Mykonos History – From a powerful marine force to a modern-day party mecca (Updated 2022)

Archeological finds and historical sources place Mykonos somewhere in the 11th century B.C., when the Ionians (one of the four primary Greek tribes that thrived in Ancient Greece), settled on the island, and the area we now call Mykonos Town or Chora. As you will soon find out, Mykonos has gone a long way from being a dominant marine power in Greece to the most cosmopolitan island in the Mediterranean. 

Mykonos History

Photo by Greta Caird on Unsplash

The birth of Mykonos (name and island morphology)

When it comes to the origins of its name, some historians attribute it to the son of King of Delos, Mykonos, which makes sense, given that Mykonos and neighbouring Delos once had extremely close ties with one another. In fact, Delos, a significant religious center of ancient Greece, contributed to Mykonos having some of its most glorious times and economic growth until the disaster of Delos. 

As for the unique topography that characterises the island, according to mythology, one of the 12 tasks Hercules was called to handle was fighting the Giants. After killing them, the giants petrified and formed the island of Mykonos. The huge rocks you see across Mykonos are supposedly the remains of them. 

 

A mighty cultural center and marine force

In its younger years, Mykonos developed a great culture. Excavations have revealed the Mykonos vase, the oldest amphora of the ancient times. In 1207, it came under the ruling of the Venetians, who left the mark throughout the island. The remains of castles, fortresses, and the colourful houses of Little Venice speak of those times pretty loudly. 

Some 300 years later, Mykonos passed to the hands of the Turks (as Greece in its entirety), until the War of Independence took place in 1821. During that time, the Mykonos inhabitants, who were considered excellent sailors, offered more than 20 ships, 140 canons, and 500 crew members to the Greek Revolution to free Greece from the Turkish rule, always with the financial help of Manto Mavrogenous, a leading female revolutionary figure of Mykonos. 

The Turks were eventually defeated, and Mykonos became Greek again in 1822. However, the economy was in bad shape after the war, and Mykonos found itself with no ships at all. Slowly and gradually, though, the patient Mykoneans managed to rebuild their economy by focusing on the island’s commercial power. Trading their top-quality textile across the Mediterranean put them back on the map and on the way to financial growth and prosperity. 

 


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Rediscovering Mykonos

The early 1960s found Mykonos investing in tourism when famous Greek artists made it their favourite hub. But, it was not only the Greeks that contributed to pushing Mykonos out of obscurity. The rising popularity of Delos island, once again, led to turning Mykonos into a major tourist destination for archeology lovers and not only, who rushed in from the corners of the earth. Among them were important personalities, politicians, celebrities, and members of the international jet set, who saw Mykonos as a superb option for holidaymaking and night-long parties. In fact, the events back in the 1960s and 1970s were so legendary that established Mykonos as a top party island with an intense cosmopolitan flair. 

The Mykoneans quickly adapted to the new wave and worked hard on turning Mykonos into a tourist destination that provided high-end services and facilities to satisfy even the most discerning guests.

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