Kythira Holiday Pictures

A brief history of Kythira

Click on an image to view a larger version
    On th road to Neapoli Neapoli  
Kapsali Kythira castle Kythira castle Kythira  
Kythira castle Kythira castle Kythira castle Kapsali Limni
Limni Limni Paleochora - Old capital of Kythira Paleochora - Old capital of Kythira Paleochora - Old capital of Kythira
Paleochora - Old capital of Kythira Paleochora - Old capital of Kythira Paleochora - Old capital of Kythira Paleochora - Old capital of Kythira Paleochora - Old capital of Kythira
Paleochora - Old capital of Kythira Paleochora - Old capital of Kythira Paleochora - Old capital of Kythira   Road to Moni Mirtidion
Road to Moni Mirtidion       Ventian ruins at Milopotamos
Ventian ruins at Milopotamos Ventian ruins at Milopotamos Ventian ruins at Milopotamos Ventian ruins at Milopotamos Ventian ruins at Milopotamos
Ventian ruins at Milopotamos Milopotamos Ag. Sofia Cave near Milopotamos Ag. Sofia Cave near Milopotamos  
Patmos Patmos Patmos Patmos - church Patmos
    Limnaria Limnaria  
Road to Ag.Nikolaos Ag.Nikolaos Katouni bridge Road near Katouni bridge  
  Kyhira castle Diakofti Diakofti  

A brief history of Kythira

The first temple of worship of Aphrodite was found on Kythira, which is why Homer and Hesiode referred to it as the holy island. According to travellers, some remains of the temple had survived until the 19th century. Heinrich Schliemann searched for them, but without any success.
It is supposed that the island was inhabited during the Minoan period (3000-1200 BC) as well as the Mycenaean period (1400-1100 BC). Nevertheless, the Minoans were using Kythira as a stop-over point for their travels to the West. For that reason, they created the settlement of ancient Skandia as well as the sanctuary of Agios Georgios on the top of one of the island's mountains.
The earliest findings of local pottery are dated to the 3rd millennium BC.
Kythira was mainly under the control of Sparta but also frequently occupied by the Athenians, for it was located in a highly strategic area.
With the decline of Sparta and Athens, the island lost its importance, but continued to be inhabited, according to archaeological findings dating from the Hellenistic and Roman period.
During the Byzantine period, Kythira was the seat of a Bishop of the state. In the 7th century, the Byzantine emperor Constantinos gave the island to the Pope who, in his turn, gave it to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Around the 10th -11th centuries, Kythira acquired some importance and became a part of Monemvasia. Around that time the fortified Byzantine capital of Agios Dimitrios was built, containing many churches and a large amount of inhabitants.
In 1204, the Franks occupied Constantinople, as well as many islands. Markos Venieris occupied Kythira in 1207 and became the Marquis of Kythira.
It is during the Venetian domination that the island was renamed "Tsirigo" and divided into three provinces: Milopotamos, Agios Dimitrios (today called Paliachora) and Kapsali.
Venetians understood the island's key position and tried to fortify and inhabit it.
The enforced feudal system and the frequent piratical raids made the local people unhappy and provoked a big decrease of population.
In 1537, the capital of Agios Dimitrios was destroyed by the Algerian pirates of Haiderin Barbarossa.
The Venetians governed Kythira until 1797, with one small break during which the island was occupied by the Russians, in alliance with the Turks, an occupation that influenced both language and architecture.
In 1780, the island's inhabitants rose against the Venetians' oppression.
On the 28th of June 1797, Kythira went under French occupation, like the rest of the Ionian Islands, who established a democratic regime, giving hope for justice and freedom to the population.
But a year later they were attacked again by Russians, supported by the Turks, who chased the French away from the island.
On the 21st of May 1800, with the Treaty of Constantinople was founded the semi-independent Ionian State (which also included Kythira) under the supervision of the Sultan.
However, the gentry still kept its privileges. The bourgeoisie and the peasants rebelled and attacked the small fortress of Kastro, occupying it on the 22 of July 1800. This period is called the Period of Anarchy.
With the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807, Kythira went into French domination until 1809, when it came under English domination.
On the 5th of November 1815, the Treaty of Paris established the "united States of the Ionian Islands", validating the English occupation.
Kythira's people helped the Greek Revolution against the Turkish Occupation. Georgios Mormoris and Kosmas Panaretos were two of the best known revolutionary fighters from Kythira.
On the 21st of May 1864, the Ionian Islands were united to the rest of free Greece. The wave of emigration intensified in the beginning of the 20th century, when people were massively leaving for America and Australia. During the First World War, Kythira took part in the political movement created by Venizelos, formed an autonomous administration and strengthened the Allied Forces.
The occupation of the Second World War by the Italians and the Germans increased the emigration, which became even stronger after the war.

