The word “Alonissos” is composed of the ancient Greek word “Als”, which means sea and salt in ancient Greek, and the word “nisos”, which means island. So, Alonissos is the island that comes out of the sea. However, the island that we call today “Alonissos” was called Ikos in the Ancient times, whereas Alonissos was the island that today is called “Kyra Panagia”. Alonissos was assigned this name in 1838, when the king of Greece was Othonas. In 1838 all Greek territories that were united with the mainland were reassigned their Greek names after the Ottoman occupation. So, Alonissos was assigned by mistake the name of another island and this name was established ever since. Before the assignment of the Alonissos name, the island was called “Liadromia”.
There are signs of inhabitance of Alonissos in the Paleolithic Period at Kokkinokastro, Lefto Gyalos and Glyfa. During that time, Alonissos, the other islands of the Sporades complex and the area of Thessaly in the mainland probably formed a single part of land. Around 1,800 B.C., when prince Stafylos led the Cretans to Sporades, they inhabited also Ikos (i.e. Alonissos). This is when the cultivation of vines and olive trees began, and Ikos became an important producer of wine and olive oil.
At the beginning of the Ancient times, Ikos was a “dipole” as mentioned by the Ancient geographer Skylax in the 5th century B.C. There were two cities: one at Kokkinokastro, where the ancient wall is still visible, and the other at the position of Old Alonissos, at about 3 km. from Patitiri. In 476 B.C. the island entered the Athenian Alliance, since Athens liberated Ikos from the Dolopians, which were part of the Pelasgians. The Dolopians were dominant at Ikos since the Geometric Period, but eventually they became violent pirates and Ikos suffered during the last years of their dominance. In the classical period, Ikos was very important for the Athenian Alliance due to its geographic position. The Athenians used the island as a starting point for their battles against Philippos. In 190 B.C., the Romans occupied Ikos and there is not much information on the island till the 13th century A.D.
Roman & Byzantine Times
As mentioned above, there is not much information on the island during the Roman period. According to the sophist Filostratos, during the 3rd century D.D., Ikos belonged to Hymnaios, an important wine producer from Peparithos (i.e. Skopelos) and the whole island was involved in the cultivation of vines, production of wine and creation of ceramic pots for its transportation to other places. Later on, Ikos was part of the Thessaly Province, which is the period during which the walls of the castle in Old Alonissos were built.
In 1204 Alonissos became a territory of the Venetians and, starting in 1207, it belonged to the Ghisi family, a family of aristocrats from Venice. After that, the island was conquered by many different owners and in 1453 it became again a territory of the Venetians in order to prevent the dominance of the Ottomans. Venetians were the island’s owners until 1538 A.D., when the victory of the notorious Algerian pirate Barbarossa led to the beginning of the Ottomans’ occupation (the same thing happened to Skopelos too).
The Ottoman Period
The Ottoman occupation lasted until 1830, when the island was united with the rest of Greece. Right after 1538, many inhabitants left the island and moved to the mainland. Some years later, they returned to Liadromia (this is how Alonissos was called at the time), where the situation during the Ottoman occupation was not that difficult.
During the Greek Revolution in 1821, many inhabitants from the mainland came to the island and mixed themselves with local inhabitants. The Liadromia inhabitants participated in the Greek Revolution, by helping out whenever it was necessary, but mainly providing ships and sailors. In 1830, Liadromia became part of the First Hellenic Republic under the London Protocol and in 1838 its name was changed from Liadromia to Alonissos.
During the 2nd World War, many men from Alonissos lost their lives in battles taking place in the mainland and in the Greek-Albanian borders. However, the most important event in the recent history of the island was the great earthquake in 1965. This earthquake (6.1 of the Richter scale) destroyed the Old Alonissos to a great extend and inhabitants were relocated to Patitiri, which was till then a commercial port. Also, in 1958, the Alonissos vines were attacked by the grapevines pest “phylloxera”, which destroyed the majority of the vines. So, the inhabitants turned to other sources of economic activity, like fishing, animal breeding and agriculture. Another important event in the island’s history took place in 1992, when a part of the sea at the northwestern side of Alonissos was characterized as a Sea Park and, since then, has been protected by international legislation. This has created an increasing interest in the island and its natural environment. Today, the tourism industry is still under development and is gaining an increasing percentage of economic activity, especially from May to September: the wonderful Sea Park of Alonissos, its gorgeous beaches and the unique beauty of pine forests hanging over the sea make the island an attractive travel destination.