Naxos is the island of the Cyclades, which Homer named "Dia", because of the tradition that linked the island with Zeus, the greatest of the Olympian god. Other names it was given were "Little Sicily" "Stongyli", "Tragia", "Dionysias", "Callipolis", and "Lipara", until it finally got the name "Naxos" from the Carean leader, "Naxos". The Careans, together with the Thracians and the Pelasgians, were among the first to settle on Naxos.
Three thousands two hundreds years before Christ, Naxos was already inhabited by a short-stature people belonging to the Mediterranean type. In the period between 3200 and 2800 BC, a settlement developed on a coastal, unfortified site, named Lakkoudes.
It was on the side of a hill and its houses were sparsely built. Cycladic, Mycenean and geometric vases were found on this site. In 2500 BC the settlement moved inland for reasons of safety.
The inhabitants of Naxos, during this period, were daring seafarers and pirates. After 2500 BC, this area of the Cyclades became particularly important, because of its position on the crossroads of navigation and trade. Between 2500 BC and 1900 BC, Naxos enjoyed a period of wealth and development due to commerce and shipping.
Around 1400 BC, Achaeans settle in Naxos and the island developed close links with Mycenae, as is testified by the pottery of the period. When, after 1250 BC, the Mycenean civilization began to fall in a decline, a reshuffling of a population took place and new settlements were founded. One of this were founded in Naxos around 1200-1150 BC, and contributed to the revival of Mycenean commerce. Naxos traded at that time with Egypt and Cyprus, importing luxury goods and mainly exporting pottery. A tomb, which has been preserved at the Aplomata site in Naxos, belongs to this period.
The overseas trade of Naxos fell into decline, together with the permanent disappearance of Mycenean civilization around 1050 BC.
After 1000 BC, Ionians settle on Naxos. According to the tradition, they came from Athens under the leadership of Neleus, son of the Athenian king, Kodrus. It appears they took refuge on the island during a storm. According to another source, the Ionians settlers were led by Telecles and Archetimos.
In the years between 800 and 700 BC, Naxos was so poor that, in 734, together with the town of Chalkis in Euboea it was forced, in its need for land, to the found the colony of Naxos in Sicily. This event, of course, must also be attributed to the general colonizing spirit prevailing in the Helladic area at the time.
A structure still preserved in the Tsikalario area, dates from the geometric period. It was later transformed into a "peripteral" temple (the cella being surrounded by colonnade). During this period, Naxos was an artistic centre famous for its sculptors of statues and for its coins. Around 600 BC, the prosperity of Naxos is evidenced by the votive offerings of its inhabitants to the sanctuary of Delos and to the sanctuary of Athena on the Acropolis. At that time, - around 700?500 BC- the commercial competition between Naxos, on the one hand, and the islands of Paros and Miletus in Asia Minor on the other, became apparent. During this period, Naxos was a wealthy and powerful island with a strong navy and a position of supremacy among the Cyclades. According to Herodotus, it could marshal an army of 8,000 hoplites.
In the following period, the god Dionysus was worshipped on the island. A temple in his honour was erected near the ancient town of Naxos, on a small island to the northwest, called "Palati" today. The ancient temple dating between 550-525 BC- was turned into a Christian church during Byzantine times, around 500 AD. There was also a town on Naxos, called "Tragia", where the Tragian Apollo was worshipped. On the mountain of Zia, the Delian Apollo and Ariadne, the daughter of the Cretan king, Minos, were worshipped. According to mythology, Ariadne was abandoned on the island by Theseus on his return from Crete. Religious ceremonies were also held in honour for Aphrodite and the nymph Coronis who was supposed to have nursed Dionysus. Dionysus is said to have lived on Naxos and taught to its inhabitants to cultivate the vine. During the period he met Ariadne, who had be abandoned on the island by Theseus. He took her to the island of Lemnos and had two children by her. According to legend, Zeus also grew up on Naxos, where he dreamt of Olympus, the mountain of the gods.
Two more ancient temples on Naxos date from the period of Dionysian worship: one on the site of Iria dating from 550 BC approximately and the other, an Ionic on the site of Zangri, dating from 530-520 BC.
In 536 BC, a civil war broke out on Naxos between the upper and lower social classes. This led to the involvement of Athens and the overthrow of the landowners. Power the came into the hands of Lygdamis, who was overthrown, in 525, by philolaconian oligarchs. Finally, in 506 BC, and after renewed social upheavals, power was taken over by the democrats, while the aristocrats fled to Miletus in Asia Minor.
At the same time, Naxos became the greatest power of the time in the Cyclades. In 499 BC, the aristocrats of Naxos who had fled to Miletus, together with Aristagoras of Miletus and the Persians, besieged Naxos unsuccessfully for four months. In 490 BC, the island fell into the hands of the Persians, who burned the town temples and sold the inhabitants as slaves. In 489 BC the Athenian general, Miltiades, tried unsuccessfully to take Naxos, which remained under Persian rule until 479 BC. Naxian ship took part in the naval battle of Salamis, in 480 BC, and Naxians fought at the battle of Plataea in 479 BC.
During the entire archaic period and up to the classical period (after 479 BC), the art of sculpture flourished. The so-called Head of Copenhagen is considered the product of a Naxian workshop (580 BC approximately). Marble quarries also existed on the island. At Melanes we can still see the two "Kouros" carved from these quarries.
