Learn the vast history of Thassos and be amazed with what this small Aegean island has been through since the beginning of time. Its rich history dates back as far as the mighty Phoenicians. Gain the knowledge of the ancients and find out how they lived their daily lives and what struggles they had encountered. Experience the past in your mind so that when you walk through the ancient ruins in Thassos Town and Alyki you will be able to envision the ancient world among the present endless beauty that the modern Thassos preserves to this day.
Thassos had a turbulent history, passing through the hands of various conquerors and invaders whom have all left their mark. The island from as far back as historians dare to theorize, was known by many different names. These names reflected the name of the tribe of people who were thought to have settled here such as Sedon and Odones, which were Thracian tribes. In many instances, the island’s name derived from on of its natural resources such as Chrissi (gold), shore of Dimitra (abundant fry fruit produce), or climatic and distinguishing characteristics like Eaire (refreshing summer breezes), and Ethria (clear skies). There is historical mention of the tribe Cares who inhabited the island and took up arms to fight in the Trojan War and together with another tribe, the Pelage settled on the island. Remains of Thracians have been found on the island dating back to 2000 B.C. and across the sea, a short distance away, mainland shore settlements dating 3000 to 2000 BC. Other historians state that the Greeks settled on the island. Archeologists have found many traces of Greek Hercules who was glorified, worshiped and considered one of the guardians of the island. Finally, we have the Greek mythological version of where the island obtained her existing name. Thassos together with his brother Kadmus searched the then existing land for their sister Europa. Zeus had abducted Europa.Thassos went to the island in search of her but was unsuccessful. He settled there with his band of men and dominated the island.Thassos became a place for civilizations to flourish in a barbarian world. Of course, in order to accomplish this, Thassos used slavery in one form or another to mine for gold and tap the island’s natural resources, as did other Phoenicians hundreds of years before him.The father of history, Herodotus, notes that the Phoenicians settled and mined the east coast of the island around 16000 – 15000 BC. Eventually Phoenician dominance fades.
In the 7th century BC Thracians attacked the island.The Ionian warriors from the island of Paros were called upon for aid. They arrived in 682 – 680 BC and successfully ousted the Thracians but, not before consulting the Oracle of Delphi. Later, the Parian, Telesikles along with his poet son Archiloches, family, and friend Glaukos started to build the first colonies to the south on the island.Thassos thrived and developed a remarkable insular civilization.This induced Thasians to further colonize along the adjacent mainland. Numerous known sites were settled that spanned a vast area. One of which is the old site of Kavala . Another, Krenides, was the earlier site of Philippi. Even before Philippi the area’s important strategic and agricultural position was discerned. Precious metals were intensively mined in its nearby Pangaeo Mountains. Gold, silver, and bronze coins were minted in the 6th century with the inscription “Thasian Ipiron” (Thasian mainland) and dated 525 BC.This inscription denotes a form of organized state.The State of Thassos along with other areas in and near Greece was characteristic as such in the Classical Period. Thasians erected rich temples and a strong wall to protect them in the ancient capital.
In the nearby agora merchants bought and sold their goods, political speeches were given and democratic decisions were made. Democracy flourished and the ruins of the agora verify this.In the gymnasium sport events took place and sport maneuvers were being taught. Unfortunately, the remains of the gymnasium have not been found yet.Two harbors, one solely for the use of warships and the other for trade, were thriving. The Thasians quickly dominated the sea and became rich merchants of wine and vinegar. Stamped vessels carrying these products have been found in Russia and Egypt. Also, wood and marble were exported since the island is a solid mass of schist-marble and has vast forestland. Ceramics, metal works, sculpture and shipbuilding were excelled in.
In 494 BC the Persians destroyed the island’s fleet twice in major sea battles. The Persians occupied the island in 491 BC. King Darius had the admirable Thasian marble wall that enclosed the entire city, dismantled. Ruins of which can still be seen throughout Limenas today.Thasians as a conquered people were now inhibited in their expression of the arts but not their spirit.Thasian supremacy declined up until the Macedonian Period where the island was a cause in the Athens – Sparta conflict. Each of these two large city-states conquered Thassos alternately, several times. At the beginning of the 4th century Thasians organized themselves into “Thasian Ipiron” again, if not for political reasons, for economical ones.A sort of semi democratic mode of life was implemented probably at the advice of Plato.
