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Σάββατο, 26 Ιανουαρίου 2013

Skiathos Information and History

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Skiathos (Greek: Σκιάθος, pronounced [sciˈaθos]; Latin forms: Sciathos and Sciathus) is a small Greek island in the northwest Aegean Sea. Skiathos is the westernmost island in the Northern Sporades group, east of the Pelion peninsula in Magnesia on the mainland, and west of the island of Skopelos.

The island has a northeastern to southwestern direction and is about 12 km long and 6 km wide on average. The coastline is indented with up to 65 sandy beaches, inlets, capes and peninsulas. The southeast and southwest parts have gentler slopes and that is where most of the sandy beaches, settlements and facilities are located. The terrain is hilly but more rugged on the north coast, with the highest peak at 433 m. There is a communications tower on this peak.

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The main town is the Town of Skiathos (pop. 4,988 in 2001) and along with the airport are located to the northeast next to a lagoon. Other settlements along the coastline are Χanemos, Kalyvia, Troulos, and Koukounaries.

The city of Skiathos is the only built-up area of the island. It is built on the southeastern tip of the island in a windless bay which separates the island of Bourtzi in two.

It is a relatively new settlement, built in 1829 - 1830 on the site of the ancient city, on two hills situated at the edge of the sea. The ancient settlement was built in 800 BC.

The large natural port of the modern city is ideal in shape and in location. This has been a basic element in regulating the life on the island both in the old and in the modern times.

The large natural port of the modern city is ideal in shape and in location. This has been a basic element in regulating the life on the island both in the old and in the modern times.

In the modern city of Skiathos, the houses are small and simple, with two floors in their majority and built amphitheatrically one next to the other. The streets are narrow without any typical planning apart from few parts in the city.
The Municipality of Skíathos includes the islets of Tsougria, Tsougriaki, Maragos, Arkos, Troulonisi and Aspronisi. They are scattered a few kilometres off the southeast coastline and are clearly visible from the town and the beaches. The larger island of Skopelos is visible from Skiathos with the more distant islands of Euboea and Skyros visible under very clear weather conditions. Total land area of Skiathos is 50 km².

In Ancient times, the island played a minor role during the Persian Wars. In 480 BC, the fleet of the Persian King Xerxes was hit by a storm and was badly damaged on the rocks of the Skiathos coast. Following this the Greek fleet blockaded the adjacent seas to prevent naval invasion and provisions for the enemy of 300 Spartans who stood heroically at Thermopylae pass. The Persian fleet was defeated there at Artemisium and finally destroyed at the Battle of Salamis a year later. Skiathos remained in the Delian League until it lost its independence. The city was destroyed by Philip V of Macedon in 200 BC.

In 1207 the Gyzi brothers captured the island and built the Bourtzi, a small Venetian-styled fortress similar to the Bourtzi in Nafplio, on an islet just out of Skiathos Town, to protect the capital from the pirates. But the Bourtzi was ineffective in protecting the population and in the mid-14th century the inhabitants moved the capital from the ancient site that lay where modern Skiathos Town is to Kastro (the Greek word for castle), located on a high rock, overlooking a steep cliff above the sea at the northernmost part of the island.

In 1704 monks from Athos built the Evangelistria monastery which played a part on the Greek War of Independence as a hide-out for Greek rebels. The first flag of Greece was created and hoisted in the Evangelistria monastery in Skiathos in 1807. Several prominent military leaders (including Theodoros Kolokotronis and Andreas Miaoulis) had gathered there for consultation concerning an uprising, and they were sworn to this flag by the local bishop.
After the War of Independence and demise of piracy in the Aegean, Kastro became less important as a strategic location. In 1830s, the island's capital was moved to the original site — where it still remains. Today, ruins of Kastro are one of tourist attractions. During the 19th century Skiathos became an important shipbuilding centre in the Aegean due to the abundance of pine forests on the island. The pine woods of the island were then almost obliterated. This was brought to a halt though, due to the emergence of steamboats. A small shipwright remains north of Skiathos Town, which still builds traditional Greek caiques.

The film Mamma Mia was partially filmed on Skiathos and nearby island Skopelos. This has increased its popularity as a tourist destination since the release of the successful movie.

Hollywood actor Richard Romanus moved to the island in 2001 with his wife. He has written a book about his move to the island called "Act III".


There is a regular boat service to the island and the rest of the Sporades islands with departures from Thessaloniki, Volos and Agios Konstantinos. The boats are operated mainly by Hellenic Seaways using its high-speed Flying Dolphin and Flying Cat vessels as well as conventional ferries.

