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Nearly the whole group of Small Cyclades islands has been inhabited since the Prehistoric Era and was the centre of the Cycladic civilization, with the most important one being that of Keros.

During the Roman Era some of the islands (Donoussa) were used as places where the exiled were sent, whereas in the Medieval times they were all used by the pirates as shelters. Later on, Schinoussa and Heraklia were owned by the Monastery of Chozoviotisa of Amorgos, whereas Donoussa and Koufonissia were inhabited by those people of Amorgos who were exploiting the land by renting it.

Two great state alienations/expropriations of the monastic fortunes, a) during Plastiras’ time and b) in 1986, during Andreas Papandreou era, put the end of their commitment to Amorgos. Since 28th November 1994 Small Cyclades are part of the prefecture of Naxos region.


Donoussa:

or Denoussa or Stenoza, or Spinoza…
The island’s name remains the same since the ancient times. Virgilius calls it “viridem” because of its abundant vegetation and the green marble. According to the myth it was on Donoussa that Dionysos brought Ariadne from Naxos, so that Theseus would not find her.

Donoussa history - culture

We get the first traces of habitation of Donoussa during the Early Cycladic period (3rd millennium b.C.) thanks to two settlements at the area of Achtia of Agrilia and Myti tou Trachilas. But the island arrives at its peak during the Geometric period (10th-7th century b.C), as it can be seen from the fortified settlement and the cemetery that were found in Vathi Limenari, at the south-east part of Donoussa.

As for the following periods there are not many records. During the Roman times Donousa was said to be a place of exile. Later on, it became the hiding place for pirates. According to the local oral tradition, the island of Donoussa was inhabited during the Turkish occupation: every year a Turkish ship would anchor off Kalotaritisa’s bay, in order to collect the poll-tax.

At the beginning of 18th century Donoussa was the shepherds’ of Amorgos’ Egiali summer residence, who round 1830 settled on the island permanently and were renting the land in order to have it cultivated. At the beginning of 20th century the island had round 3000 inhabitants, many of which used to work in the (iron, aluminium, copper) mines in Kedros, which was used until 1938. Donoussa became world famous at the beginning of the 1st World War (1914) when the german cruiser "Goeben" sailed into Donoussa’s harbour that was pursued by the English fleet. “Goeben” was replenishing coal and that is how it managed to sail later on to Dardanelles and precipitate Turkey into the war on the side of Germany.

Donousa has been an independent community since 1929. During the 2nd World war it was under the Italian occupation; at Kedros’ bottom one can discern the shipwreck of a german ship that was sunk by the allies at that time. Until the ‘50’s the main cultivation was onions and tobacco.

The 1960’s brought poverty, emigration and depopulation. The working hands became fewer and the fields were ruined. Just before electricity, in the 1980’s, the first tourists arrived on the island. After that a port was built and life changed.

Donoussa traditional



Koufonissia

They have been inhabited continuously since the Prehistoric era. Excavations in the area of Epano Myloi brought important findings of the Protocycladic Civilization (3200-2000 B.C.)to light. One of the most important findings of that period is a pan shaped vessel, that has engraved on it a nine-rays star, and can be seen in Naxos’ archaeological museum.

During the ancient times the sea area between Epano and Kato Koufonissi and Keros was known under the name of Kofos Limin (Deaf Port). Another excavation on the south part of Koufonissi brought to light findings of the Hellenistic and Roman periods. During the centuries that followed, Koufonissia were subordinated along with the rest of Cyclades islands: they changed hands many times between the Latins and the Turks and became the apple of discord for various pirates. The inhabitants, being in need or by choice, co-operated most of the times with the pirates that used the island as a base of operations. In the 17th century, because of the great conflicts between the Venetians and the Turks the inhabitants of Koufonissia were found bound up against the phantom of the famine.

Koufonissia were liberated from the Turks along with the rest of the Cyclades islands in 1821 and in 1830 they were incorporated in the newly-established Greek state. In 1941 Koufonisia were under Italian command/administration. After the conclusion of the treaty of Italy in 1943, they came under German occupation until their liberation in 1944.

Koufonissia became a separate community in 1964. In post-war decades fishing provided the inhabitants of Pano Koufonnissi with a stability of population. In 1985 electricity came on the islands and in the past decade there has been a floury in tourist development that leads to the constant increase of a permanent population.

Koufonissia history

Koufonissi - Keros ancient

"Flautist"
"Harpist"


Keros

Keros’ history is the exact opposite of what the place makes you think of, nothing but deserted and remote. During the Prehistoric era, Keros was one of the most important centres of the Cycladic civilization. Along with the settlement and the cemetery of Chalandriani in the island of Syros, they set the evolution of the mature phase of the Cycladic civilization, the Early Cycladic II (2800-2300 b.C.), known in the international bibliography as ”Keros-Syros phase“. Here is where the famous statuettes of the “Harpist”, the ”Flautist” and a great variety of marble and ceramic items which are now exposed at the National Archeological Museum of Athens were found.

The importance of Keros during the Early Cycladic period is set off mainly through the “Thesaurus of Keros”. It is a collection of hundreds of items: marble statuettes, as a whole piece or fragments, marble and ceramic vessels, stone utensils and small items without their exact origin being known. There are items of illicit trade in antiquities that have been illegally exported from Greece in the ‘50’s and were part of several museums around the world. Today, a part of the “Thesaurus of Keros” has been brought back and is displayed at the Museum of Cycladic Art of Athens.

