Aegean

Aegean

A brief introduction to the Aegean Islands

From the Mesolithic Age, the Aegean Islands ceased to be an obstacle and became a bridge joining the inhabitants of the region. Shipping, trade, economy, culture and social interactions developed in the archipelago and surrounding areas on the basis of communication and contact between the inhabitants. This was especially true after the permanent settlement of the islands 5000 years BC.

The islands were conquered by the Persians in the Greco-Persian Wars in the 5th century BC. After their release in 468 BC they made an alliance with Athens. However, during the Peloponnesian War (429-404 BC ) their allegiance swayed between Athens and Sparta. In 338 BC the Macedonians came into power followed by Ptolemaic Egypt. After this period the islands suffered the same fate as the rest of Greece by becoming the province of the Roman Empire. During the Byzantine era there is calm in the North Aegean, but from the 7th century on this was disrupted by Arab raids.

After the conquest of Constantinople by the Franks in 1204 the islands find themselves shared amongst the Venetians, Genoese and Frank princes (Frankokratia). Under this rule shipping and trade flourished. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the founding of the Ottoman Empire resulted in a period of destruction, plundering and persecution for the islands. The occupation also led to the decline of the Christian population. In the early 16th century the islands began to enjoy a period of prosperity.

The hostile aspirations of the raiders, especially the pirates, led to many settlements in a fortification organization. The outer houses are next to each other to form a wall leaving minimal entrances to the interior.  The streets of the villages are full of surprises, dead ends, width variations, unexpected sight openings.

Moni Fotodotis - Μονή Φωτοδότη
Kos Town Castle - Νερατζιάς
Rhodes - Παλιά Πόλη της Ρόδου
Mithymna - Μήθυμνα
Lindos - Λίνδος
Antimachia - Αντιμάχεια

Fortification settlements around the castles

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With a Venetian or Frankish castle center, the settlements grow peripherally in rings, with houses joined together to create a second wall that can protect them from simple pirates attacks.

Examples of such settlements are found in Astypalea, Patmos, Molyvos, Mytilini, Amorgos, Lindos, Rhodes, Skyros.

The defensive system of the fortifications is based on the stifling construction, with the houses next to each other creating the same firewall. The entrance to the settlement is made of large gates, which, in a period of danger, ensure protection. Such settlement is of Serifos, the Castle of Sifnos and Ano Syra. The castle of Naxos Town is one of the rare cases where an engineering design accurately determined the relation of the wall with the mansions and the houses, so that a fortified settlement could be created by them to establish the Venetian Duchy, the seat of all the Cyclades. The work of the first governor of the Duchy, Markos Sanoudos (1207), the castle, built on temple ruins, protected the Venetian colony from the pirates, raiders and the hostility of the locals.

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Below are some of the most impressive castles in Aegean you can admire

Patmos - Πάτμος

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In 1088, Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos gave the island of Patmos to the soldier-priest John Christodoulos. The greater part of the monastery was completed by Christodoulos three years later. He heavily fortified the exterior because of the threats of piracy and Seljuk Turks.
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Chios - Χίος

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The castle was constructed in the medieval period with its first construction phase having started in the 10th century by the Byzantines. The structures surviving to this day are part of later construction and expansion dated to the time when the Genoese, who maintained commercial concerns, ruled the island during the 14th to the 16th century. In the north of the castle area, there are Turkish baths with typical vaulted roofs.
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Feraklos - Φερακλος

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Feraklos Castle is a ruined medieval fortress, located on an 85 m-high hill overlooking the village of Charaki on the east coast of the island of Rhodes. The fortress was originally built in the Byzantine era. It was captured by the Knights Hospitaller on 20 September 1306. y 1408 it was in ruins, and was repaired under the Grand Masters Giovanni Battista Orsini (1467–76) and Pierre d'Aubusson (1476–1503) as a stronghold to protect the area.
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Saint Nicolas - Άγιος Νικόλαος

