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History of Karpathos

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Karpathos is situated in the most south part of Dodecanese complex, between Crete and Rhodes, and is the second largest island of the complex. Basically, it is considered a mountainous island (Kali Limni is the highest peak-altitude 1.214m) full of water springs, pine-trees forests, vineyards, olives and fruit-bearing trees. The rock-caves of the island are the home of the Mediterranean seal called Μonachus monachus, while, along with Kastelorizo, this is the only place where we can meet the amphibian speciesMertensiella luscani. According to mythology, Iapetos, the son of Uranus and Gaea [Sky and Earth] was the first inhabitant of the island. It was firstly inhabited during Neolithic Age, while in the Homeric Sagas it is reported as Anemoessa. Its history has a close affiliation with Rhodes and Dodecanese. The conquerors who defined the island’s character were Francs, Turks and Italians. The island extends over a surface of 301 km2, its coastline is 106 km long and it has 6,500 inhabitants.

The oldest archeological findings date back to approximately 2500 BC. The influence of the Minoans started to become evident around 1600 B.C.
During the 14th century the Mycenaean's made their appearance, they conquered the island and constructed the acropolis of Potidaio or Poseidio. A lot of pottery was found, revealing their presence on the island.
Homer refers in the Iliad that Karpathos participated in the Trojan War by sending vessels (view similar vessel below).
The island based on various findings was inhabited during the Neolithic era. This comes in conflict with the belief that the Minoans were the first to inhabit the island. None the less it is undisputable that the Karpathos was in fact highly influenced by its neighbor Crete. Another population that inhabited the island was the Phoenicians, a shipping population that during those times use to cross the Mediterranean with their vessels, carrying their goods to various countries, expanding commerce this way. Apparently they also used Karpathos as one of their stations. After the Mycenaean and the Phoenicians, the Dorians came to the island around 1000 B.C. The Dorians brought the largest prosperity to the island. During those times four fortressed cities prospered and this is why Karpathos was named Tetra polis during the Dorian reign. These cities were Potidaio or Poseidio, Arkesia, Vrikous and Nisiros, which is a small rocky island (Saria) north of Karpathos.
Karpathos participated in the first Athenian Alliance, which took place on 478 B.C. During the Peloponnesian Wars (431-404 B.C.) found Karpathos being an Allie with the Athenians, but after the defeat of the Athenians in 404 B.C. they succumbed to the Spartans and returned to the Athenian alliance in 397 B.C., that rendered to the island its independence. During the Hellenistic period, Karpathos was ruled the by neighboring island of Rhodes.
After Christ in the middle of the first century, it was inhabited by the Romans. In 330 A.C Constantine the Great legalized Christianity and in 395 Theodosius the 1st divided the Roman Empire to the Eastern and Western side. Karpathos belonged to the Eastern side. This is when Christian churches started getting built such as Agia Fotini, Agia Anastasia and others.

During the 5th century after Christ, Karpathos was looted many times by the Arabs, Sericucians, Mauritanians and many other invaders. Thus the inhabitants fled to the mountains and created villages there. Later from 1282 to 1306 the governing of the island was taken over by rulers from Genova, the island was named Scarpanto at the time. After the rulers from Genova, came the Venetians. In 1306 Andrew Kornaros conquered it and in 1311The Knights of Rhodes finally conquered it, up until 1315 when the Venetian sovereign seized it. During the reign of the house of Kornaros that lasted until 1537, many fortresses and churches were built, when Haiderin Barbarosa plundered the island and handed it over to the Turks, which were never interested in its improvement or even its maintenance.

The Turks never inhabited the island; they just sent tax officers to collect the taxes and leave. This is why there is no evidence of any Turkish occupation on the island. It is evident that the Turks avoided inhabiting the island, because it was a target for pirates that become the threat and fear of those times. When the time came for the revolution of April 1821, Karpathos like the other islands raised the Greek flag. The island during the revolution offered refuges, money, supplies and even repairs for the Greek ships in battle. Its independence came in 1823 when Karpathos joined up with Greece and was instated in the province of Santorini. But in 1830 with the London protocol, the Dodecanese islands were given back to Turkey and finally in 1912 the Italians took over.
The Italian Administration building was built on a high rocky coast on the west end of the harbor at Pigadia and it is today's Provincial building. During the 2nd World War in 1943 the German troops arrived on the island and joined the Italians.
The Germans left on the 4th October 1944. The Karpathians started a revolution against their conquerors on the 5th October 1944, in the village Menetes where the men of the village turned their weapons against the Italians. The village of Arkasa followed and in three days the villages of Mesochori and Olympus were also free.
Because of severe weather conditions, the Allied forced were delayed in sending forces to the island which only worsened the already severe famine conditions at the time. Seven brave men set sail for Alexandria in Egypt in a small fishing boat and arrived there 5 days later, where they asked for help from the Greek government representative. They returned to the island on October 17th 1944 with two allied destroyers and this was considered the start of the official liberation of the island. On the March 7th, 1948 Karpathos joined and became part of Greece.
Despite such a scattered past, the last half-century has been pivotal in charactering the island. A war-ravaged economy sent many a Karpathian to the U.S. eastern seaboard cities. Karpathos today has a significant Greek-American constituency who have returned to their beloved island and invested heavily. As a result, Pigadia and the other towns successfully infuse modern elements into a traditional setting. Today in the northern most villages, residents preserve age old traditions almost religiously.

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