Skopelos owes its name to the large number of reefs along its coasts (“Skopelos” is the Greek word for reef). The name Skopelos was first mentioned in the 2nd century A.D. and has since then replaced the island’s previous name, which was “Peparithos”. Peparithos was one of the two sons of Dionysus and Ariadne and the grandson of Minoas, the ancient king of Crete. Although Peparithos’ brother, Stafylos, arrived first at the island, it was named after Peparithos. However, some say that it was Peparithos who arrived first on the island.
There are signs of inhabitance of Skopelos in the Neolithic Period, in the 3rd millennium B.C. and more specifically between 2.800 and 2.000 B.C. when inhabitants from Asia Minor arrived to the Island. Around 1.800 B.C. Prince Stafylos arrived at the homonymous bay and the whole island was colonized by Cretans. At Stafylos archaeologists discovered the royal grave including pots, jewels and a sword with a golden handhold, exhibited today at the Archaeological Museum of Athens.
During the 8th century B.C. Skopelos was under the control or the city-state Halkida. Later, it was conquered by the Athenians, the Macedonians (338 - 146 b.C.) and the Romans in 27 B.C. The major cities in the Ancient Times were Stafylos, Panormos, Knossos which is called Glossa today, and Selinounda, which is called Loutraki. Throughout the Ancient Times, Skopelos was called Peparithos and was renowned for its wine. The ancient writer Sophocles mentions a wine merchant who lost his way in Peparithos in his play “Philoctitis”.
Roman & Byzantine Times
During the Roman (27 B.C.-330 A.D.) and Byzantine Times (330 B.C. - 204 A.D.), Skopelos was declining. Specifically during the Byzantine Times, Skopelos was an island of exile. In the 4th century A.D., the island’s bishop Riginos was decapitated after being tortured in order to deny his faith in Jesus Christ, which of course he never did. Some time later he was recognized as a Saint by the Greek Orthodox Church. Until today, the inhabitants of Skopelos honor Saint Riginos by naming their children after him.
From 1204 to 1453, Skopelos belonged to the Ghisi family, a family of aristocrats from Venice. In 1453, the inhabitants of Skopelos decided to “offer” the island to the Venetians, in order to avoid 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 Ottoman Period
The Ottoman occupation was rather mild, despite the fact that when the Ottomans arrived at Skopelos in 1538 under the leadership of Barbarossa, they killed many inhabitants and destroyed a part of the island. Skopelos was self-governed and had two main obligations: to pay taxes to the Ottoman Empire and to send 30 sailors each year to serve the Ottoman navy. What is impressive is that not even one person of Ottoman origin ever lived in Skopelos during this period.
Around 1750 B.C., many “kleftes” and “armatoloi” (supporters of the idea of freedom for Greece, the resistance party of the period) from Epirus and Thessalia came to Skopelos. Skopelos’ inhabitants participated in the Greek revolution of 1821 by helping out whenever it was necessary and by mainly providing ships built ιn the island’s shipyards. In 1830, Skopelos became part of the First Hellenic Republic under the London Protocol.
During the 2nd World War, Skopelos was occupied by the Italians (June 1941-September 1943) and then by the Germans (September 1943-October 1944). With the end of the War in 1944, Skopelos was free, along with the rest of Greece. During the Greek Civil War, many inhabitants left the island and migrated to the mainland and abroad. Around 1980, Skopelos was considered as one of the most attractive destinations in Greece, which led to the development of tourism and the return of many old inhabitants to the island.
Skopelos has a rich artistic culture and ceramic pottery, woodcarving and weaving are included among the inhabitants’ activities. In addition, Skopelos boasts one of the largest wooden shipbuilding industries in modern Greece, which started to decline with the introduction of steamships. Today, the art of wooden shipbuilding has disappeared but local craftsmen still repair old wooden vessels.
Skopelos is a top destination in Greece, especially after the filming of the “Mamma Mia” movie. The island attracts many travelers, both from Greece and abroad, due to its undeniable beauties and the fact that it is the greenest island of the country.