Objects and tools of obsidian from Milos found on Lipsi (and now in the island’s Nikephoreion Ecclesiastical Museum), and similar finds on each one of these islands, bear witness to a Neolithic presence in the entire archipelago. A coincidental similarity between the name ‘Lipsi’ and that of the nymph who ensnared Odysseus in her grotto, has led some to see Lipsi as Homer’s Ogygia, home of Calypso. Lipsi is small, with few resources, and it is not surprising that it features little in ancient historical texts: Strabo passes over it in silence; Pliny mentions it cursorily (Nat. Hist. V.133). Archaeological remains show, however, that it had a small fortified acropolis, and inscriptions speak of the sanctuary of Apollo Lepsios in Hellenistic times—a period in which all these islands were part of the state of Miletus on the Asia Minor coast. Little more than fortifications are visible from Antiquity on the smaller islands, with the exception of the curious vaulted chambers, referred to as Tholoi, on both Agathonisi and Pharmakonisi, which probably date from the 5th and 6th centuries ad. Thucydides (I. 116) mentions the waters off Tragia (Agathonisi) as the site of the battle between the Samians and the Athenian fleet commanded by Pericles in 440 bc; and Plutarch tells of Julius Caesar’s capture by pirates on Pharmakousa (Pharmakonisi) in 74 bc (see box below). The subsequent history of the archipelago is obscure until the watershed of 1088, when the Blessed Christodoulos obtained imperial sanction to found the monastery of St John the Divine on Patmos: Lipsi became the monastery’s possession from the time of its founding until 1654, after which it has continued to maintain buildings and land on the island to this day. The long-standing link is perhaps responsible for the extraordinary number of churches, hermitages and chapels dotted all over the is land. In recent centuries, the islands have followed the history of the Dodecanese, passing under Turkish dominion in 1523, Italian occupation in 1912, playing a commend able part in the Greek War of Independence following the revolution of 1821, and joining the Greek State in 1948.

Agathonisi Island, Marathi Island, Arki Island and Lispi Island are part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.


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