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History of Paros

June 29, 2020

Nowadays Paros is a coveted destination blending paradisiacal beaches, quaint whitewashed villages and scenic fishing ports; welcoming, affable locals, amazing food and drink; a host of fascinating customs and traditions; viby beach bars, world-class water sports and a bustling nightlife scene. But then again this, the third-largest island of the Cyclades, has been an important commercial, trade and cultural centre since time immemorial. Smack in the heart of the Aegean, thanks to its strategic position on the sea routes between mainland Greece and Asia Minor, Paros has been flourishing since the earliest stages of antiquity and there is still ample, tangible evidence of this ancient acme. At the Yria Boutique Hotel & Spa, we are certainly fascinated, and that’s not to mention proud, of our island and its manifold achievements across the aeons. If you’re interested in learning more about the place you are planning to visit, let us take you on a journey through the long and turbulent, albeit enthralling, history of Paros.

History of Paros: Bronze Age

Evidence suggests that Paros was systematically inhabited at least since Neolithic times, around 4.000 BC. The first colonizers were fishermen, hunters & gatherers and early farmers, living off the fruits of their labour in small communities in caves such as Demonon in the hillside of Lagada in Aspro Chorio, or in Antiparos‘ spectacular cavern near the village of Agios Georgios. With the advent of time, the islands began to prosper. In fact, the Bronze Age had a quite advanced culture to show for, as it is attested by the elegant minimalistic marble sculptures -the famous Cycladic figurines– discovered in ancient tombs all over the Cyclades. Ruins from this era are nowadays found on the sites of Kastro in Parikia, in the wind-sculpted rocky mounds of Kolymbithres, in Aliki, Drios, Avyssos, Galana, Gremna, Kampos, Plastiras and Glyfa.

 

History of Paros: Minoan Times

According to myth, Alkaios was the first king of Paros. Hailing from Crete he built a city on the island’s modern-day capital, Parikia, around 2000 BC. Crete was at the time a major seafaring nation, trading with Egypt, Assiyria and the Balkans. Thanks to its strategic position at the centre of the Cycladic complex, its fertile plains and safe havens, Paros became a major naval station and prominent cultural centre. It was named Minoa, an honorific title given to Royal Cretan cities and it prospered until about 1100 BC, when the Ionians invaded and, after a first defeat, managed to beat the Minoans, destroyed their civilization and became rulers of the island.

 

History of Paros: Archaic & Classical Period

Alas not for long, as roughly a century later, the Arcadians took over under the leadership of Parios – thus the name Paros. The following aeons were a prolific period for the history of Paros: It became a prosperous maritime power, trading with the Phoenicians and even colonising other islands, notably Thassos, an island rich in metal deposits. Paros also participated in the founding of the trading city of Parium on the Hellespont; while later on, in 385 BC, it also founded the colony of Pharos (modern Hvar) off the Dalmatian coast with the aid of Syracuse. By the 4h century, BC Paros might as well have boasted as many as 12,000 citizens!

 

It was during this age that many temples were built too, like the one dedicated to the Goddess Athena in Parikia (its marble blocks were to be recycled into a Venetian castle on the same site, whose remnants are still visible today) and the healing centre of Asklepieion. Architectural and economic development aside, culture, literature and the arts also flourished. Archilochos, was the first one to introduce personal elements into his poetry (until then poets typically spoke about the heroic deeds of others), thereafter becoming one of the most famous satirical verse makers in antiquity. Paros’ other notable contributions to the world include the creation of the Melian style of pottery and, of course, its trademark marble. Sparkling white and famed for its high degree of translucency, it was exported nationwide and beyond and became a favourite of architects and sculptors alike. Famous works of art made from Parian marble include the temple of Apollo in Delos, the Hermes of Praxiteles in Olympia, the maidens of the Acropolis, and Venus de Milo, now housed in the Louvre. Parian sculptors continued to work well into the Roman period from which many marble sarcophagi survive. The ancient marble mines at Marathi, above Parikia, may still be visited today. However with the notable exception of the marble that was employed in the creation of Napoleon’s tomb, they have not been used for centuries, or millennia even. Art lovers will also do well to visit the Archaeological Museum of Parikia to admire classical masterpieces like the larger-than-life 6th century BC winged Gorgon and a 5th century BC statue of Nike.

 

History of Paros: Hellenistic & Roman Times up to modernity

Progress, intercepted by small intervals of recession, continued up to the Hellenic years. After the end of the Persian Wars, Paros became a member of the Athenian Alliance, while remained neutral during the Peloponnesian War. In 338 BC, the island came under the rule of Philip of Macedonia and became part of the Macedonian empire. After the death of Alexander the Great, his successors, the Ptolemies, took over. The ancient graveyard on Parikia’s seafront dates from this period.

 

Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Paros, like the other islands, was integrated into the Byzantine Empire. As Christianity spread Parians converted to this new faith, and for this reason, there was an explosion of church and monastery building. Many are still surviving up until today. Among them, the most impressive is the Panagia Ekatontapiliani in Parikia. Actually, one of the most important Byzantine monuments in the country, the Church of a Hundred Doors is believed to have been built on the instructions of Saint Helen, mother of Constantine the Great, whilst comes with a beguiling story: Out of its 100 openings, only 99 have been identified till now; so legend has it that when the 100th door is found, the Greeks will own Constantinople again.

 

During Byzantine times, however, the pirates were plaguing the Aegean. Paros was no exception and it eventually fell into obscurity. In 1207 it became part of the Duchy of the Aegean, under the rule of the Venetian Marco Sanudo. It was to be passed from one Venetian ruling family to another until 1537 when it was captured by the pirate Hayreddin Barbarossa. This looting marked the largest destruction in Paros history. Nowadays the occurrence is lavishly commemorated (or perhaps exorcised) every year in Naoussa’s annual pirate festival on August 23.

 

Consequently weakened, Paros fell into the hands of the Turks in 1560. This long period of occupation led to its complete decline until the Greek Revolution in 1821. Paros, with the great Greek heroine, Manto Mavrogenou on the helm, played an instrumental role in the war of independence. Following the liberation, it finally gained its freedom and was incorporated into the new Greek state.

 

World War II marked another dark page in the island’s history. Paros was once again invaded, this time by the Germans. Their occupation took a heavy toll, leading many of the islanders to flee and seek their fortunes elsewhere, especially in the port of Piraeus.

 

Its fate was reversed around the ’60s when Paros was “discovered” by artists and bohemians of the time. Development thus ensued turning Paros into one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Resplendent with golden sandy beaches, a thriving cultural scene and a vibrant, cosmopolitan lifestyle, Paros beckons travellers from the four corners of the globe. We cordially invite you to come and take it all in!

 

The Yria Resort sits in beautiful Parasporos bay amidst a sizable oasis of vineyards and fruit trees, a few hundred meters from the beach. Shaped like a traditional island village, with its 60 Paros luxury rooms and suites and uber-luxurious private villa rental spread around a verdant area of 22,000 square meters, with plenty of space among them, individual entrances and private terraces, this premium boutique Hotel & Spa in Paros, provides loads of welcoming privacy and seclusion- even more vital in these difficult times. Please note that we have taken all necessary measures and precautions, in line with the global and local health authorities, to safeguard our guests against the Covid 19 pandemic. At the same time, we are making sure to retain our trademark hospitality and host of indulgent services. We do hope to see as much of you -our dear friends and guests- as possible, soon. Until then stay strong and healthy and keep dreaming of the glorious Greek summer ahead!

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