<Location> Cyclades, Greece
Naxos is the largest island of the Cyclades, and well known to the world for the impressive doorframe of Apollo Temple (in the photo).
The island is 30km long and 19km wide. Inland is quite mountainous. The highest mountains is 1004-metre high Mt. Zevs (Zeas); it is also the highest of all the Cyclades. The islands of Cyclades have oftern chronic problem with water, but Naxos is relatively fertile and produces olive, orange, lemon, figs.
In Antitiquity, its marble (Naxian marble) was renowned and was almost as famous as that of Paros (Parian marble).
As the island has always been important place from the Antiquity thorugh the Middle Ages, it is rich both in ancient remains and in Byzantine sites.
In Greek myth, Naxos is known as the place where Theseus left Ariadne. On the island of Crete, there was a monster called Minotaur, half ox half man, that lived in the Labyrinth and demanded young men and women as sacrifice. Theseus, hero from Athens, came to Crete to save these youth, and there met Ariadne, daughter of the king Minos. Ariadne fell in love with Theseus, and helped him to kill Minotaur and come out from the Labyrinth. Theseus had promised her to take to Athens, but changed his mind and, on their way to Athens, he left her on the island of Naxos. This story became the motif of famous opera, "Adriane auf Naxos" of Richard Strauss.
Naxos island has been inhabited from the prehistoric times, and from the 3rd millenium the Cycladic civilization flourished. During the Cycladic period the polulation formed small settlements and mostly scattered in the Eastern part of the island. Near the town of Naxos, at Grotta, a Cycladic settlement was found.
During the 2nd millenium, the Cycladic civilisation declined and the Minoan civilisation (from Crete) and the Mycenean civilisation (from Peloponnesos) emerged. At the middle of the first millenium, the Naxian population moved toward the West, and at Grotta a large Mycenean town was founded. At the Tsikalario site great tumuli (tombs, 10 metres across) of around 1000 BC. were discovered.
According to Herodotos, the Naxians were Ionians who had migrated from Athens. In the 8th century BC, Naxos supplied the Chalkis with ships to be sent to West; those settlers founded Naxos in Sicily. By the 7th century BC, Naxos was ruled by an oligarchic nobles. In the sixth century BC appeared the tyrant Lygdamis, supported by Peisistratos, tyrant of Athens. He took over the control over Naxos about 540 BC and continued until 524 when the Spartans chased him out, restoring the oligarchy.
During the 7th and 6th century, the Naxians seem to controlled Delos, the major cult centre of Apollo, as the most of the large scale buildings and dedications found on Delos were financed by Naxos. Naxos was then a centre of artistic production, and the best example is the statue of Artemis (c. 650 BC) and other larger-than-life kouroi, now in National Archaeological Museum in Athens. During the Persian war, the island was attacked by the Persians in 490 BC, and the Naxians fought with the other Greeks against the Persians at Salamis. The island, however, could not fully recover from the Persian raid, and in 471 it came under the Athenian dominion. During the Peloponnesian war, the Athenians and the Spartans tried to gain the island, and in 376 BC, the Athenians defeated the Lacedaimonians at the battle of Naxos.
During the Hellenistic period, first the island came under the influence of Egypt of the Ptolemies, then of the Macedonians, finally of the Rhodes. When the Romans put Naxos in the administrative district of Rhodes. In the early Christian period, the church of Naxos was in the bishopric of Rhodes.
During the Byzantine period, the island seems to have florished: some 500 churches and monasteries date back to this era. The centre of Naxos, during this time, was probably inland area, like the Trayaia-Apano Kastro and Sangri-Kastro t'Apalirou region. Before 1080, Naxos became seat of the provincial governor, and in 1088 gained the metropolitanship.
In 1207, Marco Sanudi occupied the island and founded the Venetian duchy of Naxos (or duchy of the Aegean). Sanudi then changed sides, and came under the protection of the Latin king, Henry of Flanders. He was rewarded with the titles of Duke of the Archipelago and Sovereign of the Dodecanese. He constructed his castle in Chora. The Sanudi's family and the succeeding Crispi dynasty ruled many of the Cyclades islands for 360 years. The Ottoman Turks took Naxos in 1566 (1564?), but the Venetian landlords continued to dominate the island, as there were few Turkish immigrants and the existing landowners agreed to pay the tribute to the Ottoman government. One of the reasons why there were so few Turkish immigrants was the fear of the western pirates. The ruling Turks were religiously tollerant and many important ecclesiastical constructions were executed under the Ottoman rule, for example, the monasteries of Fnaeromei and of St. Chrysostomos, the Cathedral of Chora and the church of St. Kyriakos also in Chora, the Uruline School in the Kastro, and St Eleutherios at Sangri. From 1770 to 1774, the island was came under the Russians.
In the second half of 18th century, a Naxian called Markakis Politis organised the peasants into the Community of Villages, and started the struggle against the Venetian landlords. In 1802, he was eventually captured and sent to Mytilene, where he was killed on the order of Pasha Kunguhi Hussein. Politis' son, Michalakis Markopolitis continued the work of his father and when the War of Independence began, he fought against the Turks. The Naxos declared the independence already in May 1821. Markopolitis later became a member of the Greek parliament and nominated as senator in 1851.