History of Kos

Mythological Origins

The island of Kos in Greece holds a rich cultural heritage that dates back to ancient times. While the island is known for its stunning beaches and charming villages, it is the mythology and legends surrounding it that truly make it a fascinating destination. In this section, we will delve into the mythology of Kos Island and explore the legends that have been passed down through generations.

According to Greek mythology, Kos was named after one of Apollo’s sons who was also a healer. It is said that Asclepius was born on this island and learned medicine from his father before becoming the god of healing himself. The most well-known myth involving Asclepius is when Zeus struck him with lightning for bringing people back to life from the dead. This ultimately led to him being immortalized as the constellation Ophiuchus, which can be seen in the night sky.

Another legend states that Kos was where Phoebus Apollo met Daphne, a nymph who he fell deeply in love with. However, just before they could be united, Daphne begged her father, river god Peneus, to turn her into a laurel tree to escape Apollo’s advances. To honor her memory and his unrequited love, Apollo declared Kos as sacred ground and filled it with laurel trees.

The island also has ties to Greek hero Heracles (Hercules), who had many adventures across Greece seeking redemption for his crimes. One such adventure took him to Kos Island where he slayed a giant called Antaeus by lifting him off the ground until he lost strength. To commemorate this momentous event, an ancient temple dedicated to Heracles was built on Kos.

Apart from these prominent figures in Greek mythology, there are many other smaller myths associated with various locations on Kos Island. For example, locals believe that if you drink from the Fountain of Kastri near Zia village at sunset while making a wish, it will come true. Additionally, there is a belief that if you swim through the narrow channel connecting Kefalos Bay to the open sea, you will be granted eternal youth.

The tales and legends surrounding Kos Island add depth and intrigue to its already captivating history. Exploring these myths not only gives visitors a deeper understanding of the island but also allows them to connect with the island’s ancient roots. So on your visit to Kos, don’t miss out on discovering the fascinating mythology that makes this island truly unique.

Early History

The early history of Kos Island extends back to prehistoric times, with evidence suggesting that the island was inhabited by humans as far back as 3000 BC. The earliest traces of human activity on the island can be found in the form of stone tools and pottery fragments, indicating that the inhabitants were engaged in hunting and farming.

During this time, the island was likely inhabited by various tribes who lived off the land and depended on farming for sustenance. However, little is known about these ancient civilizations due to a lack of written records and limited archaeological findings.

It wasn’t until around 1200 BC that Kos came under the influence of Mycenaean Greece. During this period, the island became an important trading center due to its strategic location between Greece and Asia Minor. The Mycenaeans brought with them advanced technology such as bronze metallurgy and their cultural influence can still be seen in some of the artifacts discovered on the island.

As trade flourished on Kos Island, so did its wealth and power. This attracted many invaders throughout its early history, including Egyptians, Persians, and Phoenicians. However, it wasn’t until 700 BC that Greek settlements began to emerge on the island.

The first major Greek settlement was established by Dorians from mainland Greece around 650 BC. They founded a city-state called Astypalaia (now known as Astypalea) which would become one of Kos’ most important cities during ancient times.

In 480 BC, when much of Greece was conquered by Persia under King Xerxes I, Kos joined forces with other city-states such as Athens and Sparta in defeating the Persian army at Thermopylae.

The following century saw Kos flourish both culturally and economically under Athenian rule during a period referred to as “Golden Age” of Athens. This led to a significant increase in architectural achievements such as temples dedicated to gods like Apollo and Athena.

In 366 BC, Kos officially became a part of the Delian League, an alliance formed by Athens to protect Greece from Persian invasions. However, this alliance would eventually lead to their downfall as Sparta and Persia joined forces to defeat Athens in the Peloponnesian War.

Despite these political upheavals, it was during this period that some of Kos’ most famous inhabitants were born, including Hippocrates – known as the “Father of Medicine.”

Kos Island continued to thrive under various rulers such as Macedonian King Philip II and Alexander the Great. It wasn’t until 141 BC that Roman general Quintus Caecilius Metellus conquered the island and made it a part of the Roman Republic.

The early history of Kos Island is rich with cultural exchanges and conquests by various civilizations. From prehistoric times to ancient Greece, its strategic location has played a significant role in shaping its history and leaving behind a legacy that is still evident on the island today.

Roman Rule

After being established as a Doric colony in the 11th century BC, Kos flourished under Greek rule for several centuries. The island was known for its skilled physicians and philosophers, such as Hippocrates – widely considered to be the father of modern medicine – who was born here around 460 BC. During this time, important buildings were constructed including temples dedicated to gods like Asclepius, Apollo, and Athena.

In 366 BC, Kos became part of Alexander the Great’s empire before it was brought under Egyptian control by Ptolemy I Soter in 305 BC. This marked a major shift towards Hellenistic influence on the island’s architecture and art. The most notable example of this can be seen in Asklepieion – an expansive healing sanctuary that served as a testament to Ptolemaic power.

However, it wasn’t until 129 BC that Kos fell under Roman rule when it became part of Asia Province after being conquered by Julius Caesar during his campaigns against Pompey. Under Roman control, Kos was further developed with new public buildings such as gymnasiums and public baths being built across the island.

