The Story Behind The Name
From the moment the boat reaches the port of Ios, you will immediately feel that something is different about this Cycladic Island. Ios is a mixture of bohemian chic, alternative culture and deep history. It is said that the Island took its name from the ancient Greek word “Ia”, which refers to the flowers that grow in abundance on the rocky soil. However, some believe that the origin of the name derives from the respective Phoenician word, which means “a pile of rocks”, something that makes more sense if we consider how far back in time this island’s history go. Today Greeks call it Ios or Nios.
The naturally protected port was of particular importance since the prehistoric times, serving as a passage towards Crete. One of the very first prehistoric settlements is located on the hills of Skarkos, which, along with the other smaller settlements that were scattered all over the island, can tell their own story about that period of time. The well-preserved buildings have two stories and stone paved floors, while the settlement seems to have a fully developed sewage system, much like the one used in the similar Santorini settlement. Numerous pottery items, tools and metallic, stone and bone utensils were discovered during the excavations.
Minoans, Achaeans and Phoenicians
In the 2nd millennium BC, Ios was under the influence of the Minoan and consecutively the Mycenaean civilization and culture that together with the eruption of the volcano in Santorini changed the course of the island’s history. The Achaeans’ domination was marked by the Cyclopean wall that can still be seen across the city hall. Then the Phoenicians arrived on the island and stayed until the 19th century BC. Being great mariners, they brought many trees from other countries, the most known of which is the palm tree. It’s noteworthy that coins from that era depict a palm tree on one side and Homer on the other.
Was It The Birthplace Of Homer?
Homer’s birthplace is claimed by many islands and places, even as far as in Asia Minor. According to the local tradition, the legendary poet’s mother was born in Ios and he himself was buried there. Locals actually point to the ancient town of Plakotos -at the northernmost part of the island-, where the rocky entrance to a tomb can be seen. Many ancient writers and historians researched this topic, like Stravon, Gaius Plinius Secundus and Pausanias, however, no physical evidence of Homer was ever found there.
The Venetian Rule And The Ottoman Empire
The Venetians ruled the island between the 13th and the 17th century, after the defeat of the Byzantine army by Dominicus Skiabbi. Remnants of the impressive 15th century Venetian Castle, which was built to protect the island from the pirates, can still be seen at the north end of the island. At the time, Naxos was the capital of the Duchy, under the leadership of Marcus Sanudus. The Turks then invaded the island, which was not liberated until the 19th century. Being one of the strongest naval forces, Ios proudly raised the flag of the 1821 Greek Revolution among the firsts. Ios took part in the naval battle of Kousantasi on July 9th 1821, in the 2nd National Assembly of Astros-Kynouria on 1823 and in the 3rd National Assembly in Troizina on 1827.
The Original Party Island
In the 1960s Ios was chosen by hippies from all around the world as the new hot spot and this is partly why it’s still considered as the original party island in Greece. Around the 1970s, the Cycladic Island became a very popular destination especially amongst the young European travelers. Today the younger crowds choose Ios for the innumerable bars and clubs and the all-day party mood that reflects the island’s reputation. With an excellent tourism infrastructure, including many hotels, Ios Island features amazing sandy beaches, a fully organized marina and an excellent road network. Numerous traditional taverns and restaurants serve fresh fish and seafood delicacies, while Ios main town, Hora, has the biggest number of bars and clubs amongst all islands in the Aegean Sea!