History of Thassos
During the earlier Paleolithic age, the island of Thassos was united with the mainland, forming a peninsula, since the sea level was higher. Archeological findings at the area of Kastri in Theologos reveal that the island has been inhabited since that era. The “archaeological pickax” has provided testimonies of organizes lifestyle in dwellings, even during the Neolithic era. (Neolithic Settlement of Agios Ioannis)
The prehistorical period of the island was revealed by excavations of the Archaeological Service of Kavala city, under the instructions of Dr. Haido Koukouli-Chrisanthaki during 1969-1978. Additionally, a large group of international aid consisting of scientists had brought in to surface the most significant settlement in the area of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace -close to Poto - during that period. Furthermore, in the village of Sotira, there was discovered a settlement dating back from the Copper Era. Its walls remain in a good condition until today in the Archaeological Museum in Thassos.
The very first grammatological reference regarding the dwellers of Thassos comes from the Mythology. According to the tradition, Zeus, transformed into a bull, abducted Europe, the daughter of Anigoras, King of the Phoenicians. Then, her brother Thassos, after being wandered and with no result in finding her, he came to the island and was lured by its beauty and richness of the soil’s minerals. He decided to settle in along with the rest o Phoenician that accompanied him. Therefore, the island was named after Europe’s brother Thassos, which has been maintained from antiquity until today.
Another mythological reference concerning the island is linked with the Homeric scripts. Some researchers believe that Thassos was Calypsos’ island called Orygia, that is mentioned at the fifth (E) Rapsody in Odessey. On the other hand, there are also some researchers that link Thassos with the Sirens.
The Archaic years
Due to the wealth and abundance of minerals, as well as to the fertile soil, Thassos become quite often a target invasions from Thracian tribes. At the end of the 7th century B.C. under the threat of such an intrusion, the residents of the island asked for help from the inhabitants of Paros in order to cope with that threatening situation. Residents of Paros were famous for being brave warriors. People of Paros, having in charge Telesiklis, respond positively to the invitation galvanized by the prophecy at the Oracle at Delphi wich was saying the following: “..Go and build a city to the island of Aeria that shall be seen from everywhere…”. Archilogos, a famous lyric poet, was travelling with them. He was the son of Telesiklis and he wrote marvelous poems talking about their adventures. People of Paros had dominated all over the island and they exploited the opulent quarries of gold and marble, being the pioneers for a new era in the history of Thassos. Thus, by the end of the 7th century B.C., a powerful city-state with colonies is created. It owns battle and commercial fleet. Those were followed by economic growth and cultural development. An extensive commercial network is flourishing along with Ionia, the Aegean sea, Athens and Korinthos. Simultaneously, the bonds with the metropolis, Paros, remain tight and strong.
That radiance of glory will be preserved on the island until the period of the Persian wars (at the end of the 5th century B.C.). When Thassos is obliged by Darios to demolish its great walls and lays the island under tribute. Thassos is in a phase when it is interrupted its steadily onward course and financial development. After the battle in Salamina and with the alleviation and disappearance of the Persian danger, Thassos utterly protected under the umbrella of Greece.
Classical and Hellenistic Period
Athens, which stood out after the battle against the Persian moves steps forward and becomes a super power creating the first Athenian Alliance (477 B.C.), in which Thassian are part of. However, quite soon, the relationships between the two cities will change since Athens’ interests at the area of Paggeon and the exploitation of the quarries were threatening the dominance of Thassos at the region. As a result, the residents of Thassos apostatize (465 B.C.) and turn to Sparta seeking for help. Although the Spartans initially accept to help them, they do not take part in the tergiversation of the island, because of an earthquake, that took place in that area. People of Athens organized a crusade, having in chief Kimonas. After a two year blockade, they destroy the islands naval power and they force it to capitulation with exterminated conditions (among others, they are obliged to resign from any privilege in the exploitation of the mines). The relationship between the two cities was restored in 446 B.C.During the Peloponnesian war the island continued being by the side of the Athenians, but their defeat in a Egos Rivers (405 B.C.), brought Spartan forces on the island with Lysandros being in charge of the operation. Their attempt was to invalidate the democratic regime.
During the 4th century B.C., political reconciliation and amnesty comes about between the two sides as well as restoration of financial affairs with the opposite coastline. The city is reconstructed and flourishes. In 377 B.C. it endorses Athens again at the second Athenian Alliance and dominates financially and commercially at the most part of the Balkans, until the 1st century B.C., when the Thassian opt for staying by the Romans’ side. As a result, they enjoy economic and territorial benefits. Indeed, it is mentioned that after the death of Cassius in the battlefield, Brutus buries him in Thassos. After the 4th century B.C. the island is full of liveliness and faces economic growth. Along with the prevalence of Christianity and the flourish of Phillipes, it becomes the base of the Bishopric.
For the period of the Medieval history, there are few references in bibliographical sources. It is only certain that Thassos has faced incursion by Slavians that depleted the empire from the 7th till the 9th century A.D. During that period, Thassos lost its administrative autonomy and become a part of the region o Thrace. At the same time, the old city becomes remote and most residents settle around the Acropolis. The island did not manage to escape from the Arabian invasion in the 9th century A.D. After the 4th Crusade, it subordinated to Crusaders. In 1259 it become part of Byzantine Empire during the dominance of Michael VIII, Paleologos
Eventually, after a long period of agitations, the island was occupied by the Sultan on 1479 and was depopulated, since the majority moved to Constantinople. The Turkish conquest, during which the island become known as Tasoz (“Taşöz), lasted till 1813. Simultaneously, its residents suffer from pirates’ invasions, that force them to move to mountainous areas, leaving the coastal dwelling behind. In 1813, Thassos is given by the Sultan to Mehmet Ali, the Vizier of Egypt, who was born in Kavala and grew up on the island. Then Thassos managed to obtain some benefits with enhanced community freedoms. Thus, during the Revolution in 1821 it did not react vigorously enough. However, the relationships with Egypt were eventually disrupted and the riots that followed gave the advantage to Sultan to put the island once again under the Turkish administration until the 17th of October in 1912 when the admiral Pavlos Koudouriotis releases Thassos. Then Konstantinos Melas was designated as a temporal administrator. He was the brother of the well known Pavlos Melas, who fought for the freedom of Macedonia. The incorporation of the island in Greece became valid after the Bucharest Convention.
During the World War I, Thassos was under the protection and control of Triple Entente and comprised aeronautics base. This fact is confirmed by the recent revelation of debris of global interest coming from an aircraft of WWI at the region of Kazaviti. During the war many immigrants from Asia Minor and Thrace reach the island and are incorporated with indigenous population. A remarkable fact is the election of a Thassian member of Parliament (and a minister of it in forthcoming governments), called Avgoustos Theologiti, who contributed to the abalienation of landed property of the monasteries in Athos, that was later distributed to the residents of the island.