HISTORY OF ANDROS
Ancient times - Byzantine era - Ottoman occupation - Recent history
Andros island was very important in ancient times, thanks to its wealth, both material and intellectual, but most af all thanks to its naval power.
A few stone and bronze age findings testify the existence of prehistoric settlements in the island. Our knowledge comes from mythology. The founder and first king of the island was Andros. The island was later colonized by Pelasgians.
During historic times the island was inhabited by Ionians, who possibly came from Athens, as Thoukydidis records. Latin Plinius the senior preserved some of the names, the poets were calling the island. According to Myrtilos it was called Gavros and later Antandros. Kallimachos calls it Lasia, others Hydrousa and others Nonagriam and Epagrim (the last two meaningless words in greek). These names represent physical characteristics of the island, vegetation, water, etc.
Significant information about Andros during Geometric Time, comes from the discovery of an important settlement, rare for the time period, in the area of Zagora. The settlement flourished during 700-500 B.C. and, as it seems, vanished abruptly.
In Zagora were found 45 rectangular rooms with storage areas and yards, built with the andriotic all-time stone material, schist. Floors were covered with a layer of compressed mortar, as was common technique till recently. The layers of mortar at the roof were supported by wooden beams and schist plates.
An important building of the settlement was the later-built temple, which was probably dedicated for the worship of Goddess Athena.
During 7th century B.C. Andros was the metropolis of four important colonies in the areas of Chalkidiki and Strymon bay, in northern Greece. These were Akanthos, Sani, Stagiros and Argilos. According to Herodotus, during Persian Wars the Andriots, as well as the other islanders, seem to have been with the Persian side, offering "soil and water" to them.
The center during Classical Times, main city and information center to us, is the settlement, which was built at the present town of Paleopolis. The town seems to have been established around 700 B.C., when Zagora was abandoned. No systematic excavations have been made yet. Two findings by chance are very important, Hermes of Andros (Hellenistic copy) and the hymn to Goddess Isis, the latter still being used as a door lintel in a house in Paleopolis.
There was also an acropolis, port, agora (market) and sufficient fortification. About 60 silver and bronze coins have been found, many of which portray Dionysos, loved God in Andros.
During Peloponnesian War Andros lined up with its allies, Athenians, offering ships and soldiers. As a member of the Athenian Alliance, Andros was paying 72000 drachmas (12 talanta), as an island tax to the alliance fund.
In 411 B.C. Andriots broke away from Athens, lined up with Sparta, but came back and participated in the 2nd Athenian Alliance in 378 B.C.
After the battle in Haeronia in 338 B.C., where they fought allied with Athenians, the city-state of Andros came under Macedonian rule.
During Hellenistic historic period, which follows the death of Alexander the Great, Andros was under direct Macedonian control and participated in the islands community. Between 315 B.C. and 31 B.C., was consecutively under roman, macedonian, ptolemean and second macedonian, under Dimitrios, rule. In 199 B.C. roman and pergamean troops landed, seiged and captured Paleopolis. Andros was under Pergamos of Attalides till was given to the Romans. Important monument of hellenistic times is the Agios Petros Tower.
In early Byzantine period Andros was an administrative part of Islands Prefecture (capital Rodos). Christianity was spread from the first centuries to its inhabitants.
The geographical position on the main sea route towards Constantinople and the protection needs of the empire from arab pirate attacks, made Andros an important administration center of the Aegean Sea Province (Thema) and base of empire customs. Accordingly was the economic and intellectual prosperity of this period.
We know that about 820 A.C. Leon the Mathematician was instructed rhetoric, philosophy and mathematics in Andros, studing at the same time the rich monastery libraries of the island.
12th century, period of Komninon reign, is the best documented for the island. Valuable sourses of information are the foreign travellers who stopped there, on their trip to Holy Lands.
Anglosaxon Seawurf, who passed from Andros in 1204, informs us that silk industry was the main occupation of the inhabitants. Most prized were mainly the andriotic sixtimes-woven silk textiles. heavy and luxurious, and the fine-wooven "zentata" and "skindalia", fine golden threads.
