In the ancient years, the island that today we call “Skyros” had several different names like “The island of Magnites” (i.e. the island of the inhabitants of Magnesia), “Pelasgia” and “Dolopia”. At some point during the ancient times, the word “Skyros” appeared due to the geological composition of the island’s soil which includes gypsum (called “skiros” in Ancient Greek). This name became the dominant name over time.
According to another version, Skyros was named after the grandfather of Theseus who was called Skyrios. However, this is not a widely acknowledged version concerning the island’s name.
Findings at Palamari, on the northern part of the island, prove that Skyros was inhabited in the prehistoric times. The discovered prehistoric settlement was very organized and findings indicate that there were inhabitants on the island starting from the Neolithic Period. Skyros was first inhabited by the Karians, followed by the Pelasgians and the Dolopians. During the Mycenaean Period, the island was very prosperous and prosperity continued in the Geometrical and early Ancient Times.
Ancient & Classical Times
During the Minoan Period, Skyros was under rapid development, with a big increase of the population (due to Cretans who arrived on the island), the cultivation of grapes and olives and the adoption of the Minoan culture and religion. In 475 B.C., Kimon won the Dolopians and since then, Skyros became part of the Delos Alliance. In 468 B.C. Skyros belonged to the city-state of Athens and remained a part of it for 389 years. Then, it was conquered by the Persians and the Macedonians, and in 192 B.C. it returned to the city-state of Athens.
Roman & Byzantine Times
During the Roman period (86 B.C. to 395 A.D.), Skyros was not particularly prosperous or powerful. In 165 A.D. the island was struck by a huge plague that killed a large part of the population. In 268 A.D. Skyros was forayed by the Goths, along with Limnos and part of the mainland coast.
Skyros became part of the Byzantine Empire since the beginning of the later and Christians came to the Island and imposed their religion. Unfortunately, they destroyed many ancient temples and statues and created Orthodox churches in their place. Skyros also served as an exile location for personalities that were not welcome in the Byzantine Empire.
During the 9th century A.D., Skyros was repeatedly attacked by pirates a fact that forced Skyrians to leave the island. The only area that was saved was Chora with its powerful fortress. The Saracens used the Sarakiniko Island as a base and constantly attacked Skyros, until 961 A.D.
During the Venetian Period, Skyros was given to the famous Ghizi brothers Ieremias and Andreas. Then, it was given as a “dowry” to Markezini, Ieremias’ daughter. In 1269, Skyros revolted and was dominated by Michael Palaiologos, but returned to the Venetians in 1296.
The Ottoman Period
In 1403, Skyros was conquered by Souleiman. Between 1400n and 1450 A.D. the island was attacked by pirates. In 1453, Skyros was given again to the Venetians voluntarily. In 1471 Skyros became part of the Ottoman Empire but still remained under the Venetian management till 1537, when it was given to Barbarossa with no resistance (with a formal agreement). However, Barbarossa killed many inhabitants and destroyed the island which brought about the intervention of the Ottomans and peace was re-established. After that, Skyros remained relatively autonomous and self-managed, but it had to pay large amounts of taxes to the Ottoman Empire.
In 1650, Grimani conquered Skyros, killed the vast majority of men on the island and the remaining men were used as slaves/rowers on his ships. After that, life at Skyros became more tranquil and better organized.
In 1770, many Skyrians allied with Orloff and attacked the Turkish ships at Tsesmes. In 1790, Labros Katsonis attacked the Turkish ships in Linaria but did not accomplish anything; the Ottomans remained on the island.
From 1809 and on, a particular amount of Skyrian men were obliged to join the Ottoman fleet. The few Ottomans that lived on Skyros left the island after the Russian-Ottoman war.
The Greek Revolution
Many “kleftes” and “armatoloi”, fighters of the Greek revolution, lived in Skyros and organized their strategy. Skyrians that had left the island in 1816 due to a major attack by Arvanites, a Balkan tribe, returned and fought against the Ottoman Empire. Skyros was a free island in 1829, along with the other Sporades Islands.
Skyros is an island whose economy is mainly based on livestock. Artistic expression and agriculture are among the inhabitants’ main activities too, whereas tourism is also quite developed as it constitutes the principal type of services offered.
The island is famous for its unique architecture, which resembles to the Cycladic architecture, and for the balance between traditional and modern living.
Skyros is acknowledged as one of the islands in Greece that have a very interesting coastal line, with many diversified beaches, crystal clear waters and caves.