Spetses Island Name
In antiquity the island was named “Pityonissos” and “Pityousa” from the ancient reek word “Pitys”, meaning pine tree. The name “Spetses” came from the Venetians who used to call it “Isola di Spezzie” meaning the island of aromas (spices).
There is also another version supporting that the name was derived from the Albanian word “Petsa” or “Petza” as an anagram of the ancient name “Pityousa”.
Archaeological findings in the area of Saint Marina indicate the existence of a Hellenistic settlement on the island dating back to the 3rd millennium B.C.
Agia Marina, Agia Paraskevi and Zogeria are natural harbours which served as a refuge for commercial ships to and from the Argolic Gulf during the peak of the State of Lerna (about 2300 B.C.).
The island of Spetses was mentioned as Pityousa by Strabo in the 1st century B.C. and by Pausanias in the 2nd century A.D.
Venetian Rule and Turkish Occupation
After the division of the Byzantine Empire the island came under Venetian reign from 1220 till 1460, when it was eventually occupied by the Turks.
In the 18th century the population consisted mainly in Peloponnesians and Arvanites, a tribe deriving from Albania, mostly coming from the opposite Peloponnesian coasts, who took refuge there from the Turkish persecution in the Peloponnese. These refugees created the old village of Spetses in the area of Kastelli.
Spetses cooperated with the Russians in the Russian-Turkish war (1768–1774) and, in response to these events, the Turks destroyed the only village on the island in 1770. The island was reoccupied in 1774 after the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca by locals who returned and by new settlers from the opposite coast of Peloponnese.
The island’s commercial fleet used the Russian flag and prospered through the establishment of trade routes with other countries. Gradually the settlement on Spetses began to expand beyond the Kastelli region and the wealth gained by the captains of the island from trade activities also contributed in the funding of the Greek Revolution against Turks in 1821.
Greek Revolution 1821
The island of Spetses along with the islands of Hydra and Psara played a major part in the Greek revolution for independence from 1821 to 1932. The local fleet consisted mainly in commercial ships, which were properly converted into naval combat ships and took part in battleships against the Turkish fleet, blockaded ports and helped in supplies’ transportation. The names of the locals Laskarina Bouboulina, Andreas Miaoulis, Hatzigiannis Mexis and Kosmas Barbatsis, entered the pantheon of the heroes of the revolution of 1821.
For almost a decade after the end of the Revolution, the island’s economy prospered due to its strong commercial fleet. The industrial revolution though brought up the steam engine which overrode the traditional sailing ships. The local population gradually decreased as they migrated to foreign countries for a better life.
An important personality for the island was Sotirios Anargyros, a benefactor who returned from the USA and helped in the island’s further development. On the island there is still the building of the college he founded which bears his name.
Tourism grew in Spetses during the 60’s and 70’s. Today the island is a famous Greek resort attracting medium to high level travelers which are mostly Greeks.