Mythology plays a very important role in Naxos culture and history. Zeus,
Father of all gods, Demeter, Apollo, Dionysus, Semele, Theseus and Ariadne are some of the gods who were praised and worshiped by the ancient Naxian people and their influence travels through the ages until nowadays.
The history of Naxos starts ages before since it was inhabited for the first time in the 4th millenium B.C. The first signs of human habitation on the island are found in the regions of Grotta, Palatia (islet of Palaces), Moutsouna and in the cave of Zas, as well. Undoubtedly, the most important period of the early antiquity is the 3rd millenium when the Cycladic culture was flourishing and Naxos used to play an important role in the developments not only of the Cyclades but also of the wider Greek territory. The most significant and representative examples of that period are the Cycladic statuettes.
After the Mycenean and Geometric periods Naxos dynamically returns in the cultural creation during the archaic period (700-480 B.C.). It is about the period when Naxian artisans make the famous Kouroi (big statues of young males). However, the fame of the marble sculptors widely spreads on the Greek territory and some of their works of art can be found in Delos and Delphi, as well. Of course, it is also worth to be mentioned the architectural masterpieces of that period, such as the Temple of Apollo on the islet of Palaces (Palatia), the sanctuary of Iria and the temple in the region of Gyroulas, in Sagri bearing witness to the prosperous days that the island experienced during that period of time.
During the Classical period (490-404 B.C.) the island was attacked and surrendered to the Persian conquerors while the residents tried to escape in the mainland Naxos. Those who stayed behind were captured and became slaves. The town was devastated.
The great deal of churches in the region of Sagri and in the even wider area of Tragaia bears witness to the strong presence of the Byzantium during that period (between 4th and 13th centuries A.C.). Buildings like Apano Kastro (Upper Castle) and the Castle of Apaliros were constructed by the Byzantine Empire in order to reinforce the island’s defence against the threat of the pirates and the Arabs. The great number of churches also explains why the island has been characterized as a “small Mystras”. Panagia (Virgin Mary) Drosiani, Agios Georgios Diasorritis, Agios Mammas, Agios Artemios, Panagia Protothronos and Panagia Damniotissa are some of the most typical examples of hagiography and architecture that flourished in that period. So, this large number of monuments proves the prominent position that Naxos had among the Cycladic islands in religious, cultural and administrative level during the Byzantine period.
During the period of the Venetian rule and particularly in 1207 Marco Sanudo conquers Naxos and Andros and founds the Duchy of the Aegean Sea with Naxos as its capital. Despite being Venetian, Marco Sanudo recognized as emperor that of Istanbul and not that of Venice and as a result he was in constant friction and tension with the Venetians. This fact influenced a lot the island’s life of that period. The famous Towers of Naxos are buildings mainly constructed during the Venetian rule and they are considered to be symbols of dominance, wealth and power of the feudal lords.
During the Ottoman rule the Cyclades didn’t actually experience the Turkish yoke since the threat of the pirates kept them away. As a result the residents kept some special privileges such as to preserve their churches and build new ones, to wear their traditional clothes and to be involved in trade.
In the Modern times the long-suffering island of Naxos experiences many different conquerors but it tries to resist. In 1595 it opposes against the Turks and in 1563, 1643, 1670 and 1681 against the Venetians. In the 18th century Politis family and particularly Marcos Politis put up a sturdy resistance against the conquerors and he became a model to be followed for the local people who defended him. In the late 1820 the first members of the Society of Friends made their appearance, among them it was also Marcos Politis. In May of 1821 the revolution was proclaimed on the island.
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