History

Skyros has been inhabited since the Neolithic Age (5500-2800 BC) as evidenced by finds at various locations on the island. Skyros flourished during the Early Bronze Age (2800-1900 BC) and reached its peak during the Mycenaean era (1650-1100 BC). It also played an important role during the Geometric and Archaic periods. In 475 BC Skyros was conquered by the Athenians, and in 323/22BC it passed into the hands of the Macedonians. After being conquered by the Romans in 197 BC, Skyros came under Byzantine rule and became part of the Aegean Sea "theme" (province).


Skyros also had various names over the centuries, from ancient times and thereafter, mainly referring to the morphology, soil, nature and population of the island. It was named “Aigivotos” (she who raises goats), “Anemoessa” (due to the wind), “Pelasgia” (named after its inhabitants), “Dolopia” (similarly, the island of the Dolopes), “Periritos” (surrounded by the sea), “Pelagia” (island of the sea), “Skyros” (after the porous stone from the quarries on the island), and many more appellations given by writers and geographers since ancient times.


Skyros also figures prominently in Greek mythology and it has been an important island throughout the history of Greece. There are four mythical persons connected with Skyros: Theseus, Lycomedes, Achilles and Neoptolemos.


When Theseus returned after completing his famous exploits, including a trip to Hades, he found that Menestheus had usurped his throne. Disappointed, he decided to go to his paternal island, Skyros, where he had property from his father Aigeas. The King of Skyros at the time of his arrival was Lycomedes. Annoyed and fearful at the presence of Theseus, whom he considered a direct threat to his throne, Lycomedes decided to eliminate him. So the life of  Theseus, one of the greatest heroes of the Greek mythology, ends tragically in Skyros. Achilles was living in the palace of Lycomedes, hidden by his mother Thetis who knew that if her son went to war in Troy he would die. In the palace, Achilles fell in love with the king's daughter Deidameia and they had a son, Pyrrhus. It was Odysseus (Ulysses) who led Achilles to Troy, resorting to the well-known trick [Iliad] and recognising Achilles. The story then followed the course we all know.


After Achilles's death, his son Pyrrhus went to Troy at the age of only 12 years, again through the interference of Odysseus. He fought bravely and was named Neoptolemos (meaning: new warrior).


The first inhabitants of Greece were the Pelasgians, together with the Curetes, Leleges, Driopes and Dolopes. Members of these peoples also inhabited Skyros: the first fortified walls were built by the Pelasgians. Skyros became a domain of Athens following Kimon's decree and remained under Athenian rule, except for short intervals, for 389 years. During this period, the conquerors alternated between Athenians, Persians, and Macedonians until 197BC, when the Romans conquered the island. Roman domination was succeeded by Byzantine domination; Skyros became part of the Aegean Sea "theme" (province), and Christianity prevailed on the island.


Constantinople, the Byzantine capital, fell to the Crusaders in 1204 leading to the division of the Byzantine empire between the French king Bonifatius of Montferrat and the Doge of Venice. Skyros, along with the islands of Skiathos, Skopelos and Mykonos came under the rule of the brothers Gizzi, merchants from Venice.


Skyros was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1538, but it retained many privileges. Neither Turkish governors, nor Turkish troops stayed there for any significant length of time. During the Ottoman period Skyros suffered extensively from pirate raids, which forced the residents to seek refuge in the castle.


In the 1821 Greek War of Independence, Skyros contributed substantially in terms of both money and manpower. It sent many sailors to the national fleet, offered shelter to the warlords, elected many members to the pro-independence Society of Friends, and offered shelter to thousands of refugees fleeing from various cities of Greece.


Today the traditions and customs of Skyros testify to its ancient origins, and its monuments and the artefacts presented in the island's museums stand witness to its great past.


Source: Municipality of Skyros