule of Leo Gavalas, who was proclaimed “Lord” of Rhodes and Karpathos and “Caesar” of the Sporades. From 1234 various rulers held the sovereignty of Karpathos until 1538, with the invasion of the island by the Ottomans. In 1821, Karpathos rebelled and took part in the struggle for independence. At the end of the Revolution, however, it remained, along with the other Dodecanese, part of the Ottoman Empire, since for about ten years it fought for freedom and breathed the air of independence. In 1912, the Turkish occupation was succeeded by the Italian occupation. In 1944, the Carpathians rise up against the Italians and invite the English allies who occupy the island. In March 1948, Karpathos, along with the rest of the Dodecanese, was incorporated into Greece.

A special part of the local history of the island is the folk architecture of its residential areas. Karpathos, apart from the beautiful images, the charming villages and the hospitable people, has a wealth of attractions to visit on your holidays.

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Karpathos Sightseeing

Karpathos, the second largest island of the Dodecanese after Rhodes, is a picturesque island, faithful to its traditions, full of peculiarities and rich in sightseeing.

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Let’s see some of them together.

1. Tetrapolis (Four Cities)

The Tetrapolis of Karpathos was consisted of four ancient cities, as the name suggests.

  • Vrykous. It was located on the northern coast of the island on the present-day Vrykounda peninsula. Games dedicated to Asclepius were held there. It is considered that it was abandoned at the 7th century B.C., due to Arabic invasions or that it was destroyed by an earthquake. There are several carved graves, but no offerings were found due to the thefts.
  • Arkasia in Palaiokastro, with Akropolis, towers from the Classical and Hellenistic Era and ancient reservoirs. There are also the foundations of the three-aisled, basilica, early Christian church, with semicircular arches and marble columns of Saint Anastasia. Next to it you can find the church of Saint Sofia built with materials from the ancient temple. In this church you can find a baptistery with an interesting story. It is said that although it was stolen by pirates, it was found floating in the sea by locals. They retrieved it and put it back to its place.
  • Ancient Potideon or Poseidion. Today’s city of Karpathos. The oldest findings indicate that it was inhabited between the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age. The most important finding was a stone figurine of a female deity (~3000 B.C.).
  • Saros on the islet of Saria. There are scattered ancient monuments from the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. On the 5th century it belonged to the Athenian Alliance. There are early Christian and medieval buildings, but also a medieval village of the 10th century, which is thought to have been either Arab or a base for Saracen pirates. Today it hosts rare fauna and is a biotope, which is why many residents are scientists.

The most famous village of the island placed on the northern part. It’s a medieval head-village, which has been characterized since 2008 as the “City of the living popular polisitism of the Dodecanese”. It was founded when Vrykounda was abandoned. The most interesting thing about this village is that its inhabitants ware their traditional outfits and talk their local dialect in their everyday life.

3. Ancient Venetian castle and acropolis in Aperi

Apart from the ancient ruins, there are ancient springs like Mesi Vrisi (Middle Spring) and Kyrkalou spring and a stone bridge from the period of Italian dominance. Moreover you can visit the church of Virgin Mary Hryssopolitissa. The religious icon of Virgin Mary was found by a fisherman floating in the sea. In his attempt to catch, he threw an axe attached to a rope. You can still see the slit on the icon’s surface.

4. Roman reservoir (underground water tank) in Lefkos

One of the best reserved monuments on the island. It is carved in a big rock. The main hall is rectangular, with three rows of pillars, on which four rows of rectangular slabs rest. These slabs form the roof. It also has seven blind galleries with vaulted ceilings.

5. Churches

There are eighteen (18) churches on the island. There are among them Saint Anastasia (see above) and Saint Fotini, an early Christian three-aisled basilica with marble decorations.

6. Windmills

On the mountain above Olympos, you can see the abandoned windmills, the most photographed place of the island. This specific windmill species with a horseshoe shape is only found here and in Crete.

7. Museums
  • Archeological Museum of Karpathos. Established in the Eparchio, a complex of three buildings built during the Italian occupation and housing the Italian headquarters. It includes findings from prehistoric, historical and Byzantine times. During your visit you can also see the wall fresco of the arch of the church of the Holy Apostles with the theme of the Adoration of the three hierarchs.
  • Folklore museum Meneton. It is a two-storey building approximately 200 years old, originally built as a church. On the ground floor there are farming tools, traditional kitchen utensils and on the upper floor, which has a pebbled floor, there are everyday objects, musical instruments and photographs.
  • Ecclesiastical, historical and folklore museum of Arkassa. There are findings from the Acropolis of Arkassa and the church of Saint Anastasia.
  • Folklore museum of Othos. A building which is accurate representation of a traditional Karpathian home. There is a low section with a pebbled floor, with a sofa and a low wooden round table and a raised wooden loft where the family slept. You can also see folk art items such as ceramics and textiles, kitchen utensils and farming tools.

Karpathos, apart from the beautiful images, the charming villages and the hospitable people, has a wealth of attractions to visit on your holidays.

Don’t forget to make your reservation at Akropolis Village on time.

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