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The name ‘Kalymna’, often taken to refer to its several good (‘kali-’) harbours (‘-limin’), only appears in the 4th century bc; until then, the island is referred to as ‘Kalydna’ (beautiful waters) and, by Homer (Iliad II. 676/7), in the plural form, ‘Calydnian islands’, referring presumably to a group, including also Pserimos and possibly Leros. The island’s many caves have yielded a quantity of material— burnished and decorated vases, tools and figurines—providing evidence of Late Neolithic (4th millennium bc) and Early Bronze Age settlement, with continued use through into Mycenaean times (especially in the cave of Daskaleio in the area of Vathis). The first settlers in early historic times were from Epidaurus in the Argolid: the main centres of habitation, determined as always by the presence of fresh water, were in the same two valleys that are populated today. The island was organised into seven demes, and a silver coinage was issued in the 6th century bc: a warrior’s helmeted head bearing the letter ‘A’ (for Antiphos, one of the island’s Heroic founders) on the obverse, and a lyre (for the predominating cult of Apollo) on the reverse. The important and early sanctuary of Apollo was at Damos, on the low saddle near the modern town of Chorio. After the Battle of Salamis in 480 bc, where the Kalymniots fought for the Persian side (together with Kos) under the command of Queen Artemisia of Halicarnassus, the island turned to Athens and became a member of the Delian League. In the aftermath of the death of Alexander the Great, the southeast Aegean saw considerable turmoil in the subsequent struggles of succession: it is to this period that many of the fortifications on the island date. In 205/4 bc Kalymnos became linked and subject to Kos by an arrangement of ‘homopoliteia’ (a constitutional joining of cities), and its history thereafter follows that of its larger neighbour. Together with Kos, it benefited from the same immunitas bestowed by the Emperor Claudius in 53 ad at the instigation of his personal physician, who was a native of Kos. Strabo noted the particularly good quality of the island’s honey (Geog. X, 19)
A flourishing Early Christian community on Kalymnos, comparable, in proportion to its size, to that on Kos, has left behind the remains of a large number of once richly decorated Palaeochristian churches, but a catastrophic earthquake in 554 ad destroyed many of them. Subsequent Arab invasions in the 7th century led to progressive abandonment of the coastal settlements. After 1204 Venetian and Genoese overlords ruled the island until it came under the control of the Knights of St John of Rhodes in 1313. They held and fortified Kalymnos until their defeat in Rhodes by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1522/3.
After 1523, the island maintained a considerable degree of autonomy under the Ottoman occupation. This gave the opportunity—as it did similarly on Symi—for the fishing and sponge trades to bring prosperity and considerable urban development, especially in the 19th century. A new island capital at Pothia was created and laid out, and the island’s population more than quadrupled between 1821 (5,000) and 1912 (23,000). The Italian occupation after 1912 brought considerable economic and cultural restrictions, however, and the historically independent spirit of the Kalymniots rebelled against the imposition of Italian language and the elimination of Greek in schools; resentment was further fuelled by interference with the Orthodox Church. Riots were suppressed in 1935, and many islanders were jailed or exiled by the Italians. During and immediately after the Second World War, the population was depleted by emigration to the Middle East and to the United States. The island joined the Greek State together with the other Dodecanese Islands in March 1948. Kalymnos is the only island in the Dodecanese still to have preserved a small sponge-fishing fleet.
Kalymnos Island is part of the Dodecanese Island group
History of Kalymnos.