Town Village Kythira: Hora is the capital of Kythira, built on the southern tip of the island, on a high hill above the sea which offers a magnificent view of Kapsali. The village offers a wonderful mixture of Venetian defensive architecture and Cycladic architecture. The town is dominated by a Venetian castle, or kastro, built in 1150 on a cliff so as to be inaccessible from the sea. Within the kastro are preserved ruins of Venetians buildings and 21 Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches with really nice iconostasis and frescoes.

Avlemonas Village Kythira: The settlement of Avlemonas is situated on the eastern part of the island of Kythira. It is a small coastal fishing hamlet situated about 26 kilometres from Chora, the capital of Kythira. Avlemonas village has numerous miniscule gulfs thus creating an astounding natural backdrop. It would be a treat for the first time visitor to soak in the charming atmosphere of Avlemonas village and to be in awe of its natural bounty and the old world charm of historic structures like the Kastelo - a tiny castle of Venetian influence. The castle was built at the entrance of the port and was built as a watchtower during the early 16th c.

Potamos Village Kythira: Potamos is the largest village of Kythira, 10 kilometres from Agia Pelagia and 19 kilometres from Hora. It is Kythira's chief marketplace which attracts, every Sunday, every inhabitant of the island and has, as well, an important commercial centre in the north. This unspoiled and quite village offers some really nice sites to visit as an extremely beautiful bridge from the English period, a Byzantine church dedicated to Saint Theodore, the church of the Panagia (Virgin Mary) of Ilariotissa and the churches of Agios Ioannis, Agia Anastasia and the Saviour (Sotiros), which are really interesting because of their beautiful icons and fine frescoes.

Paleochora Village Kythira: Paleochora is a pure marvel and it is really worth the visit. It is the ruined medieval ancient capital of Kythira. During the Byzantine period it was known under the name of Agios Dimitrios. This little town was built on the north-eastern side of the island, northwest of a deep cliff. It is set on the hilltop, at the head of the amazing Kako Langadhi gorge, where two deep canyons join. It is surrounded by a sheer 100 metres drop. It is a perfect example of the 13th century Monemvasia's architecture. Paleochora is fortified and lower than the surrounding hills but it is invisible from the sea, which used to protect it from the many pirates' raids that were plaguing the island for many years. Despite those precautions, the terrifying pirate Barbarossa managed to find and destroyed it in 1537, selling all the inhabitants as slaves. From that time, the city has never been reconstructed because it has been considered a place of bad fortune. This wonderful site is full of fine Byzantine churches and chapels, like the church of Agia Barbara or the churches of Panagia, which all have remains of nice wall paintings and frescoes.

Mylopotamos Village Kythira: Mylopotamos is one of the most beautiful medieval villages of Kythira. It is divided into three settlements which are Kato Hora, Limionas and Agia Sophia. On its central square, a little church and a nice kafeneio are standing under the shadow of the trees. A waterfall called "Neraida" (water nymph) adds even more to the lovely image of the square. Kato Hora is the settlement with the oldest traditional architecture characteristics of the English school and the Venetian fortress. This abandoned Kastro is built on the extension of a rock. It is small and was a refuge for the inhabitants, in case of an attack. In the entrance of the fortress is the well-preserved symbol of Venetian domination, the lion of St. Marcos. Inside the walls, houses and exceptional Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches have been maintained. Some of those marvellous buildings are the churches of Agios Athanasios, Panagia Mesosporitissa and Agios Ioannis Prodromos. Unfortunately they are all closed for the public to visit. From Kato Hora, a beautiful stone paved road leads to the astonishing cliffs of Limionas, a rocky bay with fine white sand. Another road leads from the centre of the medieval village to the very interesting site-seeing of the cave of Agia Sophia which entrance has been used as a church and has a beautiful iconostasis carved in the rock with important Byzantine frescoes: it is the beautiful small monastery of the Panagia tis Orfanis (the Virgin Mary of the orphans). A wonderful ravine begins before Mylopotamos and passes through it ends forming a small waterfall called Fonissa (murderer) of a particular natural beauty.
Back to the top of the page