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The fortress or small castle of Agios Nikolaos is another fortress built by the Knights of Rhodes to strengthen the defense of the island. The fortress of Agios Nikolaos was built by the great magistrate Piero Raimondo Zacosta in 1464 in the place where was a chapel of Saint Nicholas. From the sieges and the earthquake of 1481, the castle of Agios Nikolaos suffered damage, and so it took repairs made by the Grand Master Pierre d 'Aubusson, who even strengthened it and gave it its final form.
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Meseoniko - Κάστρο Χάλκης

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The Castle is located on the hill of St. Nicholas over the old village of Halki. It was built by the Knights of St. John in the 15th century over the ancient Hellenistic citadel. At the gate the emblem of the Grand Master of the knights Pierre d’Aubusson (1476-1503) is engraved. It used to be the main village on the island and has been lived in permanently since the era of the Knights.
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Molyvos Castle - Κάστρο Μολύβου

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On the hill, there was an ancient acropolis since the 5th century BC. The Byzantines built a fortress in the place of the Acropolis, probably in the 6th century AD. In 1373 the Genoan Francis I ordered the reconstruction of the castle. The castle was destroyed when the Genoans took it in the 13th century. In 1373 the Genoans reconstructed the castle. The Ottomans, who occupied the island in 1462, made their own repairs and modifications in the following centuries.
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Milos Castle - Κάστρο Μήλου

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The Castle was built in the 13th century on the hill of Prophitis Ilias, on the northwest edge of the island (today’s Plaka). This Venetian Castle was not surrounded by walls, as it was the case with most of the Cycladic castles, but it was protected by the houses. Practically, the castle was used to protect the local population against the attacks of pirates, and also for the control of the ships’ movements in Adamantas bay.
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Paleokastro - Παλαιόκαστρο

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An ancient fortified settlement that existed until the 15th century. Some of the ruins became walls of the monastery. The Argos Castle is one of the 5 forts on the island mentioned by the Italian traveller Buondelmonti in his diary in 1420.
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Kalymnos - Κάλυμνος

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The Castle of Chora or Great Castle or Paleochora is one of the most famous attractions in Kalymnos. It is situated in the place where ancient Pothia once resided and it is considered as the medieval capital of Kalymnos. The castle takes its final form in 1495 and it is inhabited continuously until 1812 .
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Rhodes - Παλιά Πόλη της Ρόδου

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The palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, also called Kastello, is a castle in the castle, in the old town of Rhodes. The Grand Master's palace was the Knights' administrative center and the residence of the Magistrus. In place of the palace in antiquity, there was the lower Acropolis of Rhodes and a temple dedicated to the god Helios. Today, the Castle of the Grand Master works as a museum, is one of the most important medieval monuments in the world and of course the most important attraction of Rhodes.
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Antimachia - Αντιμάχεια

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Τhe castle was built in 14th century in the period that the Grand Master of the order of St. John was Hélion de Villeneuve. The Ottoman army used the castle as a military base until 1871. The local population had left it earlier in the 19th century. After that, the castle remained abandoned.
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Ataviros - Αταβύρος

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There was a watchtower on the rock since antiquity and later a Byzantine castle. The castle was rebuilt in the 15th century by the knights of the Order of Saint John who occupied the island since 1309. The reconstruction was done around 1476, when Grand Master of the Order was D’ Aubusson (1476-1503). t is certain that it passed under the control of the Turks after 1522, when the knights left the island.
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Karystos - Φρούριο Καρύστου

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The hanging hill where the present-day castle now stands was first fortified by the Byzantines in 1030. The medieval Castello Rosso was constructed on Byzantine foundations by the baron Ravano dalle Carceri a Lombard lord to whom the feud of Karystos was granted, between the years of 1209 - 1216. The Franks took back the castle with Bonifacio da Verona in 1295. After his death in 1318, his son in law, the Catalan Alfonso Fadrigo di Aragon, became the lord of Karystos and its castle.
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Kastellos -Καστελλός

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The castle of Kritinia (Kastello, for the locals),is a Venetian castle built in the 16th century on a hill about 131 metres above the village of Kritinia. In 1480, the Ottoman Turks sent 100.000 soldiers across Rhodes in an effort to invade and conquer the island with a big number of troops sent to Kritinia as well, attempting to seize the castle. However, regardless of the fact that the Turks outnumbered the Knights a lot, and after many bloodshed battles, the Turkish troops finally retreated.
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Kos - Κως

