|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
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
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
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.
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
On the 5th of November 1815, the Treaty of Paris
established the "united States of the Ionian Islands", validating the English
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.
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.
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.