Antikythera was a vital stepping stone on the route from Bronze Age Crete to Kythera and the mainland beyond, but little evidence of Minoan settlement has come to light so far. The island appears seldom in ancient sources, though Plutarch in his Parallel Lives (Cleomenes, 31.1) states that Cleomenes III, king of Sparta, after his defeat by Antigonus III of Macedonia at the Battle of Sellasia in 222 bc stopped on Aegila on his way into exile in Egypt. At that time the island’s Hellenistic city must have had a population of perhaps as many as 750–1,000 inhabitants. The island was probably under the authority of Phalarsana on the west coast of Crete. For much of its history, however, Antikythera appears to have been a base for pirates: Rhodian war ships were engaged against them at the end of the 3rd cen tury bc and may have razed the city in that campaign. Later, Roman forces under Pompey in the 1st century bc finally succeeded in eradicating piracy. It was at, or just before, the time of these Roman campaigns that the ship with a cargo of stone and bronze sculptures, amphorae and other objects, foundered and sunk off the northeast coast of the island. Known as the ‘Antikythera Shipwreck’, its discovery in 1900 and its celebrated finds mark the beginnings of the fruitful science of submarine archaeology.

Antikythera Island, Greece

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