It is said that the island was named after the local hero Mykons, who was worshipped in antiquity and was considered to be a son or a grandson of the god Apollo.The island’s principal town is Mykonos town, also called “Chora”. Chora actually means “town’ in Greek and the Greeks always call a town Chora when the island happens to give its name to its principal town as well.
Archaeological findings show signs of the Neolithic tribe Kares on the island, dating back to 3000 years B.C However, it seems that the Ionians from Athens were the first ones to really settle in Mykonos in the early 11th century B.C occupying the island after throwing out its previous habitants.Delos Island was highly populated back then, which made Mykonos an important place for supplies and a transit spot when travelling out of Delos, only 2 km away.
In ancient times there were two towns on the island; In 490 b.c., the Persian generals Datis and Artaphernes made a brief stopover in Mykonos; It was a poor island with limited agricultural resources. People in the region were pantheists and worshiped gods like Dionysos, Dimitra, Zeus, Appolo, Poseidon and Hercules.
During the reign of the Roman Empire, the island belonged to the Romans and later formed part of the great Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines protected Mykonos against the Arabs in the 7th century and controlled it until the 12th century.
When Constantinople fell at the end of the Fourth Crusade (1204), Mykonos was occupied by the Ghizi overlord, belonging to the extended family of Dandolo, the Doge of Venice.The Catalans made a short appearance on the island, ransacking it in the years around 1292, until it was handed to the Venetians in 1390.Under Venetian domination in 1537, Mykonos was attacked by Barbarossa, the notorious admiral of Suleiman the Magnificent, and the Ottoman fleet gets installed on the island.
A situation of self-governing is imposed, supervised by Kapudan Pasha, the head of the Ottoman fleet, where a governor and a council of “syndics” are appointed, who always tried to keep a fair balance between the Venetians and Ottomans.The last Venetians withdrew definitively from the region in 1718, after the castle of Tinos fell in the hands of the Ottomans.
The Mykonians proved excellent sailors and tradesmen, which brought a great prosperity to the island and attracted colonies of immigrants from nearby islands and Crete, as well as regular pirate raids, until the late 18th century.During and after the “Orloff Insurrection”(led by the Orloff brothers, 1770-74), the island favoured by the profitable treaties, regarding the trade between the Ottomans and the Russian Empire.
When the Greek Revolution against the Turks broke out in 1821, the Mykonians played an important role and roused under the strong leading hand of the national heroine Mando Mavrogenous. Mavrogenous was actually a well-educated aristocrat raised with the most fervent ideas of the Enlightment and did not hesitate to take active part in the revolution, sacrificing all her family’s wealth to this great cause.
Mykonos formed part of the free Greek State since the first day that it was formed in 1830 and the sailing and merchant activity resurrected the island’s economy, consolidating trade relations with south Russia, Moldavia and Vlachia. Mykonian merchants travelled abroad and many of them even settled in other important commercial centres such as Constantinople, Smyrna, Alexandria, Livorno and Marseilles.
The island’s economy declined during the late 19th century, due to occurrences and events such as the opening of the Corinth Canal in 1904 and World War I. Many Myconians were amongst the Greeks that abandoned the island to find work in mainland Greece (mainly Athens and Piraeus) as well as in foreign lands of opportunities such as the US. Tourism as the answer to the local economy issue became apparent in the following decades, especially after the important excavations of the French School of Archeology began in Delos in 1873, bringing to light some very interesting findings.
Lovers of the Greek history and mythology were drawn to the region and started discovering along with the ancient ruins, also the virgin island of Mykonos and the famous Greek hospitality. It was so that in the early 30’s, many famous artists, politicians and wealthy Europeans were spending their vacation in Mykonos, attracting attention and putting the island on the map, so to speak.
Resurrecting after the catastrophic aftermath of World War II, Mykonos found its path back to growth and flourished as a very popular destination for the rich and famous during the 50’s. From then on, Mykonos has become the cosmopolitan island and famous tourist destination that we know it to be today. With its traditional architecture, the white-washed houses, the narrow streets “kalderimia” and the exuberant natural beauty that surrounds it, Mykonos remains a favourite amongst the most discerning travellers.