Keros ancient history
“Prochoi” Early Cycladic period (2800-2200 B.C.)

There are several legends and stories related to the “Thesaurus of Keros”. One says that Keros was the sacred island of Cyclades and not Delos, as it is still believed. According to one interpretation/version Keros is the same as “Asteria”, the island where according to the myths the ancient gods Apollo and Artemis (Diana) were born- and not in Delos, as it is generally believed.

Unfortunately, the violent plunder of the “Thesaurus” by the illicit dealers in antiquities and the artless removal from its natural environment made the research harder and contributed in the enigma of Keros. A series of questions was raised: What was the importance of these items and what purpose did they serve? How come they were found assembled in such a small island and what was the function of the place where they were found?

Excavations in Keros under the auspice of the archeologists Christos Dumas and Fotini Zafiropoulou tried to shed light on the case. It was reckoned that most probably the protocycladic findings originate from the area of “Kavos”, in the west part of the island, opposite the islet of Daskalio. The interpretation of this statement is a hard one, since it is not close to a settlement, cemetery or workshop. The prevalent point (C. Renfrew) is that it must have been a temple where within a certain liturgy they were purposefully putting fragments of items of a symbolic nature. Further to the localization of a large fortified settlement and a cemetery on the islet of Daskalio, that was bound to the coast in ancient times, lead professor Ch. Dumas in the assumption that Keros was the sacred island of Cyclades, the entrance to the Underworld where all the neighbouring islands were laying the bones of their dead.

For the following historic periods we have even less information. In ancient times, the island was known as Keria or Keria. It obviously participated in the Persian Wars and was a part of the Athenian Alliance. In 425 b.C. Keros is mentioned in a catalogue of the taxpayers of the Athenian Democracy.

Mountainous, barren and not easily accessible, Keros with the coming years was depopulated. During the middle Ages it was in all probability a base and hiding place of the pirates, like the rest of east Small Cyclades. Until 1952 Keros was property of the monastery of Panagia Xozoviotissa of the island of Amorgos and it was afterwards devolved to the Agricultural Service that was then given away to the shepherds.



Schinoussa

Schinoussa historical castle

We hardly know anything about Schinouss’a historic past. A marble Neolithic statuette that was found on the islands is proof that the island was inhabited since the Prehistoric era. It seems that the island has kept its name since the ancient times, if we accept the phonetic coincidence with ancient Echinoussa. According to tradition its name is taken from the bushy plant schino (Pistacia lentiscus) that thrives all over the island. There is however another interpretation, according to which, the island was named after the Venetian nobleman Schinoza.


In the area of Tsigouri remains of the Hellenistic and roman period were found and the whole island abounds in greek and roman potsherds. During the Byzantine era Schinoussa was an important commercial centre, according to the abundant Byzantine ceramic findings. In the area of Tsigouri, Aghios Vasilios and Profitis Ilias remnants of paleochristianic basilicas were found.

Schinousa old windmills

In the Middle Ages Schinoussa was conquered by the Venetians, but the name of the feudal lord is not known. On the island one can see the remains of a medieval castle and a Frankish tower. Schinoussa was constantly invaded by the pirates and that was the reason why the inhabitants built the village on a knoll. But, even in that way pillages were not avoided and the island was deserted by its population many times.

It seems that the last inhabitants of Schinoussa originated from Amorgos and settled on the island round 1840. According to numerous testimonies of elder people of Schinoussa the whole island was part of the property of the Monastery of Chozoviotissa and it was cultivated by villains, mostly coming from Amorgos. After the liberation of Schinoussa from the Turkish rule, the island came under the authority of the municipality of Amorgos (1828), later on under the community of Katapola of Amorgos (1912), and ever since the 2nd World War ended Schinoussa formed a separate community that is under the prefecture of Naxos.

In 1899 the Primary school of the island was founded. 1957 was the year when the first telephone connection with Naxos was made (with a hand-operated telephone). The works for the first pier in Mersini started in 1965 and the lighthouse was placed in 1968. Electricity came on the island in 1983.



Heraklia

Iraklia ancient history

The locals call the island Araklia. We have only a few piece of information regarding Heraklia, but in combination with the archaeological data we can get a general idea of its historic route.

In the area of Kambos Aghiou Athanasiou and Aghios Mamas there are two small settlements of the Protocycladic period (3rd millennium b.C.). Iraklia during the ancient times according to Plinius was known as Onos, because of the island’s natural shape similarity. In the area of Kastro, in Livadi, there are the remnants of a fortified village of the Hellenistic period (4th – 2nd century b.C.), where there was the temple of Zeus and the sanctuary of goddess Tyche (goddess of fortune and luck). All over the island there are several findings from different historic periods (Hellenistic, Roman).

The indicators – “compasses” of Heraklia are a mystery. These are marks found on the rocks spread from Aghios Giorgos area to Aghios Athanasios. According to the most popular interpretation they used to serve as orientation marks in antiquity. Systematic archeological research is bound to throw more light on their origins.

During the Turkish domination, the closed and inaccessible bays of the island used to be the ideal hiding place for the pirates infesting the Aegean Sea. Along with Schinoussa, Iraklia has been the property of the Monastery of Xozoviotissa of Amorgos.

Herakleia became an autonomous community in 1929. In 1941 it came under the Italian administration and then, after the treaty of Italy in 1943, was under the german occupation until its liberation in 1944. Today it is under the prefecture of Naxos.

Heraklia ancient castle

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