The history of Kos goes way back in time, as fossils found on the island prove that most probably it was once part of a vast mainland, known as the “Aegean Continent”.
In prehistoric times many tribes inhabited the island periodically, such as the Phoenicians, the Cretans, the Leleges and the Kareans. According to Homer, the Koans participated in the Trojan War on 1194 BC, but after the fall of Troy, Asklepeades, who were the ancestors of Hippocrates, were shipwrecked on the shores of Kos, where they started worshipping “Asklepeios the Saviour”.
During the 11th century BC, Kos, like many other Aegean islands including the shores of Asia Minor, was colonized by the Dorians and saw a great cultural and economic development. At the end of the 6th century BC, the Persian King Darios occupied many Greek cities in the Asia Minor and the island of Kos. After the Persians’ defeat in the naval battle of Salamina though, the Koans expelled the Persians and together with the Athenian Federation, governed the Aegean from the island of Delos.
During the Peloponnesian wars (431 - 404 BC) Kos allied with the Athenians and this is how democracy was introduced to the island. Culture, education and economy greatly flourished during this period.
Hippocrates, the founder of Medical Science, an important philosopher and a great humanist, was born on the island of Kos in mid 5th century BC. It seems that Kos already had a tradition in the field of Medicine, as both Asklipieio and a famous medical school existed on the island even before Hippocrates.
According to ancient traditions, Hippocrates died at the age of 104. They say that for many years a swarm of bees was flying around his tomb and the honey they produced had allegedly healing qualities!
From the Byzantine Empire until today
Kos flourished again, as a district of the Byzantine Empire. During the 11th century the island was pillaged by the Arabs and after the conquest of Constantinople by the Francs in 1204, Kos was occupied by the Venetians, the Genovese and then the Knights of St. John, who constructed most of the island’s strong fortresses, well preserved until today.
Due to its strategic geographical position Kos was continuously attacked by the Arabs and the Turks. In 1457 AD it was looted by the powerful Turkish army and later subdued to Sultan Suleiman. In 1523 Suleiman through an act of treason managed to take over Rhodes and the Knights abandoned both islands, which were left to the mercy of the Turks. The Turkish occupation lasted for almost 4 centuries and Greek culture could only be preserved through the secret teaching of language and history in hidden schools, grottos and monasteries. Persecution and killings by the Turks became almost an everyday occurrence.
In the beginning of the 20th century and more specifically in 1912, Italy took over Kos and the rest of the Dodecanese islands. The Italians were actually welcomed as liberators but, as it turned out later, the Greeks ended up under the Italian Fascist rule and went into a terrible decadence. After a short occupation by the Germans, Kos and the Dodecanese were finally reunited with Greece on March 7th 1948.