Despite changing hands between various empires over time – including Byzantine rule from 395 AD onwards – Kos continued to thrive as an important trading hub until it fell into decline during medieval times due to pirate raids from neighboring islands.

The Influence of Alexander the Great and the Macedonians

When discussing the history of Kos Island, it is impossible to ignore the influence of Alexander the Great and his father, Philip II of Macedon. In fact, the island played a crucial role in their military campaigns and conquests.

In 336 BC, Alexander embarked on a mission to expand his empire into Asia. He first conquered Persia and then moved further east to Egypt and India. However, before starting this expedition, he made a stop in Kos to secure its support for his campaign.

Kos Island was strategically located along trade routes between Greece and Asia Minor, making it an important port for both military operations and commerce. Alexander recognized its strategic value and wanted to ensure that it would be under friendly control during his absence.

The people of Kos welcomed him with open arms and offered their support by providing ships for transportation of troops, supplies, and weapons during his journey. In return, he granted them special privileges such as exemption from taxes and declared them allies with Macedon.

It is believed that it was on Kos Island where Alexander received official confirmation from an oracle about being divine descent – a fact that boosted his confidence on his quest for world domination.

Furthermore, after conquering Egypt in 332 BC., he announced himself as Pharaoh – a title previously held by Persian rulers who were considered gods by Egyptians – solidifying not only political but also religious influence over territories conquered by Greeks known as Hellenization process.

Kos Island continued to play a significant role during Alexander’s reign even after he left for Asia. According to ancient writings, it served as a key hub for the transportation of goods and soldiers needed for his military campaigns.

Alexander the Great and the Macedonians played a crucial role in shaping the history of Kos Island. Their influence not only helped secure the island’s strategic importance but also contributed to its cultural and religious development through Hellenization.


Byzantine and Ottoman Eras

The history of Kos Island is both rich and complex, reflecting the numerous civilizations that have inhabited it over the centuries. One of the most significant periods in its past is the Byzantine and Ottoman eras, which saw a fusion of cultures that contributed to shaping the island’s unique identity.

The Byzantine era began in 330 AD when Emperor Constantine established Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) as his capital, and thus shifted the power center of the Roman Empire from Rome to the east. This marked a turning point for Kos Island as it became part of the Byzantine Empire, which lasted for over 1000 years until its fall in 1453 AD. During this time, Kos experienced an influx of Greek immigrants who brought with them their language, customs, and Orthodox Christianity.

One of the most remarkable legacies of the Byzantine era on Kos Island is undoubtedly its architecture. Many important religious structures were built during this period, such as churches, monasteries, and fortifications. The famous Castle of Neratzia (also known as Knights’ Castle) was constructed by the Knights Hospitaller during their occupation in the 14th century but incorporates elements from earlier Byzantine structures. The castle served not only as a defensive structure but also as a symbol of power and authority.

In addition to architecture, art also flourished on Kos Island during the Byzantine era. Iconography played a crucial role in transmitting Christian beliefs to both locals and visitors alike. Many beautiful icons can still be found on display at various museums and churches on the island.

However, everything changed with the arrival of Turkish forces in 1522 AD when they conquered Rhodes and subsequently took control of all other Dodecanese islands including Kos. This marked an end to several centuries of Greek influence under Byzantium rule on Kos Island.

The period following Turkish conquest saw significant changes in many aspects related to daily life on Kos Island. The Greek language slowly faded as the Turkish language became the dominant one. And while Orthodox Christianity remained an integral part of the locals’ lives, a significant portion of the island’s population converted to Islam.

Despite these changes, traces of Greek culture and influence persisted. The architecture of Kos Island continued to evolve with new structures such as mosques and hammams being built alongside traditional Byzantine churches. Furthermore, Turkish cuisine also influenced the local gastronomy with dishes like souvlaki (skewered meat) having Arabic origins.

The Byzantine and Ottoman eras were undoubtedly critical in shaping Kos Island into what it is today – a melting pot of cultures that has resulted in its diverse and fascinating history. From architecture to art, language to cuisine, both civilizations have left their indelible mark on this beautiful island in Greece.

Modern Times

The 20th century brought significant changes to the island of Kos and its people. While ancient ruins and traditions continued to be a source of pride, the modernization of the island also played a key role in shaping its history.

One major event that shaped Kos during this time was World War II. As part of Mussolini’s fascist regime, Italy occupied the island from 1912 until Germany took over in 1943. During this time, many Kos residents were forced into labor camps or deported to concentration camps, resulting in great hardship and suffering for the local population.

In 1945, after Germany’s defeat in WWII, Greece regained control of Kos and it became an important tourist destination for both Greeks and Europeans. This influx of tourism brought about significant economic growth for the island, leading to new industries such as fishing and farming.

The late 1960s marked another milestone for Kos with the arrival of mass tourism. The expansion of international flights made it more accessible than ever before, resulting in a surge in visitors from around the world. Tourism has continued to be a major industry for Kos, contributing greatly to its economy.

Another notable event that occurred on Kos Island during this era was an earthquake in 1933 that caused extensive damage to many buildings and monuments on the island. This disaster led to large-scale reconstruction efforts that modernized many areas while still preserving some historic sites.

In addition to these external influences, social changes also occurred on Kos during this period. Women gained more rights as they became actively involved in politics and education opportunities increased for all citizens.