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The castle of Kos, better known as the castle of Nerantzia (castle of the sour orange tree), is the most important part of the fortifications constructed on the island by the Knights Templar at the end of the 14th century A.D. During the 19th century the castle was used as the barracks of the Turkish garrisson and as the home of the Turkish commander of the island.
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Lindos - Λίνδος

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It was already a fort in the time of the Trojan war and continued to be an acropolis during the archaic period, the Greek classical period, the Roman and the Byzantine periods and during the occupation of the island by the knights of the Order of Saint John. The Castle of the Knights of St John was built some time before 1317 on the foundations of older Byzantine fortifications.
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Leros - Λέρος

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In 1087, the castle was given by the emperor Alexios I Komnenos to osios Christodoulos, the same monk who founded the Monastery of Patmos. It seems that the castle was already in bad condition then. In the 13th century Leros was captured by the Genoans and later by the Venetians. The Ottomans tried to take the castle in 1505 and 1508 without success. Finally, they got the island in 1522. In 1309, the Knights of Saint John arrived and during their occupation, some serious reinforcement and restoration work was done in the castle.
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Monolithos - Μονόλιθος

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The castle in Monolithos was one of the four main castles of Rhodes at the time of the Knights. It is built on a hill that rises above a valley and dominates all over the area near the village of Monolithos in southwest Rhodes. The castle was an ancient fortress and a Byzantine castle that during the Knights' time had declined. Grand Master D'Aubusson (1476-1503) who built castles all over Rhodes in order to strengthen the defense of the island and give fortifications that can be protected by the residents in various raids and sieges, built the castle of Monolithos 1476.
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Mithymna - Μήθυμνα

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On the hill, there was an ancient acropolis since the 5th century BC. The Byzantines built a fortress in the place of the Acropolis, probably in the 6th century AD. In 1373 the Genoan Francis I ordered the reconstruction of the castle. The castle was destroyed when the Genoans took it in the 13th century. In 1373 the Genoans reconstructed the castle. The Ottomans, who occupied the island in 1462, made their own repairs and modifications in the following centuries.
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Mytilene - Μυτιλήνη

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The Mytilene castle fortress sits on a hill between the city’s northern and southern ports. From the writing of Homer, the island of Lesbos has been an organized city since 1054 BC. A Temple of Apollo may have existed within the Castle infrastructure. The first significant alterations to the fortress were made by Francesco I Gattilusio in 1373. The castle was bombarded and captured by the Ottomans in 1462. In 1501,
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Windmill Rhodes - Ανεμόμυλος Ρόδου

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It is evident that at the port of Rhodes there were several windmills already in the 15th century!
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Myrina - Μύρινα

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There was an ancient acropolis on the rock since the 13th century BC. The medieval castle was first built by the Byzantines in the beginning of the 12th century. In 1085, Emperor Andronikos I Komnenos ordered the reinforcement of the castle. Following the dissolution and division of the Byzantine Empire after the Fourth Crusade, Lemnos was apportioned to the Latin Empire, and given, in 1207, as a fief to the Venetian Navigajoso family under the megadux Filocalo Navigajoso. The island was ceded to the Ottomans by the 1479 Treaty of Constantinople which ended the First Ottoman-Venetian War.
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Neratzia - Νερατζιάς

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The Castle of Nerantzia (or Castle of the Knights) was built by the Knights of Rhodes (or the knights of the Order of Saint John), for the fear of the Ottomans. In 1522 the knights of St. John lost the island to the Turks.
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Moni Fotodotis - Μονή Φωτοδότη

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It was a Byzantine three-aisled basilica with a narthex that in the 16th century changed into a four-pillar domed church with a narthex while it was surrounded by a tower. There are various theories about the date that was built: others insist tha was built in 1182 AD and others in 1497 AD, on the ruins of an ancient castle.
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Kos Town Castle - Νερατζιάς