Skiathos Island National Airport is at the northeast of the island next to a lagoon and a lowland isthmus separating the island from the peninsula of Lazareta. As of summer 2011, Skiathos airport is served by Olympic Air flights from both Athens and Thessaloniki, while foreign airlines provide charter flights from a range of airports in European countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Holland, Italy and Cyprus.

The modern major road runs along the eastern and southern coast. Narrower roads, some paved and some dirt, reach the interior and the northwest coastline. There is regular, and during tourist season, very frequent bus transit from the main town to the Koukounaries beach in the southwest.

There are three bus routes on the island. The core route is from the main town to Koukounaries beach which travels along the south coast of the island. There are in total 26 bus stops, with Koukounaries Beach being the last stop, number 26. This route operates a fleet of five coaches as frequently as five times an hour during the summer peak season throughout the day, but is significantly reduced during the winter. The second route departs from Skiathos Town, to the Monastery of Evangelistria at an hourly daily schedule and the third bus route to Xanemos on the north coast with up to six round trips daily, both operated using mini-buses.

Sites of Interest

The Medieval and Byzantine Castle
The Byzantine Church of Christ
Holy Monastery of Evangelistria
Old Monastery of Panaghia Ekonistria
Old Monastery of Panaghia Kechrià
Church of Panaghia Limnià
Church of Tris Ieràrches
The Bourtzi Peninsula
Koukounaries Beach
Papadiamantis House - Museum
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Early and Classical times (1100-338 B.C.)

After these ancient settlers, the islands were inhabited by the Chalcedeans. These were Ionians who came to Skiathos during the period of their colonizing activities from the 8th century on. They seem to have arrived on the island during the 7th or 6th century, on their way to found colonies in Chalcidice (Macedonia). They built their town on the southeastern side of the harbour, on a height, where it could command a view and control the large bay and the inner double harbour.

The town was encircled by a wall of square marble blocks, large and rough-hewn, and two gates assured communication with the hinterl and and the harbour. This town survived all through the Classical, Hellenistic and Byzantine periods, until the time when the medieval town, the Kastro (fortress) was built on the northern side of the island.

Skiathos reappears on the historical scene during the Persian wars. As the historian Herodotus tells us, in 480 B.C.,when the Persian fleet was sailing down from Thessaloniki, the Greeks awaiting it at Artemision in Euboea, were warned by lighted torches on Skiathos. It seems that, during this period, Skiathos helped the Greeks and was perhaps one of the few cities which did not go over to the Medes. When the 1st Athenian Alliance -known as the Delian Alliance was founded in 478/7, Skiathos took the side of the Athenians.

Allied towns were divided into regions for tax-collecting purposes and from the "taxation lists", still pre-served in attic inscriptions, we can see that Skiathos was included in the Thracian region and paid 1.000 drachmae a year - a very small sum, which indicates that Skiathos was poor at the time.

During the period of the Athenian Alliance, Skiathos had its own democratic and autonomous administration, as did the other allied cities.

That is, it had its own Boule (administrative/legislative council, its citizens' assembly ("ecclesia"), and an eponymous archon (member of the executive in office for a year,and whose name was used to designate that year).

In the end, however, the alliance developed into an hegemony with the Athenians exercising dominance over their allies and an authoritarian form of goverment.

At the end of the Peloponnesian war in 404 B.C., when the Athenians were defeated by the Spartans, Skiathos came under the rule of Sparta and her system of goverment became that of an oligarchy.

In 386 B.C. during the Antalcidean or Basilean peace, in accordance with which all the islands with the exception of Limnos, Imbros and Skyros where the Athenians allotted holdings to settlers - were granted their autonomy,Skiathos, too, was officially declared independent.

The Spartans, however, violated the peace treaty and soon seized Skiathos again, together with other islands,where they left a garrison and imposed heavy taxes.

In 378/7 B.C., Athens established the 2nd Athenian Alliance, a genuinely defensive alliance this time, with the aim of opposing the expansionist intentions of the Spartans.

Skiathos once again ranged itself with Athens, following the campaign of general Chabrias in Euboea and the Northern Sporades in 377 B.C.

Skiathos remained in the 2nd Athenian Alliance with its autonomy and democratic institutions, approximately 40 years.

And it seems that during this period, the island's financial situation improved so much that it was able, towards the middle of the 4th century B.C., to mint bronze coins with the head of Hermes on one side and his caduceus (staff) with the word CKIAΘI in the other.

Later, the island was used by the Athenians as a naval port and a base for its expeditions against Philip II of Macedonia.

