History Of Ikaria (Icaria)
Icaria, Icarus in classical antiquity,
is a member of the Anatolian Sporades, and is part of the same mountain range
which connected Samos to Asia Minor. Icaria has nearly an unbroken coastline,and
is without adequate ports. The sea around Icaria, the Icarian Pelagos, was
known to Homer (Iliad 2. 145) as one of the most turbulent areas of the Aegean.
The Icarian Sea is especially tempestuous in July and August during the meltimi
season because the island, situated without a protective barrier to the north,
has no buffer from these northeasterly gales known as Etesian in antiquity.
There are some
neolithic remains on Icaria, that are presently being excavated by a native,
Themistocles Katsaros. Another native, the eminent anthropologist Ares Poulianos,
has found a number of neolithic artifacts. Until their work is published we
can say little about the neolithic period in Icaria except that the island
was inhabited in the seventh millennium B.C. The Greeks called these early
inhabitants of the Aegean Pelasgians, and they probably controlled Icaria
until the second millennium B.C. when the Carians, another indigenous Aegean
people, got a foothold in Icaria. These terms, Pelasgians and Carians, are
very vague and it is perhaps best to simply think of the early settlers of
Icaria as pre-Greek.
The Greeks entered the Aegean in ca. 1500 B.C.,
and by 1200 B.C. had taken most of the Aegean islands, though there is no
sign of any Greek settlement on Icaria until much later. The Greeks may have
been discouraged by the lack of harbors, the shortage of arable land, and
thick forests. Greeks from Miletus colonized Icaria in ca. 750 B.C, probably
establishing a settlement at Therma then Oenoe (modern day Kampos.) The purpose
of these Milesian outposts on Icaria were probably to aid Milesian ships on
their way north to Milesian colonies in the Propontis.
The sources for the history of ancient Icaria consist
of random references in ancient authors such as Thucydides, Herodotus, Strabo,
Pausanias, Athenaeus, Pliny, and a handful of inscriptions. Eparchides, a
native of Oenoe, wrote a history of Icaria about 350 B.C. We assume that he
provided a capsule history of the island, but the main purpose of his work
seems to have been to promote Icarian wine. Only several fragments of Eparchides'
history survive. Accounts by 17h. to 19th travellers are very helpful, especially
the book of the Bishop J. Georgirenes in the early 17th. century and the German
archeologist L. Ross in the middle of the 19th century.
Sometime in the sixth century B.C. the Icaria
was absorbed by Samos and became part of Polycrates sea empire. It was perhaps
at this time that the temple of Artemis at Nas, on the northeast corner of
the island was built. It seems that Nas was a sacred spot to the pre-Greek
inhabitants of the Aegean, and an important port in the Aegean, the last stop
before testing the dangerous Icarian Pelasgian. It was an appropriate place
for sailors to make sacrifices to Artemis, who among other functions, was
a patron of seafarers. The temple stood in good repair until the middle of
the 19th. century when it was pillaged by the villagers of Christos, Raches
for marble for their local church. In 1939 it was excavated by the Greek archeologist
Leon Politis. During the German and Italian occupation of Icaria in the Second
World War many of the artifacts unearthed by Politis disappeared. Local custom
has it that there are still marble statues embedded in the sand off the coast.
In the first decades of the fifth century Icaria
may have fallen into the sphere of Persia. In 490 B.C. the Persian expeditionary
force to Greece touched upon Icarian shores. After the war Icaria became part
of the Delian League, and prospered. Oenoe became known for its excellent
There were several areas in Greece which produced this type of wine, and we
do not exactly know what its qualities were, though it seems to have been
rather expensive and enabled Oenoe to pay a substantial tribute to the Athenians.
The record of this tribute is the aparachai, the tribute list kept in Athens,
which shows Oenoe paying 8,000 drachmae in 453, dropping to 6,000 in 449 B.C.,
and 4,000 in 448 B.C. Therma, which was less prosperous, never paid over 3,000
drachmae. A drachma was a substantial sum in the ancient world,and the total
Icarian tax placed Icaria in the upper thirty percent of the tribute paying
states.It is not clear why the tax of Oenoe fell by fifty percent in the 440's
B.C., but we can guess that the Athenians placed a military colony, a cleruchy,
at Oenoe to keep watch on Samos which had rebelled from the Athenian empire.
The great playwright Euripides visited the island. His trip may have been
officially connected to the Athenian settlement.
apparently did not share in the great wine industry, and apparently had little
to do with Oenoe. There are no records that the two Icarian cities had much
contact. This division is reflected in the modern period when in 1912 the
two sections of the island almost went to war with one another to determine
the site of the capital. Therma's prosperity seems to have been based on its
thermal springs which even then were considered highly beneficial.