In 340 BC Thassos was incorporated into the Macedonian nation.This should have been a natural occurrence considering King Philip II was the king of all Greeks after expelling the Persians. Although, it seems the Thasians were deceived into letting him occupy the island.Of course, the politician, Aristotle suggested to the king that friendly relations with Thassos would be beneficial.
This king knew from the beginning of the era what was to be gained if he ruled over Thassos.Thasian land and sea forces fought with Alexander the Great, son of Philip II, in his war against the Persians.From 287 to 281 BC one of Alexander’s generals confiscated and ruled over Thassos.It remained Macedonian and even an acting autonomy up until 202 BC when Philip V ruled.This ruler rejected parts of a policy devised by the Thasians concerning their freedom. This caused the Thasians to favor the Romans.
Thasians sided with the Romans and fought against Mithridates.Rome had a favorable disposition on the island. In 197 BC Romans occupy the island after winning the battle against Philip V. In this Hellenistic Period Thassos was still strong economically. Its currency has been found in the Balkans as far as Romania. Barbarian Queens used Thasian coins up until the 1st century BC where the Roman dinar replaces them. The island prospered until 42 AD where it is again caught in a conflict after Julius Caesar’s death (44 BC). The two rich senators who conspired in his death, Cassius and Brutus battled (42 BC) with their enemies Mark Anthony and Octavian (later Augustus Caesar) on a plain in Philippi. Each wanting Thassos as their central governing base and armory. Mark Anthony won, to the dislike of the Thasians. He utilized the island for a short time. Augustus and his family reconstituted the island as “The State of Thassos”, which extends to the Sporades. Now, a number of select aristocratic families from Thassos were to govern with their own laws, make their own judicial decisions and mint their own currency. Only Athens had these privileges in all of Greece. They were given the title “Friends of Caesar”. A title many Thasian aristocrats held from the 1st century BC. The authority of the Romans overshadowed Thassos.The Thasians tried to civilize them but in the end lost her identity as everywhere else in Greece.
There was much renovating done, enlarging of the municipal building and organizing of spectacles on Thassos to show their wealth from the middle of the 2nd century AD to its end. The Antoine emperors continued to do the same. Peace continues until 330 AD where Thassos was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire. As a colony and because of it’s geographical location, Thassos is sometimes labeled Macedonian and other times Thracian. Thassos keeps a low profile because of the religious fanaticism of the time. At the beginning of the 4th century AD we see the fruits of that which was ushered in with St. Paul’s arrival at Philippi (49 AD) and the building of the first Christian church in Europe. The ancient monuments and it’s marble are sent to Byzantine era of Thassos. In 365 AD there was a catastrophic earthquake.
Arabians took the island in 565 AD. Shortly afterwards they were ousted. A small number of pirates appeared on the Thasian horizon from the 4th century AD. In 765 AD Slav and Bulgarian pirates plundered and sold Thasians at the slave markets.When the 7th century AD arrived it seems that many countries maniacally attacked and looted Thassos. This continued up until the 18th century. The Thasians leave their capital (Limenas ) and their acropolis to build villages high in the mountains to flee this devastation. Around 900 AD Thassos is taken over by Leon Tripolite.He stripped the island of its forests in order to make his was machines as he readied himself for his attack on Thessaloniki. In 961 AD Thassos falls again into Byzantine hands.From the 10th century to the 16th century what inhabitants were left on the island lived in caves and were deprived. During the crusades Thassos is captured by the Venetians.At the beginning of the 13th century Thassos is further looted by Crusaders, Venetians, Spaniards, Sicilians, and other pirates. Later, the island is dependent on various Frankish principalities.She passes into Byzantine hands again along with Venetian and Genoese princes of Enos and Samothrace.This lasted until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. With the fall of Constantinople, the navel officer Scarabs ravages the island and sells her people into further slavery.Then in 1454 AD Thassos falls under the authority of the Turks. By the year 1774, only 2000 Thasians inhabitants remained on the island from the 60,000 that have been estimated living there during ancient times and 100,000 during the 5th and 6th century BC.
In 1813 the island was given in feud to Mehemet Ali.He held it until the end of the Turkish rule in Macedonia. Throughout Thasian history there was always an intense passion for the math’s, sciences, history, medicine, and political freedom from one or another form of political rule.The consciousness of this heritage has not ceased to guide all Greeks throughout history.Thassos was officially recognized as a part of Greece on October 18th, 1913.