According to the myth, Hercules lured the Giants out of their hiding place and managed to defeat them during the Gigantomachy on the island of Mykonos. Actually it is said that the large rock formations which
are scattered around the island are the same petrified bodies of the Giants. The name of the island refers to a “pile of rocks” or to a “rocky area”. However, later legends support that the island’s name is associated with the local hero Mykonos. Mykonos was the son of the King of Delos, Anios, who in turn was the son of Apollo and of the nymph Roious, descendant of Dionysus.
Ancient – Roman – Byzantine Times
Originally, Mykonos was inhabited by Carians and Phoenicians. Around 1000 BC however the Ionians gained full control after having colonized the island. It is mentioned that Dates and Artafertis stopped on this poor but agricultural island in 490 BC.
The inhabitants were polytheists and the primary Gods that were worshiped at that time were Dionysus, Demeter, Zeus, Apollo, Poseidon and Hercules. Mykonos came under the control of the Romans during the reign of the Roman Empire and later became part of the Byzantine Empire. In this context, the worshiping rituals and traditions changed accordingly. During the 7th century, the Byzantines built the island’s defensive infrastructure against the Arab pirates and remained in control of the island until the end of the 12th century.
Venetocracy – Ottoman Reign
In 1204, with the fall of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade, Mykonos went in the hands of Andrea Ghisi and Ieremia Ghisi (relatives of Doge Dandollo – the Doge of Venice). The island was ravaged by the Catalans in 1292. Later, in 1390, it was given over to the full control of Venetians by the last descendant of the Ghisi family. From there on it became a united territorial ownership of the Venetians along with Tinos. During the Venetian reign, in 1537, Mykonos was destroyed by Hayreddin Barbarossa who was the admiral of Suleiman the Magnificent. While under the Ottoman reign the island was ruled by the leader of the Ottoman fleet, Kapudan Pasha. At that time the Ottomans imposed a system of self-governance placing commissioners who tried to maintain good relationships with both the Turks and the Venetians. The Venetians left the island after the fall of Tinos in 1718.
The years prior to the Greek revolution
Prior to the Greek revolution, the population of Mykonos ranged from 2000 to 5000 people; yet, it was greatly reinforced at various times by immigrants coming from Crete or other islands such as Naxos, Folegandros, Sikinos, Kimolos, etc. These immigrants would come to Mykonos mainly due to famine and diseases caused by the frequent wars that took place until the beginning of the 19th century. The island, due to its geographical position, picked up economically and became a very important stop for the resupply of the foreign merchant ships.
At the same time, the Mykonians, who were excellent sailors, prospered in shipping and trading after having eliminated many pirates’ raids. Many of them were actively involved in the uprising of the islands which is known as “Orlofika” (1770 – 1974). Fortunately, the uprising ended in good terms for Ekaterini the 2nd of Russia as well as for the islanders. Essentially, it formed favorable conditions for the Greek trading market.
The struggle for liberation – Manto Mavrogenous
The Mykonians were actively involved in all the battles leading to the Greek revolution and they played a very important role. Their leader towards this cause, Manto Mavrogenous, was the descendant of an aristocratic family and was brought up in Trieste guided by the ideas of Enlightenment. Mavrogenous used all of her family’s fortune in order to support the Greek cause. Moreover, she undertook the costs of maintenance for two fully equipped ships that were used in the revolution against the Ottoman Empire. In 1822 they managed to successfully repel the Turkish fleet and continued to struggle towards liberation.
19th – 20th century
With the establishment of the New Greek state Mykonos was “reborn” and a new dynamic bourgeois social order was brought to light. At that time Mykonians developed close ties with Southern Russia and more specifically with Odessa and Crimea. Moreover, they established good relationships with the cities of Livorno in Italy, Marseilles in France, Alexandria, Smyrna, Constantinople, as well as with the upcoming island of Siros. However, towards the end of the 19th century, with the development of steam technologies and the opening of the Corinth Canal (1904), the island’s economy quickly declined. This caused more and more Mykonians to leave the island in search of a better future. Before the 1st World War many Mykonians migrated to Russia. Later, most of them migrated to the United States as well as to the new urban centers in Greece, namely Piraeus and Athens. Mykonos picked up demographically again in the 1930’s as tourism became the island’s primary commercial service.
Delos – Archaeological Site and Excavations
The French Archaeological School of Athens began excavations on the island of Delos in 1873. Since that time Delos was highlighted as a region worth visiting by people who had the means to travel around Greece. As it was aforementioned, many famous people had started visiting Mykonos in the 1930’s. In this sense, tourists had the chance to admire the natural beauty of Mykonos and discover the importance of the archaeological findings in Delos.
During the years following the end of the 1st World War there was a tremendous growth of the tourist industry in Southern Europe. Mykonos effectively assimilated these new facts and with the hard work, the incomparable elegance and the entrepreneurial perception of its people, the island claimed one of the most enviable positions in the international tourist market.