History of Kastellorizo

historyThe Turks call it Maïs, the Arabs call it Mayas and the ancient name is Megisti. Kastellorizo is, With 9 sqkm and only little more than 200 inhabitants, a small and pretty island in the Dodecanese, just a few hundred Yards off the Turkish coast. All the goods the island’s inhabitants need, have to be transported the long way from Rhodes or even from the Greek mainland.

Fishing and tourism are the economic basics of Kastelorizo today. Old photos at the island’s little museum show the pictures of the past, a big port with lots of proud sailing ships. Today Kastellorizo is a place of decay and a idyl too. There are moments when melancholy turns into beauty, when you sit in one of the port’s taverns, eating some fish, drinking some wine, and watch the swallows flying in and out the kitchen door. Kastellorizo is the most easterly of all Greek Islands. This is where Europe ends and Asia Begins. The Island used to have a headcount of about 15,000. In 1920 the Italian forces occupied Kastellorizo and brought the island in the isolated location it is in until today. In 1943 British commandos landed on Kastellorizo. They evacuated the whole population to Egypt to protect them from German air attacks. The most of them did not return, but took the British offer to emigrate to Australia, where there are now about 50000. During the second World War the Casttle was bombed. The island was finally reunited with Greece in 1948.

From the evidence of ruins the history of the island dates as far back as the neolithic times.There are cyclopean walls, now in ruins, evidencing the settlement in the island of pelasgoi, the aegian people. The minoans first and the Mycenians later also seemed to have visited the island as finds now in the Arcaeological Athens Museum show. Settlements of Dorieis and of the Lycians from the opposite coast of Asia Minor followed. The Lycian Grave of the 4th century b.c. is still one of the most impressive monuments in the island. The ancient name of the island, is due to its first settler Megisteas but according to another interpretation is due to the fact that the island is the biggest from all small islands spread in the area. The present name Kastellorizo was assumed during the crusades and was due to the red rocks, Castel Roso, on which the castle was built. Kastellorizo followed the history of the other Dodecanese and has the same marital and commercial tradition since was traditionally in the administration of Rhodes island. At the end of the 19th century the island flourished due to the wealth accumulated from the fishing of sponge. Famous schools and churches were built.

Kastellorizo has many interesting sights. Few of those are :

  • The Castle in the port. It was built on the ruins of ancient casttle, some thousands years old, in the 14th century by the Knights of Saint John and received its name from the red colour of the rocks.
  • Next to the castle are the ruins of a Turkish Hamam and a restored watermill.
  • The Lycian Tomb a church like grave built in the end of the 5th century beg. 4th century b.c. St Constantine and Eleni curch built in 1835 with granite brought from the temple of Apollo in the opposite site of Lycia in Asia Minor. Paleokastro 2 kilometers n.w. built in Byzantine times The Cyclopean Walls the ancient tombs.
  • The monastery of St. George of the mountain.
  • The Archaeological Museum.
  • The Blue Cave which is the most beautiful in the Mediterranean. There are stalactites and stalagmites in this extremely beautiful cave which can only be visited by boat. There are of course other caves. The Island is a natural biological paradise. As there is no real interference with nature the island is housing a number of species of animal vegetable world and also the monachous seal.