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You are in:  Top  →  Europe  →  GREECE  →  Dodecanese  →  ASTIPALEA


A fine, picturesque Cycladic island, Astypalea, welcomes its visitors at the small harbour, in the Aegean.

View and book hotels in ASTIPALEA. Click here.


The wharf is at the southeast extremity. Its white houses surrounding the walls of the Byzantine fortress, on the top of the hill, and descending, so to speak, the slope, accent the beauty of Hora till the seashore.

Being part of the scenery, the old mills on the height complete the imposing panorama. Within the area of the Castle fallen in ruins, where still remain, as the only mark of the Guerinis' rule, their blazons, we come across two churches: the older one of St George and the modern one of the Annunciation.

The Church of Panaghia Portaitissa or of the Castle, just at the foot of the Castle, is one of the finest in the Dodecanese. It was built by the holy man Anthimos the Blind in 1764 with the assistance of the old priest Michael.

The altar screen carved in wood and overlapped with gold foil is one of the most beautiful of the kind. The icon of Virgin Mary is a faithful reproduction of Panaghia Portaitissa of the Convent of Ibers on the Mount Athos. It was the holy man himself who brought it from Mount Athos. The Church holds its feast on the 15th of August. On that day popular rejoicings take place.

Livadia (15 km from Hora).

Southeast of Hora a passable road leads to this little settlement covered with trees and endowed with a splendid beach and with taverns-restaurants.

Agios Constantinos.

At about 3 km from Hora, at the southest part of the island, we find this charming beach.


This locality is pleasantly situated on a plateau where leads a branching off the road west of Hora. The feast of St Pantelimon is celebrated there on the 27th July, followed by popular festivities.

Convent of Panaghia Flevaritissa.

A branching off the same road, left, leads to this unrivalled site. The convent has a small guesthouse.


On the west the road leads to Messaria and to the Convent of St John with the delightful beach and the Castle. The convent celebrates its feast on the 29th August.

Convent of Livia.

On the northwest of Hora the road leads to the convent, built on the slope of a mountain, overlooking the sea and having a small guesthouse. Further the main road leads to Analipsis or Maltezana.

A picturesque settlement with its white houses and its flowery fields and gardens, the vast beach and taverns. One can admire the well-preserved mosaics of a Roman swimming pool and the monument of the French philhellene captain Bigon, who died in 1827, by setting fire to his corvette to avoid being captured by pirates.

Agrelidi, a small coastal settlement.

Vathy, the remotest and most isolated locality in the island. It is divided into Exo-Vathy (outer Vathy), on this side of the mouth of the oblong bay, and Mesa-Vathy (inner Vathy) in the recess of the bay. There are vast beaches, taverns-restaurants and some rooms to let.

Grottos of the island.

Two of them are the most important: the Grotto of the Dragon or "Dracospilia", near Vathy, ornamented with stalactites and stalagmites amidst a fairy-like scenery; and the Negro's Grotto near the locality Vatses, formerly a pirates' den, with a strait mouth and adorned with stalactites and stalagmites.

Ancient coins of Astypalea minted during the 3rd-1st centuries represented the head of Perseus or a "harpi" (a sabre in the shape of a sickle) or a gorgon-head. Later they represented the effigy of Dionysos or of Athena or of Asklepios. The Astypaleots minted also golden staters or silver tetradrachmas and other coins representing Livia and Tiberius.

A few words on mythology and history of the island.

According to mythology, Astypalea was the daughter of Phoenix and Perimede and the sister of Europe. She begot with Poseidon two sons: Anceus, king of Samos, and Eurypylos, king of Kos.

The island was called the "Table of Gods" because of the fertility of its soil and its exuberance of flowers. The first inhabitants of the island, which was called also Pyrra because of its reddish soil, were Carians. They were driven out, according to Ovid (Metamorphoses 7, 49), by king Minos of Crete, then master of the seas.

Later on, according to Skymnos of Chios (line 549), Megarians settled in the island and gave it the name of Pylaion. This is corroborated by an inscription of the 4th century B.C., found at the Asklepieion of Epidaurus, which calls the Astypaleots "Epidauriots".

Astypalea is described by Pliny the Elder (Nat. Hist. 4, 23) and is mentioned by Strabo, Ptolemy, Stef. Vyzantios and others. From inscriptions we know also that Astypaleots since the earliest times had established democracy (=government of the people) with a Council (Boule), a Senate (Gerousia) and magistrates: the eponymous archon (=who was giving his name to the year), the prytanes, treasurers, cashiers, "agoranomi" (market inspectors).

Strabo relates (15, 42) that Astypaleots occupied the promontory of Roeteum at Hellespont and founded, near the river Simeonte, the town of Polium, later called Polisma.

It is in Astypalea that had their origin Phalaris, the famous king of Agrigentum (580-554) and Onesicretus, philosopher and historian (375-300).

At the 71st Olympiad the Astypaleot Cleomedes, a very strong athlete, having killed involuntarely his rival Iccos from Epidaurus in a boxing contest, was deprived by the jury of his victory and fined 40 talents. Mad with grief, on his return in Astypalea, Cleomedes in a transport of rage that increased tenfold his strength, pulled down the pillar supporting the roof of the municipal school; the roof fell down killing sixty young pupils. Pursued by the inhabitants, he found shelter in the sanctuary of Athena and secreted himself in a trunk.

His pursuers, having opened the trunk and finding it empty, appealed to Apollo's priestess at Delphi, who answered that, since they had not seen him dead or alive they ought to pay the due honours to him as a hero.

In ancient Astypalea there existed many archaic buildings, like the sanctuaries of Athena, Asklepios, Apollo and Artemis, the Portico of the Agora, the edileship's quarters, etc. The Astypaleots worshipped Zeus, Dionysos, Dictynna, as well as the heroes Achilles and Cleomedes.

In 436 B.C. Astypalea is under Athens' hegemony and her annual financial contribution, according to the lists amounted to 12,000 drachmas.

During the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.), because of its position, at the central Aegean Sea, and of its secure bays, the island became a field of contest between Athenians and Spartans. In the course of the war the inhabitants of the neighbouring island Kos, after the destruction of their old town Astypalea by Astyochos, the admiral of the Spartans, found shelter in the island.

Under Alexander the Great (303 B.C.) Astypalea, like all Greek towns, was declared self- governed and as such she offered her aid in the Persian wars. After the death of Alexander the island fell under the "tutelage" of his successors, the Ptolemies.

The Romans, because of the position of the island in the Aegean Sea - between Kos,Rhodes, Knidos, Phoenicia and continental Greece - that made of it an important transit port for their ships, signed an alliance pact with Astypalea and deposited the document in Jupiter's temple at the Capitol. The pact was renewed in 105 A.D. Thus the Astypaleots enjoyed the privileges of a Civitas Foederata.

Later, the island will become a part of the Byzantine Empire and will share the fortunes of the latter.

1207 After the capture of Constantinople by the Franks, the island fell under the rule of the family of Guerini, who were driven out, in 1269, by the Byzantine admiral Licarios.

1821 Astypalea takes part in the national liberation war against the Turks. However, the London Protocol leaves the island out of the frontiers of the newly established Greek state.

1912 To the Turkish occupation follows the Italian one; it will last till the end of the Second World War.

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