History of Kythera

Kythera, a crossroads of cultures, from ancient times to the union with Greece in 1864, were conquered and received many invasions from the 4th millennium BC. The name Kythira or otherwise Cerigo has its roots hidden in time. Homer, Herodotus, Xenophon, and Isidore, refer to the island in their studies. The island colonized Minoans, Mycenaeans, Dorians from 1600 BC. It accepted raids during Byzantine period. Since the 13th century it was conquered by the Venetians and named “Cerigo”. The architecture of the island is clearly influences by the Venetian. During this period suffers the attacks of pirates. “Barbarossa” or Red Beard else, privateer of the capital, Agios Dimitrios, current Paleochora and kills 7.000 civilians. Those who survived were sold as slaves. The island became a den of pirates and deserted. In the late 18th century pirate action is limited and in 1797 the French came to the island. The following years the island was occupied by the Russians and the Turks, but for a short time. From the early 19th century is the great period of British rule in which became the largest public works such as roads making, bridge in Katouni, the lighthouse of Kapsali and Karavas, Markato in Chora, school buildings, and sanitation projects.

The 19th century began the migration of residents which was at the peak in the 20th century. Many Kytherians traveled to America and Australia. Now days third and fourth generation of immigrants visit the island to learn about their roots.

In Second World War Kythera was initially conquered by the Italians and later the Germans. Since 1928 is administratively attached in Piraeus. The archives of the island retain documents since the 16th century.

Mythology of Kythira

kithira-mythology-01According to Hesiod’s “Theogony”, Aphrodite, goddess of love, was the daughter of Uranus and the Sea.

She was born in the sea area of Kythira and with the help of Zephyros, traveled on a large shell to Paphos in Cyprus, where she was emerged.

Homer in his epic work “Iliad” refers to her as “Kythereia goddess who feeds love”.


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Kythira - The Island of Arts and literature

The island of Kythira has become point of reference in the art of 18th century. The masterpiece of the series of tables of Jean-Antoine Watteau, in 1717, is the “Embarkation to Kythera”. The oil painting greatly influenced the painting of the 18th century. In 1855 Charles Pierre Baudelaire published his poem “Voyage to Kythera”. In 1984 Theo Angelopoulos won the Best Screenplay Award at Cannes festival with his film “Voyage to Kythera” and the enchanting music of Eleni Karaindrou. George Katsaros composed the song “Kythera will never find them”.

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens is dedicated to the great exhibition “Shipwreck of Antikythera”.  From the depths of the sea between Kythera and Crete dredged the “Antikythera mechanism”. It is the most modern machinery of antiquity associated with sky phenomena. It is a kind of complex mechanical computer dated between 150 BC and 100 BC. From the same shipwreck was dredged the “Adolescent of Antikythera”, one of the finest bronze statues of the Hellenistic era, height 1,96 meters. The statue dated 340 B.C. and now graces the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.