In 338 B.C., after the battle of Chaeronea, which virtually brought to an end the independence of the southern Greekstates and marked the beginning ofMacedonian domination, Skiathos came under Macedonian rule .
Hellenistic and Roman times (338 B.C. - 330 A.D.)
The Macedonians established an oligarchic system of government in Skiathos and the island remained undisturbed for , many years. Historically, it emerges again from the time of Philip V (238-279 B.C.), the Macedonian king who was, at that time, at war with the Romans.
This was a troubled period for the island, as the surrounding areas became scenes of battle.
When the 2nd Macedonian war began, in 200/199 B.C., Philip ordered Skiathos and Skopelos to be destroyed to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy fleet and being used against him.
 And indeed, in the same year, the Roman fleet, together with that of Attalus I of Pergamum,who was an ally of Rome, arrived on the island, and plundered whatever was left after Philip's raid.
Despite the great extent of the destruction, the town quickly recovered and, following Philip's defeat at Kynos Kephales in 197 B.C., democracy was again restored.
 When the Macedonian Kingdom was overthrown in 168 B.C., the Romans granted a degree of freedom to the Greek cities and states.
Finally, however in 146 B.C., the whole of Greece was subjugated by the Romans and Skiathos followed the fate of the rest of the country.
In 42 B.C., after the battle of Philippi the victor, Antony, handed over Skiathos along with some other islands to the Athenians, as a token of gratitude for their friendly attitude towards him.
Skiathos thus re-established its democratic regime, along with the Athenians, and retained it well into the years following the birth of Christ.

The Byzantine period and Venetian rule (330-1538 A.D.)
The information we have on Shiathos during the first years of the Byzantine period is extremely scanty. All we know is that, administratively, it belonged to the province of Thessaly, which constituted part of a Macedonian "theme" (military district) and that, with the propagation of Christianity on the island, an episcopate ( bishopric ) was created under the Metropolitan Bishop of Larissa.
n 758 A.d., during the reign of Constantine Copronymus, the Byzantine fleet anchored in Skiathos harbour, whence it sped to the rescue of Thessalonica, where a Bulgarian and Slav attack was imminent .
During the 7th century A.D., Skiathos suffered much from Saracen pirate raids in the Aegean.
Following the overthrow of the Byzantine Empire by the Franks, in 1204, and concession of the Aegean islands to the Venetians, Skiathos, Skopelos and islands of the Cyclades were taken over by the brothers Andrea and Jeremia Ghisi, Venetian merchants.
The Ghisi brothers granted Skiathos self-deterrnination, and several privileges, which are listed in the well-known "Capitula Sciati et Scopuli", and which were still in effect during the 2nd period of Venetian rule.
However, they abolished the Orthodox episcopate.
They built a new fortress called Bourtzi in the great harbour for their residence and for the security of the town.
The Ghisi brothers ruled the islands until 1259, their successors continuing for a further 17 years, until 1276, when the Byzantine fleet drove them out of the N. Sporades.
 Skiathos remained within the Byzantine state until 1453.
Byzantine rule, however, was rather nominal, as the pirate raids that plagued the Aegean at that time did not allow Constantinople to make its presence effectively felt on the islands which it had reclaimed.
It thus appears that around the middle of the 14th century, the people of Skiathos, desperate following the continous raids on the island, both of pirates and of Turks, abandoned their coastal town and built a new, safer one - the Kastro ("fortress',) on the northern side of the island, on a steep rock which constituted a naturat fortress.
When Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, the people of Skiathos chose Venetian rule, realising that Venice would from then on be their only possible protection against the Turks.
They therefore asked the Venetians to take over the island on the condition, however, that they would confirm the privileges that the Ghisi brothers had give the island, and that the see of the Orthodox bishop would remain there, reguests which were granted.
Thus began the second period of Venetian rule in Skiathos, which lasted until 1538.
The life of the island, however, did not seem to improuve.
The pirate raids continued and Venetian rules were so harsh, that when ,in 1538,the fortress was besieged by Barbarossa, some of the inhabitants, in order to rid themeselves of the tyranny of the Venetians, did not hesitate to surrender it to him.

The period of Turkish domination (1538-1821)
The Turkish domination of Skiathos began in 1538 officially in 1540 - when the Turco-Venetian peace treaty was signed. During this period the island was ruled by a Turkish governor the voivode, who was assisted by the elders of the town one or two initially, but later more - who were elected each year.
Skiathos along with the other islands of the Aegean, belonged to the Kapudan Pacha that is to the admiral of the Turkish fleet. Each year, the inhabitants paid a certain amount of money as "harach" or tax.
There was also a cadi (jude) for legal affairs, an «agha» for administrative affairs and "zambites" who collected the taxes.
There were also quite a few Turks living on the island at that time.

The inhabitants of Skiathos, as was the case with all the other islanders generally, were requisitioned to serve for a period in the Turkish navy.

Later this compulsory service was converted into a contribution in money, the "melachica" .

However, in the years before the Greek War of Independence, impressment was again brought into effect.