Despite of the general prosperity we know that enemy raids continued.Venetians, Normands and Genoats repeatedly attacked and ravaged the place.
After the fall of Constantinople by the crusaders, Andros came in Venetian hands. In 1207 it was given to Marino Dandolo, relative of the Doge of Venice and stayed under their rule till 1566. In order to protect the island from consecutive pirate attacks and the Turks, Venetians built defensive castles and towers.
First and main fort of Dandolo, military and administrative center of the Venetian conqueror, was Mesa Kastro (Inner Castle), which was the first core of the later Kato Kastro-Castel a basso (Lower Castle), the middle-age settlement of present day Chora. Present name Riva comes from Venetian times, since in that area was the main dock of Chora.
Verified byzantine churches in Andros are:
Taxiarchis in Messaria (1158)
Taxiarchis in Melida (11th century)
Taxiarchis in Ipsilou (11th century)
Panagia (Virgin Mary) in Mesathuri (12th century)
Agios Nikolaos in Korthi (12th century)
Byzantine fortifications probably existed in present day Kastro Faneromenis (Faneromeni Castle) above Kochylou, whereas tower ruins exist up in Melida village, as well as in the base of the small church of Agia Sofia in Pachykavos in Ormos.
The second byzantine fortification, which is considered bigger and stronger, was Epano Kastro-Castel del alto (Upper Castle). Some coincide Epano Kastro with present day Kastro Faneromenis, while others place it in Paleokastro area, above Ormos. In 19th century were still visible in the area ruins of fortifications, houses, churches, cisterns and wells.
Smaller castles and fortifications were spread all over the island. Their ruins are visible up to date. Some of them are the Pirgos Makrotantalou (Makrotantalo Tower), Briokastro in Varidi, Kastellaki in Gides.
During the Venetian rule also took place the settlement of Albanians, who mainly settled in the northern part of Andros.
Venetian catalogue of 1470 reports that Andros is inhabited by 2000 people, while ottoman report of 1567 mentions 1800 roman-greek and albanian houses and 50-60 Frank houses.
Ottoman occupation of Andros took place in 1566, in accordance with the opinion of the inhabitants. This fact, of the willing subordination, gave the island special privileges. The real administration till 17th century was exercised by descendants of byzantine, frank and andriot families, who had adopted the feudalistic venetian system.
Andros had a favourable treatment by the Ottomans even later. From 18th century belonged as "malikanes", a sort of feud, to Vadile Sultana and in 1778 to Selim's the 3rd sister, Sach Sultana.
Andriots payed predetermined taxes and were excluded from forced work and other payments, were protected from possible ottoman interventions, had secured free trade and their rights of succession.
Between 1770 and 1777 Andros, as well as the rest of Cyklades, was controlled by the Russians, through a local ruler called kantzillieris. After the withdrawal of the Russians it was introduced in Andros the institution of "kotzambasi". Kotzambasis in Kato Kastro (Lower Castle) and Korthi were rich elder landowners. Most of the times were elected for one year and were the real governors in Andros.
The economy of the island continued to be agricultural, but in Kato Kastro had evolved a new class of sailors called "gemitzides", who in 19th century raised their own claims. In 1813 Andros had 40 ships with a tonnage of 2800 tons and about 400 sailors.
In the first years of the Ottoman occupation, the operation of a school is reported, founded in 17th century by Capuchin monks. In 1768 the Archbishop of Andros, Dionysios Kairis, created the "School of Greek Literature". In 1814 was established in Korthi the school of Agia Triada.
In May 1821 after a people assembly, the participation of Andriots in the Greek War for Independance was decided, with contribution of soldiers, money and battle ships. From 1822 till 1828 social movements broke out in the island, like the one led by Dimitrios Balis, with main reason the unbearable taxes imposed by the local rulers.
At the same time the island suffered from landings of undisciplined troops called "liapides", who terrorised mainly the villagers.
In Ottoman times the rapid growth of shipping in Andros is observed, which after 1880 transformed from sail to steam powered, according to the new demands. Andriot shipping managed to overcome the crisis of both World Wars and constitutes up todate a main source of wealth for the island.