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History of Skopelos island

Skopelos island is not just a dreamy place for summer holidays, it is a part of Greece’s rich history and cultural heritage. Besides the unique natural beauty that can enchants anyone, the island has historical traces of ancient civilizations, as well as classical and Byzantine monuments that make it more than just an interesting destination.

Through a multitude recordings from the depths of the centuries, may be outlined the form and the identity of Skopelos island. The study of the past, brings to light marks from the first centuries of ancient Greek history. The excavations made in the area of Stafilos during 1936, highlighted findings from the Mycenaean era (15th century B.C.) and connected with the mythical inhabitant Stafilos, son of Dionysos and Ariadne. According to Greek Mythology, Stafilos’ brother was Peparithos from whom the island was named from. The Minoan grave, found in the small peninsula of Stafilos, was attributed to the mythical hero and his sword with the golden handle is on display at the National Archaeological Museum.

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The 8th century B.C. was the period when Peparithos (Skopelos) was colony of Chalcis, while the traces of ancient city Selinous, on the hill Palaio Kastro in Glossa settlement, demonstrate that this area was inhabited at the same period. As subsequent residents referred the Olympic champion of 569 B.C. Agnontas and the historian of the 3rd century B.C. Dioklis. The findings of excavations on the gulf of Skopelos Town, reveal the existence of a shrine of 4th century B.C. dedicated to Asclepius (god of medicine). Up until now, the operations have revealed amphorae, figured vessels, parts of statues, clay figurines and coins. From literary sources documented that the island joined in the Athenian alliance (5th and 4th century B.C.), which has contributed significantly to progress and economic prosperity of Peparithos. The development was such that led to cutting silver and copper coins and the contribution of larger amounts to the common fund of the Alliance in comparison with the other islands of the region.

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After the end of the Peloponnesian War, Peparithos was under the occupation of the Lacedaemonians and later was an area of conflicts between the Athenians and the Macedonians. Well noted is the event of the occupation of the ancient city of Panormos by Alexander of Feres in 361 B.C. and until the 2nd century B.C. the whole area of Sporades had been taken under the possession of the Macedonians from the Phillip B’. Despite the administrative turmoil, the robust economy of the island wasn’t disturbed and the port of Peparithos had been established as a significant part of the market of the Aegean Sea. The production of a great quality wine, famed from earlier years, spread the trade from the Black Sea to the Alexandria of Egypt. In addition, Peparithos was recognized as an important naval power and its privileged geographical position offered the opportunity to residents to develop naval fleet.

During Roman times the island has experienced several periods of decline mainly due to the conflicts between Greeks and Romans. Archaeological samples of that era are the Roman Baths in the region Loutraki in Glossa and parts of organized laboratories of amphorae manufacturing for the transportation of wine, in rural areas of Stafilos, Agnontas and Panormos. A striking site is also Sentoukia on top of Karya mountain, as well as the myths around the purpose of their creation. There are 3 carved tombs likely from the post – Roman years, which have been looted the last century. Although we do not know about their content, the tradition speaks for hidden treasures from pirates’ activities in the area.

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The Northern Sporades was indeed an area of strong pirate action during the Byzantines and medieval times. Survival purposes forced the population to get involved with the piracy and as a result they developed maritime and shipbuilding art. In addition, the settlements shaped garrison character and were formed on fortified citadels. Samples of fortifications still exist on the north side of Skopelos Town, in the region Kastro (Castle). The many raids and conflicts weakened the islands and with the invasion of the Turkish fleet in 1538 Skopelos almost deserted. Several years passed and it was not before the 18th century when the island started to populated again and develop quickly the old commercial activities. Until the beginning of the Greek Revolution, the exports of Skopelos in wine, olive oil and fruits arrived, like old times, in many ports of the eastern but also the western Mediterranean. However, the participation in all of the national fights, for the independence, in the Balkan wars, in the Asian Minor campaign and in the conflicts of World War II, brought changes in the activities of the inhabitants of the island. But it is well worth mentioning the preservation of the old art of shipbuilding until the mid-20th century. The abundant raw material from the pine-tree forests of the island, helped especially in shipbuilding which have gotten a unique form in the hands of locals shipwrights. From the shipyards of island, large ships were sailing to order – receivers of other areas. The end of the operations of the yards came with the decline of shipping sailfish and the appearance of the steam boats.

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