History of Alonissos
The name of Alonissos dates back to the early years of the independent Greek state. Interestingly enough, modern Alonissos was called "Ikos" in ancient times, whilst ancient references to "Alonissos" had probably to do with the neighbouring island of "Kira-Panagia". There are hardly any historical data related to the time period before and after the Paleolithic age, a time when Alonissos and the surrounding islands were likely to be part of the mainland and incorporated to the geographical region of Thessaly. However, according to mythic tradition, Ikos and Peparithos (modern Skopelos) were settled by the Cretans led by mythic hero Stafilos in the 16th century BC. These colonies begun to grow based on the cultivation of olive trees and vineyards.
The island has been following historical changes closely ever since. The local Minoan colony was subsequently transformed into a Mycenaean society. The Mycenaean town was likely to be founded nearby the area of modern Kokkinokastro, in the eastern part of the island. According to history and tradition, our island had always been appealing to heroes and other leading figures of ancient times. By the end of the Mycenaean era, Peleus (Achilles’ father) came here determined not to leave the island until the very last day of his glorious life.
Besides myth, ruins of a Neolithic settlement found near the cape of Kokkinokastro also suggest that Alonissos was one of the first Aegean islands to be inhabited. Important findings from the popular Cyclops’ cave reveal human presence on the neighbouring island of Gioura, dating back to the 9th millennium BC. After all, the passage of Alonissos had always been a well-known sea route; it was part of the route followed by Jason and his Argonauts on their way to Colchis and also part of the route chosen by the Achaeans on their way to Troy.
The history of Alonissos is long and interesting. In the Geometric period, the Dolopes (part of the great Pelasgian tribe) evolved into dangerous pirates troubling the Aegean Sea. This vicious tribe was finally suppressed by the Athenian fleet led by Cimon, who annexed all islands to the city of Athens. Thus, the island was annexed to the First Athenian Alliance in 476 BC.
During the Classical period, Ikos probably comprised two cities. In the 5th century BC, geographer Scylax described the island as having two cities. These two cities were likely to be located nearby modern Kokkinokastro (where there are nowadays ruins of ancient walls) and the Old Village of Alonissos, respectively. That was an era of great prosperity for the island. Ikos became well-known throughout the ancient world for its vineyards and excellent wine. Exports were prosperous, too. Local wine was exported in amphorae bearing the inscription "ΙΚΙΟΝ" on one of their handles. At the same time, the island also gained great geostrategic significance. Numerous shipwrecks found in the surrounding area confirm the fact that our island was one of the most important seaway passages of the ancient world. It was also chosen as the base of the Athenian fleet during the war against Phillip II of Macedon.
As already mentioned, our island was an appealing place to all aspiring conquerors of that era. In 190 BC, it was conquered by the Roman fleet. In 1204 AD, it was dominated by the Franks and thereafter by various conquerors such as the Veneti (1453 AD) and the Ottomans (1538 AD). During the Greek War of Independence in 1821 and the early years of the independent Greek state, Alonissos attracted people from the wider Greek region who successfully moulded the newly-established Greek community in collaboration with the local population.
In a few words, this is a place of mythic heroes, old shipwrecks and ancient cities lost in sea. Nature has endowed this privileged part of the world with fertile land. Alonissos is a charming island renowned, since ancient times, for its excellent wine. No wonder the island’s history is its most precious asset!