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history of Kassos

history of Kassos

HOMER Way back in time Kassos was first inhabited by Phoenicians who named her "The island of sea foam". Later it was settled by Dorians previous to the Trojan War (1193 - 1184 BC), which was recorded by Homer in the Iliad, and he mentions the fact that Kassos too joined in the campaign against Troy. Kassos has remained the same name since Homer's time, previously having been called successively Amphi, Astravi and Achni. During the Persian Wars (490 - 479 BC) all the islands of the Eastern Mediterranean, including Kassos, were dominated by the all-powerful Athenian State (as recorded in 437 BC) and had to contribute 1000 drachmes annually. However, according to Demosthenes the General in this Rhodian War the unity of the islands was broken, and they eventually submitted to Macedonian rule. Throughout Alexander the Great's campaign Kassos maintained a neutral stance. During the wars with King Mithridates V (87 - 65 BC), all the islands put up a stout resistance to this ruler of the Barbarians on the Euxine Pontus.

Roman Empire : The Roman civil war following the assassination of Julius Caesar in 53 BC found the islands on the decline, but still retaining their autonomy until the reign of Emperor Vespasian (69 - 79). Thereafter Rhodes and the rest of the islands were decisively subjugated by the Romans, and finally, in the reign of Diocletian (284 - 305) they formed part of the 18th Province of the Roman Empire, Kassos being linked with Crete. Later on, in 730 the islands of the Eastern Aegean were named Dodecanisia (from "dodeka" - twelve and "nisia" - islands).

Middle Ages : During the period 825 - 961 the Spanish-based Arabs made their appearance, capturing and occupying Crete from which they made their onslaughts on the islands. The Emperor Nikephorus Phokas of Byzantium succesfully put an end to them, ridding the Aegean of a scourge, soon however to be replaced by Venetians, Genoese and Franks. At all times all the islands, Kassos included, were harassed by pirates: - Melitians, Turks, Tunisians, Algerians, Tripolitans, Doultsineans, Cretans, Maniots and Kephallonians. In 1207 the island was occupied by Venetians from Crete and in 1287 by Genoese. In 1306 Kassos and Karpathos were taken by a Venetian called Andrea Cornaro. Subject to continuous attacks by pirates, in 1418 was laid waste and re-settled, together with Astypalea, by Albanians.

Turkish occupation : In 1537 Kassos and Karpathos were occupied by the Turks. During the Turkish occupation all of the islands of the Dodecanese enjoyed a privilege granted by Sultan Suleiman, according to which all Turkish generals, admirals and civil officials, should the at any time come into contact with the islanders, were forbidden to maltreat them or interfere in their affairs. For this reason they paid a special tax in kind twice annually. They were allowed self-government by elected elders of the community. The only Turkish official present was the so-called Soumbasis who refrained from interfering in regional issues. According to accounts of Greek and foreign travellers, Kassos was deserted and in ruins from 1579 -1599. Settled a new before 1622, she detached herself from the Archbishopric of Karpathos and established herself as a Patriarchal Province. In 1670 the population totalled 5.000.

Russian occupation : During the Orlof Revolution (1768 - 1774) the island was occupied by the Russians who repeatedly embroiled themselves in clashes with the Greeks. After the signing of the Koutjouk Kainartji treaty (10-12 July 1774), the Russians evacuated the islands and they were once more under Turkish domination The French philosopher Claude Savary, who visited Kassos in 1778, gives a very vivid account of his landing in the historical little port known as the Bucca. He also writes of the legendary hospitality, the traditions, dress, customs, their bravery and most commendable abilities for survival. The Kassiots together with the rest of the islanders of the Dodecanese, despite Turkish oppression, managed to live their usual lives: they were self-ruled, maintained schools and upheld national and religious morale.

1824 : In 1821 Dimitris Themelis of Patmos was selected by the Philiki Eteria - the organisation responsible for the Greek uprising - to act as General Commissar, and he was sent to the islands together with Evangelos Mantzarakis of Kephallonia. In May 1822 he visited Kassos, a pioneer island in the Greek uprising: historical records extolling the Kassian contribution are numerous. During that time the Kassiots owned a mercantile fleet numbering approximately 100 well-armed vessels engaged in raiding nearby islands and the coasts of Karamania, Syria and Egypt. The power of Kassos at that time interfered with the plans of Mohamed Ali, the Turkish governor of Egypt who wanted to establish a base on Crete prior to attacking the Peloponnese, and he therefor determined to destroy Kassos. Forewarned of his intentions the Kassiots persistently appealed to Hydra - also with a powerful fleet - for help, but this was not forthcoming. The destruction of Kassos was entrusted to Ismail Gibraltar, a formidable ex-pirate of great experience who reached Kassos on the 27th May 1824 with a powerfull fleet of 45 ships, and a troop of 4.000 Albanians under the command of Hussein Bey. The battleships were drawn up at the tiny island of Makra, from which a bombardment began of Agia Marina opposite. The Kassian artillery along the shore put up a brave counter-attack and the siege went on until the 7th June when, despite the heroic resistance put up by the islanders, 1.500 Albanians managed to land at Antiperatos. It is possible that this, the only accessible spot west of Phry, was revealed by a traitor. The four men guarding it were killed and the Albanians proceeded to Agia Marina where the non-combattant population consisting mostly of women and children were relentlessy butchered. The whole island was plundered, destroyed and burnt to the ground. Kassiots such as Theodoros Kantartzis, Markos Maliarakis, Hatzinikolas Makris, N. Ioulios, N. Grigoriadis, Manolis Manolis and others, who fell for the ideals of freedom and the integral unity of the island, wrote the history of the holocaust with their heroic self-sacrifice.

Italian occupation : When the Greek Revolution came to its successfull end and a new nation was formed in 1829, Kassos and the rest of the Dodecanese were omitted; they were to remain under the Turkish yoke - a period of 400 years altogether. In 1912 the Italians, in their war against the Turks, occupied the Dodecanese, including of course Kassos. Nevertheless, the Kassiots, unable to supress their urge to manifest their nationalistic dreams, continued to press for union with the motherland. This however was something that did not take place until the 7th March 1948. At this point the fact must be mentioned that the population of Kassos has dwindled sadly. In 1821 it amounted to about 11.000, in 1912 it was 6.700, during the Italian occupation it dropped considerably, and today it is only about 1.200.



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