We can estimate about 13,000 inhabitants on Icaria
in the fifth century B.C. The prosperity, which the island enjoyed during
the Athenian empire, began to decline during the Peloponnesian War (431 B.c.
to 404 B.C.) On two occasions Spartan admirals, Alcidas and Mindarus, brought
their fleets to Icaria. After the war Icaria suffered from piratical raids.
Conditions improved in 387 B.C. when Icaria, that is Oenoe and Therma, became
a member of the Second Athenian League.
Alexander the Great named an island, Failaka, in
the Persian gulf Icaria because it resembled Icaria. In fact, there is no
resemblance between the two islands, and it is unknown why Alexander would
do this, but his gesture does signify that he held Icaria in some degree of
esteem, and perhaps had soldiers from the island in his Persian campaign.
In the wars that followed the death of Alexander in 323 B.C. Icaria became
an important military base. One of Alexander's successors, possibly Demetrius
Poliorcetes, built the tower at Fanari, Dracanum, and the adjacent fortress.
It is one of the best preserved Hellenistic military towers in the Aegean.
In the second century B.C. the Icarians changed the
name of Therma to Aslcepieis. The change in names only lasted for about thirty
years. Apparently, it was an effort to advertise the medicinal qualities of
the thermal baths and make Therma into an important resort. But this was generally
a period of decline. Philip V (221-178) ravaged the Aegean islands. Though
the Romans established control of the area they did not adequately patrol
the seas. In 129 B.c. Samos was incorporated into the Roman province of Asia,
which represented a coastal area of Asia Minor, and Icaria seems to have been
included in this province. A Roman general undertook to repair the temple
of Artemis which had apparently fallen into a state of disrepair during the
third century B.C, doubtless from piratical raids, but the Romans, preoccupied
by domestic problems, neglected the Aegean, and by the early years of the
first century B.C. pirates took control of the Aegean islands.
All the coastal settlements in Icaria disappeared,
and the few people who remained on the island retreated into the interior.
The Emperor Augustus (29 B.C.-A.D.14) reestablished order in the Aegean, and
encouraged Samians to develop Icaria. The traveller Strabo, ca. 10 B.C., saw
two small settlements on Icaria, but noted that it was essentially a deserted
island used mainly by Samian ranchers who kept herds of animals there. In
the first century A.D. Pliny the Younger was weatherbound on the island for
several days and was struckby its rustic qualities.
By the end of the fifth century A.D. Icaria fell
into the sphere of the Byzantine Empire. Campos became the administrative
center and the seat of a bishopric.
The Samians, given support by the government in Constantinople, maintained
a local fleet which offered Icaria some protection from pirates.In 1081 A.D.
the emperor Alexus Comnenus established, only a few miles from Icaria, the
monastery of St. John the Theologian in Patmos. This became a cultural center
in the Aegean, and kept Icaria from sliding into total oblivion.
By the end of the 12th. century the Byzantine empire cut back its naval defense and the Aegean became open to inroads from pirates and Italian adventures. The Icarians built fortresses at Paliokastro and Koskino. A glimpse of conditions is provided by a document in the monastery of Patmos which recorded pirates fleeing Patmos and arriving in Icaria where the local population executed them.
In the 14th. century the Genoese took Chios, and Icaria became part of a Genoese Aegean empire. When the Turks drove the Genoese from the Aegean the Knights of St. John, who had their base in Rhodes, exerted some control over Icaria until 1521 when the Sultan incorporated Icaria into his realm. The Icarians killed the first Turkish tax collector, but somehow managed to escape punishment.
There was considerable dissatisfaction with the Greek
government which invested little in developing Icaria which remained one of
the most backward regions of Greece. Until the 1960's the Icarians looked
to the Icarians in America rather than Athens for help in building roads,
schools and medical facilities. Throughout the first half of the 20th. century
the economy depended on remittances sent from America by Icarian immigrants
who began settling in America in the 1890's.In America Icarians demonstrated
a talent as steel mill workers, and independent business men.
The island suffered tremendous losses in property
and lives during the second world war and the German and Italian occupation.
There are no exact figures on how many people starved, but in the village
of Karavostomos over 100 perished from starvation. After the war the majority
of the islanders were sympathetic to communism, and the Greek government used
the island to exile about 13,000 communists from 1945 to 1949. The quality
of life improved after 1960 when the Greek government began to invest in the
infrastructure of the islands assisting in the promotion of tourism.
This summary is based on Ancient Icaria, by Anthony J. Papalas published in 1992 by Bolchazy-Carducci, 1000 Brown St. Unit 101, Wauconda, Il. 60084.Phone 708 526-4344. fax 708 526-2687.