In the mid-17th century, in the year 1660, the Venetian admiral, Francesco Morosini, seized the Kastro and Venetian rule was re-established for the third time.

Not for long, however, as the Turks soon took the Kastro again.
Thus their domination continued until the beginning of the Greek War of Independence.
The Turkish population of Skiathos gradually dwindled.
The office of voivode was bought by the locals and there were often no other Turkish officials on the island.
Their functions were thus performed by the elders, who gradually acquired more rights.
The inhabitants, however continued to suffer pirate raids which still harried them relentlessly.
In spite of their trials, the islanders did not lose their interest in navigation.
From the beginning of the 18th century,the people of Skiathos began to build small ships and carry on transportation and commerce with the surrounding areas.

Later, on larger ships, they sailed as far as Egypt and the Black Sea.
The longing for freedom, however, was still alive in the hearts of the islanders. Thus, in 1770, they took part in the victorious sea battle of Chesme, alongside the Russian admiral Alexis Orlov, and soon afterwards they contributed men and ships to the legendary sea-captain, Lambros Katsonis, who was active against the Turks at the time.

In later years (1805-1816) Skiathos effectively helped the chieftains of Mt. Olympus, Giannis Stathas and Nikotsaras, who, after Orlov's revolt had been quashed, continued the fight against the Turks with raids on Turkish shores and attacks on Turkish ships

An act of great importance both for the island and the whole of Greece was the creation and raising of the first official Greek flag in September 1807, at the holy convent of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary,(monastery of Evagelistria) in Skiathos.

The Greek War of Independence (1821)

In spite of the fact that it was far from the entre of military operations and thus an easy prey for the Turkish fleet, Skiathos soon joined the ranks of those fighting for Idependence. At that time, it possessed a good number of fully equipped ships, with trained and experienced crews, from the previous sea battles in which they had taken part up until 1816 with the Olympus chieftains.
The ships from Skiathos contributed greatly to the War of Independence.
At that time many people who had to flee from their homelands when the revoluonary efforts failed, found refuge in Skiathos.
An estimated 30,000 refugees from the Pelion villages, from Mt. Olympus, Euboea and Epirus arrived on the island.
This influx of population in a restricted space caused problems, as shelter and food became scarce.
Many of the people were armed, and it was not long before fighting broke out and anarchy began to reign.
The island was plagued for years by violence and looting, the main offenders being men of Albanian descent ("Liapides") who remained on Skiathos even when most of the refugees had returned to their homelands or settled in safer areas.
 In 1823 the Turks tried to take the island again but were utterly defeated.
In 1829, after the signing of the Protocol of London, on which was based the founding of the Greek state - which, however, remained tributary to the Sultan the inhabitants of Skiathos abandoned the Kastro and resettled along the harbour, where the ancient town had stood.

You can access Skiathos by ship through the following ports:

Volos, Alonissos, Skopelos (Glossa), Syros, Thira, Skopelos, Agios Konstantinos, Paros, Heraklion, Tinos, Naxos, Thessaloniki 


You can access Skiathos by dolphin through the following ports:

Thessaloniki, Volos, Trikeri island, Agios Konstantinos, Alonissos, Skopelos (Glossa), Skopelos, Agios Konstantinos 


Skiathos with Airplanes 
Skiathos provides a secure up-to-date airport. There is airline connection to Athens throughout the year.

During summer you can access Skiathos from all over the world, by compination of flights. But with charter flights you can easily get directly to Skiathos from the following cities:

Amsterdam, Vienna, Copenhagen, Milan, Berlin, Belgrade, Goetenborg, Zurich, Manchester, London, Munich, Oslo, Dysseldorf, Stavanger, Stockholm, Stutgard, Τrontheim, Frankfurt, Bucuresti, Larnaca 

Bourtzi is a small peninsula which separates the port of Skiathos in two. In the past it was a fort, which was established by the Gizi brothers who occupied Skiathos in 1207. It was surrounded by walls battlements and embrasures and on the left and right of the gate there were two round towers. 
It is not possible to determine the height of the walls by the present ruins. Moreover, in the fort there was a tank and a small church called Agios Georgios, protector of the Venetians, probably built by the Gizi brothers. Because of that church, Bourtzi was also called "Kastelli tou Agiou Georgiou - Castle of St. George". The fort was destroyed in 1660 when the admiral Fransesco Morozini (the same one that bombarded the Akropolis of Athens, destroying the south side of the Parthenon) seized the fortress back from the Turks. 
From the ruined battlements the Greeks bravely resisted the turkish effort to land on the island in 1823. Today, in Bourtzi almost nothing remain of the walls. The building is the old school, now turned into an exhibition hall. Its open air theatre holds music, drama and dance performances every summer during the Aegean Festival. 

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