The island took the name “Hydra” due to the abundant fresh water springs in ancient times when the island was actually called “Hydrea” deriving from the ancient Greek word for “water”.
Some archaeological findings indicate that the island was first inhabited during the late Neolithic period (3000-2600 BC). Later, around the 13th century BC the Dryopes an ancient pre-Hellenic race arrived at the island and then about 200 years later the Dorians took over the island. Some findings indicate that there is a possibility the island was under the rule of the King of Mycenae due to its position between the Peloponnese and Attica. During the 17th century the island found itself under the rule of Venice and from the 18th century until the Greek Revolution it was part of the Ottoman Empire.
Hydra started growing significantly around the 15th century when Arvanite families (a clan deriving from Albanians) from the Peloponnese, persecuted by the Ottomans found refuge and settled on the island. It is around then that the town of Hydra was built. Towards the end of the 16th century more Greek and Arvanite families from other parts of Greece settled on the island; these families later on became well known for their connections with the Greek Revolution. The island’s naval and commercial development started around then and the first school for mariners was built in 1645.
At the time of the Revolution, Hydra was already a very wealthy island due to its commercial fleet which got involved in the Napoleonic Wars carrying wheat. The island was able to contribute to the Greek cause 130 battleships that had a capacity of 5400 men and 2400 cannons. This fleet dominated the seas and greatly contributed to the liberation of parts of Greece from the Ottoman Empire.
What is unfortunate is the fact that after helping liberate Greece from the Ottoman Empire the island slowly but steadily fell into a decline and was never able to regain the glory of its past.
On the other hand five Prime Ministers, i.e. Giorgos Kountouriotis, Antonis Kriezis, Dimitrios Voulgaris, Athanasios Miaoulis and Petros Voulgaris and one President of the Greek Republic i.e. Pavlos Kountouriotis came from the island of Hydra.
The island has been a favourite destination for Greeks and foreigners for the last decades and holds strong connections with fine arts more than any other Greek island as various famous artists, like Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall, had visited and had been inspired by it. Besides, a branch of the School of Fine Arts has been operating on Hydra since 1936, housed in the mansion of E.Tobazis and X.Sachini.