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The castle of Kos, better known as the castle of Nerantzia, is the most important part of the Knight's fortification built by the Knights of St. John in the late 14th century. At the end of Τhe 14th and the beginning of the 15th century, Kos was densely planted with lemon trees and sunflowers, and it was named Nerantzia and its Castle of Nerantzia. In the 19th century, the Castle of Nerantzia was used as the barracks of the Turkish guard and the residence of the Turkish governor.
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Asklipio - Ασκληπιείο

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In Asklipio, like in all other coastal areas, there is a stone fort castle that was built by the Knights of Saint John in the 13th century, at the top of the highest hill, in order for the knights to be able to watch the activities of the enemies taking place in the sea.
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Kallistis - Καλλιστής

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It was built around 1580. In the beginning, at its top there was a tower that was later demolished and the Monastery of St Georgios was built in its place.
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Vasiliko - Βασιλικό

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A Venetian tower inside the village Vasiliko of Euboea that has been renovated recently. It was built around the end of the 14th to the beginning of the 15th century, a period in which the Venetians had prevailed in Euboea and finalized the design of these big square towers.
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Amorgos - Κάστρο Αμοργού

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The castle was built in the beginning of the 13th century by the Venetian lords of the island. Amorgos like the rest of Cyclades became part of the Duchy of Naxos of the Venetian Marco Sanudo. Sanudo granted as a fief Amorgos to brothers Andrea & Geremiah Ghizi. The Ghizi built the castle soon after they got the island.
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Astypalaia - Κάστρο Αστυπάλαιας

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The most intense period for Astypalaia was when the island was under Venetian rule. After the abolition of the Byzantine Empire by the Franks in 1204 and the establishment of the Ducat of Naxos, its Venetian founder, Markos Sanoudas, conceded Astypalaia to the nobleman John Querini, who was also of Venetian descent.
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Castelli of Pyrgos

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It was built around 1580. In the beginning, at its top there was a tower that was later demolished and the Monastery of St Georgios was built in its place.
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Naoussa - Καστέλι Νάουσας

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The Venetian occupation in Paros lasted from 1207, when the Duchy of Naxos was founded by Marco Sanudo, until 1537, when the island was looted by the Ottoman pirate Hayredin Barbarossa. The Venetians built a castle in Naoussa initially in the end of the 13th century or the beginning of the 14th century. During the 15th century, the rulers of the island were the Sommaripa family who renovatedn the castle at the port of Naoussa to protect the island from the pirates.
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Panagia - Κάστρο Παναγιάς

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The Castle was build at the 11th century by the Byzantine empiror Alexios Komninos and it was given to the Bishop Christodulos as well with the Castle of Patmos.It was later occupide by the St.John's Knight's and Later on By the Ottomans.
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Feraklos - Κάστρο Φερακλός

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The fortress was originally built in the Byzantine era. It was captured by the Knights Hospitaller on 20 September 1306, being their first possession on the island that would become their base. By 1408 it was in ruins, and was repaired under the Grand Masters Giovanni Battista Orsini (1467–76) and Pierre d'Aubusson (1476–1503) as a stronghold to protect the area. The fort was captured by the Ottoman Empire in 1523 after a long siege.
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Gratsia Tower - Πύργος Γρατσία

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Above its magnificent entrance there is the coat of arms of G. Fragopoulos while when it was built, in the 17th century, it belonged to the renowned Barozzi family. Today, it has been restored and it is still used as a residence while it is considered to be an extraordinary monument of the island.
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Virgin of Panteli Castle

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The castle of Leros, was built in the 11th century by the Byzantines. In 1087, the castle was given by the emperor Alexios I Komnenos to osios Christodoulos, the same monk who founded the Monastery of Patmos. It seems that the castle was already in bad condition then. In the 13th century Leros was captured by the Genoans and later by the Venetians. In 1309, the Knights of Saint John arrived and during their occupation, some serious reinforcement and restoration work was done in the castle. The Ottomans tried to take the castle in 1505 and 1508 without success. Finally, they got the island in 1522,
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Ancient Greek archaeological sites in Crete

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