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History of Skopelos Island

The island of Skopelos was inhabited probably in the Neolithic period. Its ancient name was Peparethos and is mentioned by the pre-Hellenic people of Asia Minor who settled in the Aegean region in the period 2800 - 2000 BC. This name is mentioned likewise by Thoukydides.

Around 1600 BC Cretans whose leader was the mythical king Staphylos, son of Theseus and Ariadne, settled the island. As tradition reminds us, Theseus, son of Aegeas king of Athens, was sent with 7 young boys and 7 young girls to the Cretan king Minos, as a duty demanded by Athens, intended to be offered as sacrifice to the Minotaur (a strange creation of mythology, half man, half bull) who lived in the labyrinth underneath the palace of Knosos in Crete. There, Theseus became acquainted with Ariadne, Minos' daughter.

Ariadne fell in love with him and helped him, giving him a ball of wool, to escape from the labyrinth and to survive. Theseus found the exit, kidnapped Ariadne and left Crete. But on the island of Naxos he abandoned Ariadne who in her loneliness discovered the God Dionisos who in his turn fell in love with the girl and took her to Lemnos. In Lemnos Ariadne and Dionisos had four sons, Thoantas, Oinopionas, Staphylos and Peparithos. Peparithos was the first to settle on the island of Skopelos. Until today his name survives in this place full of olive trees and pine forests.

At the end of Staphylos bay there is a peninsular. At the tip of this peninsular the tomb of King Staphylos was discovered containing his sword and many other artifacts, representing some of the most important finds of workmanship from the Mycenian and Minoan period. The sword handle is covered in gold, a precious sword for a precious king Staphylos.

Skopelos participated in all the wars, and was a colony of the Athenians. The political system of the island was Democratic. The island took part, too, in the Greek athletic games. In fact Agnontas, an athlete from Peparethos, had won the running competition in 569 BC, and to honor him today's bay of Agnontas was given his name.

To honor the oracle of Delphi the inhabitants of Peparethos had dedicated a statue of the God Apollon, to celebrate beating the Kares in battle. Peparithos had important ancient towns too, such as Knosos, Panormos and Selinos. Today a large part of the castle of Panormos is preserved. Knossos' name was changed to Glossa, Selinos' name was changed to Loutraki, where some remains of an ancient castle and an ancient settlement are still visible today. In Skopelos "armaka" is the name given to the accumulation of many large stones gathered together, a pile of rocks we would say. The whole island is full of such piles; we hope future scientists will uncover their secrets.

In the 13th century BC, King Ilkon of Pellas captured the island. Skopelos remained stagnant for quite some time until the 6th century BC when the export of wine and olive oil began. This brought back prosperity and progress to the island. Aristotelis refers to the famous wine of Peparethos renowned for its aphrodisiac qualities. In classical times, people of Peparethos, were allies of the Athenians, but after the battle of Chaironia in 338 BC, the island passed into the hands of the Macedonians until 146 AD when the Romans conquered Greece. The name Skopelos appears for the first time in the texts of Ptolemaios who wrote in the 2nd century AD. The name is most probably a reference to the many shoals and reefs that protrude around the island.

During the Roman and Byzantine period the island was in decline. The Byzantines used it as a place of exile. After the conquest of Constantinopel by the Franks, the island was united with the Dukedom of Naxos and later passed into the administration of Guizi in the years of the reign of emperor Michael H' Palaiologos. It remained in his possession until 1453 AD when the inhabitants offered their island to the Venetians in order to escape the Turkish occupation. In 1538 the Algerian pirate Barbarosa came to the island and slaughtered the inhabitants. Around 1600 survived and escaped to Evia and Thessaly but later returned to the island. Then the Turkish occupation started, though these occupiers treat the population more gently. The inhabitants were self governed and simply had the duty to pay their taxes and to assign 30 sailors to serve one year in the Turkish fleet. No citizen of Turkish origin ever settled on the island.

During 1750 AD the first Greek partisans and guerilla fighters started to come to the island from Olympus, Chalkidiki and Thessaly. But from 1810 onwards there were fights between the locals and the guerillas of central Greece. During the revolution of 1821 the captains of Skopelos helped their brothers wherever they were needed. When the revolution failed in Thessaly and Macedonia, 70.000 people, men, women and children settled again in the island - exhausted by epidemics and poverty.

During the 2nd world war first the Italians and later the Germans came. Then followed freedom, the civil war, poverty, emigration and from 1980 onwards the tourist development. This brought other activities, which urged many young people to remain on the island and many others to return from the urban centers and abroad, especially during the summer months. Even in contemporary years Skopelos has maintained it's unique cultural foundation: The legends and rich traditions, likewise the historic and artistic monuments, the castles and monasteries, ancient churches, the famous altar screens, all the work of highly skilled and dedicated local artists. Skopelos was a Bishopric, a fact that highlights the island's prosperity and spirituality. According to the legend of St. Riginos, (the patron saint of Skopelos), who slayed the dragon which was terrorizing and killing people on the island. He chased it to the area between Staphylos and Agnontas. There, at that spot the mountain broke apart and the dragon fell and was killed in the abyss - that site is today called "Dragons Schism". The people of Skopelos have maintained their traditional shipbuilding skills, as well as woodcarving and producing beautifully decorated pottery. In earlier times shipyards were in operation in Skopelos and, during the revolution the island provided 35 trade ships to assist in the fighting. They were occupied, too, with the art of weaving and famous for the traditional Skopelitian garments. The Knifes of Skopelos are also unique, as, one line folk verses are carved into their handles. In Greek history it is astonishing how myths and reality get interwoven in a unique way.