The Complete Thassos History: discover every phase in the history of Thassos
Here is a complete guide to know the entire history of Thassos.
So if you want to learn:
- How old is the ancient agora of Thasos
- Why Thassians are actually from Paros
- What was life under Roman rule
Then, you’ll love this complete guide to the fascinating history of Thasos island!
Let’s get started
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Table of Content
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Chapter 2: The prehistoric times
Old Stone Age (20,000-10,000 BC)
It all started about 20 thousand years ago, in the southern part of Thassos.
Ancient humans looked for ochre, an earthly material usually used as adhesive or pigment. And south Thassos was full of it. Particularly the area between today’s Maries and Limenaria.
But let’s take a step back. Where are those people coming from?
Although the evidence is limiting, archaeologists assume that Thracian tribes traveled to Thasos for its ochre between 20.000 and 10.000 BC. These tribes used the ocher to paint various items, including their bodies, during religious celebrities.
They even used ocher to create cave art, which is why we are aware of their presence in the area.
If you wonder if these people were living in Thasos, they were not. But nor did they live somewhere specifically. After all, during the Old Stone Age, humans were nomads, traveling from one place to another non-stop. And Thassos was nothing but a stopover in their never-ending travels.
New Stone Age (10,000–4,500 BC)
Around 10,000 BC, when an earthquake separated Thasos from the mainland, humans started to move permanently in one place. That was the end of nomadic life and the start of a new era.
There is evidence of two main settlements in Thassos during that era. The most important was Limenaria, whose remnants reside below today’s village. Limenaria was further away from the sea at the time, standing on top of a hill.
Near the settlement, there was an arable valley with a water source that explains why the ancient Thasians chose that location. Agriculture and fishing were the primary food sources, although wild fruits were also common.
A few kilometers East of Limenaria, Kastri was another significant settlement. Do not confuse that with modern Kastro, which was a medieval castle.
This mountain settlement offered greater protection to its citizens but was far from arable land. As a result, locals moved to stock-raising sheep and goats.
Locals also used the nearby marble sources to build their houses. Of course, they also used wood and clay.
What is more, the settlements of Kastri and Limenaria show signs of an organized society with a centralized authority. However, there are also signs of independent residences. For example, caves in Skala Maries and Drakotripa Panagias once were homes for man in the New Stone Age.
Copper Age (4,500-1350 BC)
As locals use less stone and more copper, some settlements prevail, and others become desolate. Drakotripa and Limenaria are two that remain. Not only that, but in Limenaria, coppery thrives and becomes a significant profession for many, especially with the rise of trade.
Apart from the older settlements, new ones start to form. The most important becomes Skala Sotiros, now buried below the modern village.
Most of the remnants are below the hill, where you can find today’s church of Profiti Ilias. Here, you can also spot the old stone wall that encircled Skala Sotiros.
Archeologists also claim that seaside Drakotripa in Panagia and Agios Antonios in Potos were thriving settlements during the Copper Age. However, during the end of the era, locals start to move away from valleys towards more mountainous terrain.
A reason for this migration might have been the rise of piracy in the Aegean waters of the time. As a result, settlements like Limenaria slowly became desolate while Kastri became an active society again.
Close to Kastri and near modern Theologos, there are signs of a walled settlement around the hill of Ai-Lia. You can see the ruins even today.
What is more, although some archaeologists disagree, Limenas might have seen its first residents near today’s Acropolis.
You can still witness important monuments of the time in the archaeological museum of Thassos.
Chapter 4: The Parian colonization in the 7th century BC
The new resident of Thassos
In 680BC, the first colonizers from the island of Paros reach Thassos. They settle in today’s Acropolis of Limenas, which you can visit even today. There, they build the foundation for a bright future and turn Thassos to one of the most important Greek islands of the time.
The Parians choose Limenas for its premium location and natural harbor. The marble sources nearby provide the necessary material to build their houses, the ancient agora of Thasos, and a great wall to protect the new city.
According to tradition, a saying from the oracle of Delphi encouraged the Parians to build a colony in Thassos. There, a new city would be visible from all directions and was to play an essential role in the centuries to come.