After 479 BC, Naxos became a member of the Athenian League. It was among those that did not pay taxes, as subjects, but supplied ships instead. This was the case only for Athens? strongest allies. In 469 BC, Naxos became the first city of Athenian League to break away, owning the existence of a powerful aristocracy on the island. Naxos was brought back to the Athenian League by Kimon, when he subjugated the island and obliged it to pay a yearly tax to Athens (between 6 ½ and 15 talents). The form of government remained aristocratic until 454 BC. At that time, 500 Athenians who had received allotments from Pericles, settled on Naxos. They were poor Athenians who had owned land on Paros. In 404 BC, when Athens was defeated during the Peloponnesian wars, a Spartan garrison occupied the island.
In 376 BC Naxos, allied to the Spartan navy, attacked Athens. The Athenians responded by attacking Naxos under the Athenian general Chabrias, with a strength of 83 ships. Chabrias even used siege machinery to reduce the island. From that time until 364 BC, Naxos found itself under Athenian influence, while from 364 to 363 BC it was controlled by Thebes. In 363 BC, Chabrias again brought Naxos under Athenian jurisdiction, thus limiting the island's autonomy (foe instance, Naxians would then have been tried by Athenian courts.).
In 338 BC, Athenian rule was followed by Macedonian rule. The island was then taken over ruled successively by Ptolemies of Egypt and, in 41 BC, by the Romans. During these years, Naxos was famous for its production of wine. Pitchers used for holding wine were found as far away as the Black Sea (around 400-300 BC).
After the period of Roman occupation, Naxos came under the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine town of the island was situated in the southern part, where the ruins of the Apaliris fortress stand. Christianity was brought to the island quite early.
In 650 BC, Naxos was plundered by Saracen pirates and from that time on, the island was at their mercy. At the time there was a good number of Jews on the island, apart from the Greeks and Latins. In the period between 500?700 AD, many small churches were built while, from the time of Iconoclasts, decorated with wall paintings but no icons. There are two churches of Aghios Artemios and Aghia Kyriaki (726-843 BC). There are motifs without icons in the church of Protathroni, at Chalki as well. Finally, at the period of 1000-1100, there is a combination in many churches of the classical tendency and the flat linear style of Byzantine painting.
In 1204, the Venetian Marco Sanudo takes Naxos and moves the capital of the island from interior to the site of the ancient town. Sanudo, with Naxos as his base, founded the Duchy of Naxos or of the Archipelago, giving it a feudal form of organisation. Evidence of this is provided by the many castles of the period which have survived to our day. Sanudo was followed by twenty dukes of other noble houses as well, such as the house of Crispi. During this period, from 1204 to 1300 approximately, the frescoes of the island?s churches tend to express natural beauty (Panaghia tou Ghialou 1288, Aghios Nicolaos at Sangri 1270, Aghios Ioannis Keramiou 1260-1270)
During the period of Frankish rule (1204-1537), Naxos was suffered the raids of western pirates while, after 1300, Turkish raids were added. The number of the male population fell so dramatically that, around 1400, women outnumbered men by two to one. In 1431 to 1432, Naxos was also plundered by the Genoese, while in 1477 it was pillaged by the Turks. However, despite the adverse circumstances, commerce flourished, as it was in the hands of the feudal lords who gradually developed into bourgeois merchants. In 1537, the Muslim pirate Khair-ed-Din Barbarossa occupied and plundered the island, which came under the power of Ottoman sultan when the Venetians were defeated by the Turks, in Crete.
In 1638, Naxos was inhabited by 7000 Greeks and 700 Latins while, in 1770, the number of the Greeks was rose to 10000 while that of the Latins fell to 600. In the years between 1576 and 1599, Naxians studied in the Greek College of Rome.
After 1566, a Turkish governor, the Voevod, was established on the island. He was in charge of the island?s administration together with the Christians epitropoi ("overseers") were responsible for collecting taxes ("haratch") for the Sultan. During the period of Ottoman rule there were three "koina"(communities) on Naxos, that of the Latins, that of the craftsmen and that of the peasants (at least as regards the period between 1669 and 1821).
From 1770 to 1774, Naxos came under Russian occupation, during which a Greek school was founded, and operated until 1774.
During the entire period of the Ottoman occupation, Naxos was not inhabited by Turks, a fact which lessened the danger of a conflict between the Greeks and Turks. It was also during this time that the common law of the island was codified.
Naxians were against participation in the Greek War of Independence in 1821, as they had become influenced by the antihellenic spirit of their Latin ex-rulers. In 1824 they event went so far as to expel the Greek representatives from the island. Some Naxians, however, fought with the Greek forces in Attika and on Crete.
In 1831, Naxians were on the side of the opposition, against the Greek Governor, Capodistrias. Political opponents of the Pagalos regime, in 1925, and of the Metaxas dictatorship, after 1936, were deported to the island, which was occupied by the Italians in 1941 and finally liberated, in October 1944.
The historical data comes from the archives of professor Nicos Kefaliniadis.
copyright ADAM EDITION
There are several museums in Naxos, the Archaeological Museum of Naxos is the most interesting and is located in Naxos main town, in the area of Kastro.
The Archaeological Museum houses objects and art works dating from the Late Neolithic period to the early Christian times.