Once it recounts its tale and unfolds its secrets, Skopelos is bound to hold a special place in your heart. Through the centuries, Ancient Greeks, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans, and pirates left their mark on the island. This rich and varied history is harmoniously“cemented” with the island’s mythology that sees its first inhabitant, Staphylus, as the son of the ancient Greek god Dionysus and princess Ariadne of Crete. Join us to this journey to the past to relive ourhistory together!
Our knowledge about the post-Mycenaean era and up until ancient times is insufficient. The time from the 6th century BC to the beginning of the 5th century BC is regarded as Paparethos Island’s prosperity as silver coins are struck and trade relationships begin to develop with other Aegean city-states. The export of products, such as the popularPeparethian wine and the high-quality and sought-after olive oil produced on the island, is especially emphasized.
The participation of Peparethians in the Ancient Olympic Games testifies to the island’s contribution to important events in ancient Greece. During the 569 BC Olympics, a tremendous success was recorded when the Peparethos-born runner, Hagnon, won the well-known running race, Stadion. In his honor, theancient Peparethiansdepicted Hagnon’s portrait on coins. His name was granted to the namesake bay (Agnontas) in modern times as, according to tradition, this is where Hagnon disembarked victoriously.
The triumphant fight against the Carians was another crucial moment in the history of the island. The inhabitants of Peparethos dedicated a statue of the Greek god Apollo to the Oracle of Delphi in honor of the event.
It is worth noting that Peparethos lost its independence at the end of the Greco-Persian Wars(449 BC)and joined the Delian League (First Athenian League). According to the historian Thucydides,in 427 BC, a strong earthquake struck Skopelos, sparking a tsunami that damaged numerous public buildings. Finally, after a brief period of Spartan tutelage, ancient Skopelos joined
Peparethos (Ancient Skopelos) became the epicenter of the dispute among heirs as well as between Romans and Macedoniansduring the Hellenistic period (late 4th century BC-early 1st century BC).
The island was able to mint bronze coins during the Late Classical and Hellenistic periods, while several temples and fortifications were constructed in different places, the ruins of which are still preserved today. One of the main products and exports of the island was the famous Peparethian wine, which was regarded as sought-after and aphrodisiac according to Aristotle.
During the Roman rule, which began in 146 BCwith the conquest of the ancient Greek world, the Romans would grantrelative autonomy to Peparethos,which explains howit was possible at that time to mint bronze coins.
In the literature of the period, there was no reference to the island under the name of “Skopelos.”Nevertheless, the first time the name appears in the texts of the Roman periodis in those of Ptolemy, around the 2nd century BC, probably due to the outliers (‘skopeloi’ in Greek) and reefs scattered around the island.
On Peparethos Island, Christianity quickly spread. Bishop Reginos, who played a leading role in the dissemination and establishment of the new religion in the Northern Sporades, was the most influential figure of the 4th century. In 362 AD, however, Bishop Reginos was tortured and eventually beheaded during the persecution of Julian the Apostate. The Eastern Orthodox Church officially canonized Saint Reginos and is commemorated on the 25th of February as the island’s patron saint.
During the first years of the Byzantine Empire,Skopelos Island was not often mentioned in that period’s literature. It was considered a place of exile instead. The Venetians occupied Skopelos, which became administratively attached to the Duchy of Naxos, following the Sack of Constantinople by the Franks in 1204. The island would then come under the control of the hegemonic house of Gyzi (also “Gizi” and “Ghizi”) until 1276, and after that year, it was to be reincorporated into the Byzantine Empire. Skopelos, like many other regions of the Byzantine Empire, would suffer from several catastrophic attacks by various invaders under the reign of the Palaiologos dynasty.
After the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453, the island was occupied by the Venetians until 1538. Family names, toponyms, and a multitude of words in the local dialect of Skopelosare telling reminders of that period.
The year 1538 was a major turning point for Skopelos as the Ottoman Chief Admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa conquered and destroyed the island. Nevertheless, he did not manage to depopulate itentirely, as shown by the erection of churches that signaled the gradual flourishing of the island.
There was no permanent Turkish population residing on the island during the Turkish rule, which was a positive factor in maintaining the privileges held during Venetian rule. It was described by many travelers who visited Skopelos from the 16th to the 19thcentury AD as a town with a large population and significant economic prosperity, while there was considerable commercial activity on the island, especially during the 18th century.
The 80’s marked the start of the island’s tourist development, which was based on its beautiful natural environment and acted as a catalyst for growth that kept young people on the island and halted migration. Therefore, many Skopelitians who had moved to urban centers or emigrated abroad started to return permanently or during the summer season, either for vacation or to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the tourism sector.
Modern-day Skopelos remains unique, not only due to its enchanting natural landscapes, crystal-clear waters, and dreamy sunsets but also thanks to its magnificent cultural heritage, namely its tradition, folktales, historical monuments, great works of art, castles, monasteries, and churches with their spectacular iconostases. The Skopelos knives are also very well-known and characteristic of the island’s artistry, with folk proverbs and sayings engraved on their handles. Textile arts and crafts hold a dominant role in local culture, with particular emphasis on the renowned traditional Skopelitian costumes.
Skopelitians were and are currently interested in craftsmanship, including woodworking, shipbuilding, and pottery. Even during the Ottoman rule, there were shipyards that launched and contributed thirty-fivemerchant ships to the needs of the Greek War of Independence of 1821.
Therefore, traveling to the island allows one to explore its past and consider its present and future.