The fight with the locals
As you can imagine, the new colony in Thassos did not find a friendly welcome from the locals. Ancient Thasians fought with Parians but lost the war and migrated to the mainland.
After the second wave of Parian colonizers around 650 BC, the island also became a target citizens of Naxos who wanted to build their own colony there. In a matter of unparalleled ingenuity, the Parians agreed to welcome back the ancient Thasians to the island. In return, they would help in the fight against Naxians.
And everything turned out great for Parians. Ancient Thasians prevented the Naxians from settling on the island, but they suffered immense casualties in the process. As a result, their numbers became too small to pose any threat to Parians, the new residents of Thasos.
Thasos becomes a regional power
Once the new Thassians secure their position on the island, they look beyond that. They understand that the way to power is trade. And for that reason, they need a holding to the mainland to secure access to the area’s rich resources.
After decades of successful wars, they even reach the interior of Visaltia, which they access from the river of Strimona. Thasians now form new colonies, such as Neapolis and Galipsos.
To boost their income from trade, Thasians also build trade stations and outreaches throughout Thrace. That helps them become the most influential power in the region.
What is more, the efforts from Thasians contributed to the spread of Hellenism deep in the lands of Thrace.
One of the secrets of this success is no other than the powerful Thasian navy, with both commercial and warships. The accumulated power and wealth allow Thasians to build a strong 4-kilometer-long wall around 500 BC. You can still see its foundations near Acropolis today.
Chapter 6: The Romans’ friendship
Prosperity under Roman Rule
After the strict Macedonian rule, Thassos comes under the control of Romans in 197 BC. Due to their hatred towards Macedonians, Thassians see the Romans as liberators. And this pays off!
With the help of Romans, the island gains significant autonomy in 80 BC and witnesses some of the most peaceful and prosperous years in its history.
Short period of turmoil during the Roman Civil War
The only outbreak of war happens in the initial stages of the Roman Empire, during the Roman civil war. Due to the presence of democrats in Greece, Thassos has to side with the side that eventually loses the fight.
When emperor Octavius wins the democratic army in 42 BC, the Romans embark on retaliatory measures against Thassos. However, they do not last long, and during his reign, Octavius returns the old privileges to Thasians.
The respect towards Romans
To understand how much Thassians respect Romans, know that even during the 1st century BC, the local lords and aristocracy use titles such as “friends of Caesar”. They even turned the ancient theatre to an arena for gladiatorial battles.
And this diplomatic attitude towards the Roman superpower shows in the growth of Thasos infrastructure. Think of various Roman statues in the agora, monuments in honor of various emperors, the Roman theater in the 2nd century, and improvements in the port.
Romans even allow Thasians to create their own coin, a privilege that only Athenians share in Greece. It is no wonder Thasians become so rich under Roman rule.
Chapter 8: The Ottoman occupation
The turmoil after the fall of Constantinople
After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the island becomes Ottoman territory. Even though Venetians manage to take control of the island for two years in 1457, the Turks reconquer the island, and Thasos has to face one of the most challenging moments in its history.
Thassians are forced to leave the island and move to Istanbul, the new capital of the Ottoman Empire. In the next twenty-two years, Thasos constantly changes hands between the Ottomans, the Venetians, and the remnants of the Byzantine empire.
The Ottoman rule
toIn 1479, the Ottomans become the island’s de facto rulers for the next three centuries.
During this time, new Ottoman families arrive at the island and settle in Theologos and Tsigoura, today’s Megalo Kazaviti.
Greeks are frowned upon, but there are cases where locals and Turks mingle together and co-exist in peace.
The Dark Century of Thassos
In the 17th century, the island becomes almost desolate as it becomes a target for pirates. Not only do Thassians have to defend against Muslim pirates from North Africa, but they also have to deal with the Christian crusaders-turned-to-pirates from Malta and other Christian settlements.
If that was not enough, Russians also shortly occupy the island in 1770 for four years.
To understand the impact of this century on the local population, look at the numbers. In 1707, explorer Branconnier mentions that Thassos has seven to eight thousand residents.
At the end of the same century, French ambassador Cousinery notes that Thassos now has two thousand and five hundred citizens. Imagine how cruel that century could be for Thassians!
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