History of Mykonos
The history of Mykonos is one of a kind as the island itself. Mykonos’s nickname is “The Island of the Winds”, due to the very strong winds that usually blow on the island. Tourism is a major industry and Mykonos is known for its vibrant nightlife and its unique architecture.
Herodotus mentions Carians as the original inhabitants of the island. Ionians from Athens seem to have followed next in the early 11th century BC. There were many people living on the neighbouring island of Delos, only 2 km (1.2 miles) away, which meant that Mykonos became an important place for supplies and transit. It was, however, during ancient times a rather poor island with limited agricultural resources. Its inhabitants were polytheists and worshipped many gods. [Source: History of Mykonos]
The First Ruler: Mykonos
The history of Mykonos goes back to the Ancient Greek Mythology. It is believed that the island was named after its first ruler Mykonos, a local hero, who was considered to be the son or grandson of the god Apollo. There are various references to Mykonos in Greek mythology. Mykonos was supposedly where the battle between omnipotent Zeus and the fearful Titans took place. Also, it is mentioned as the place where Hercules slew the Giants. The Giants were invincible while they stayed in the protected area of Mount Olympus. Hercules managed to lure them out of there and kill them on Mykonos. Actually, it is said that the large rocks which are scattered around the island are actually the same petrified corpses of the Giants.
Mykonos came under the control of the Romans during the reign of the Roman Empire and then became part of the Byzantine Empire until the 12th century. In 1204, with the fall of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade, Mykonos was occupied by Andrea Ghisi. The island was ravaged by the Catalans at the end of the 13th century and finally given over to direct Venetian rule in 1390.
In 1537, while the Venetians still reigned, Mykonos was attacked by Hayreddin Barbarossa, the admiral of Suleiman the Magnificent and an Ottoman fleet established itself on the island. The Ottomans, under the leadership of Kapudan Pasha, imposed a system of self-governance comprising a governor and an appointed council of syndics. When the castle of Tinos fell to the Ottomans in 1718, the last of the Venetians withdrew from the region.
Up until the end of the 18th century, Mykonos prospered as a trading center, attracting many immigrants from nearby islands, in addition to regular pirate raids. In June 1794 the Battle of Mykonos was fought between British and French ships in the island’s main harbor. [Source: History of Mykonos]
History of Mykonos & Greek Revolution
The Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire broke out in 1821 and Mykonos played an important role, led by the national heroine, Manto Mavrogenous. Mavrogenous, a well-educated aristocrat guided by the ideas of the Enlightenment, sacrificed her family’s fortune for the Greek cause. Greece became an independent state in 1830. A statue of her sits in the middle of Mando Mavrogenous square in the main town.
As a result of sailing and merchant activity, the island’s economy quickly picked up but declined again during the late 19th century and especially after the opening of the Corinth Canal in 1904 and the First World War at the beginning of the 20th century. Many Mykonians left the island to find work in mainland Greece and many foreign countries, especially the United States. [Source: History of Mykonos]
Tourism in Mykonos
Tourism soon came to dominate the local economy, owing a lot to the important excavations carried out by the French School of Archaeology, which began work in Delos in 1873. Mykonos became popular with international “jet-set” tourists in the 1960s. In the 70s it was a popular spot for Americans to treat as a nude beach, which Americans imagined to be a feature of those natural “far out” Greeks, and then flourished further to become a popular gay tourist destination in the 1980s. By the 2000s, Mykonos had become one of Greece’s most expensive islands. [Source: History of Mykonos]
Mykonian architecture could be generally described as a mixture of Greek traditional and Venetian styles, with a cubic and minimal trend. The factors that led to the final form of buildings in Mykonian architecture were the strong winds, the shortage of building materials, the hot sun and the rocky surface of the ground. The result was a small, cubic form, with tiny openings, painted in white. The back wall of the houses is always to the north, to protect the inside from the strong northern winds. The roof is flat and small gardens in front of the house offer space for outdoor activities and hosts some beautiful flowers.
Basic living dwellings were formed by cell-like rooms creating “wings” around shaded little patios. A corral for the animals, a wood-fired oven, a winepress, a water cistern, a well, and, in many cases, a small chapel would complete the farmhouse or “chorio”, a word used euphemistically for these farmhouses scattered in the rural areas since it actually means “village” in Greek.
The Old Town in Chora was built according to different needs. The small cubic houses were built one over the other and the streets were very narrow, allowing only two people to pass. This way, the houses were more protected against pirate attacks and the inhabitants could defend their families and fortunes more effectively. Sometimes the houses were connected with corridors over the streets, creating the beautiful arches we see in Old Town.
A special neighborhood in Chora is Little Venice, inspired by the many Venetians that visited and lived on the island through the centuries. The houses are right next to the sea with their wooden balconies literally hanging over the water. Little Venice is maybe the most picturesque neighborhood in Mykonos and the perfect spot to watch an idyllic sunset. Most of its houses have been transformed into famous bars and restaurants and became a meeting point for international celebrities. [Source: Architecture Art Designs]