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Paros and its outlying islands have a rich prehistoric archaeology, which begins with the settlement on Saliagos dating from the 5th millennium bc and continues into Early Bronze Age culture, whose cemeteries and settlements from all around the island have yielded valuable material revealing commercial contacts with other Aegean islands, Crete and the Greek mainland. An important settlement at Koukounaries dates from the last years of the Mycenaean period; after its destruction in the 12th century bc the site was re-inhabited and seems to have prospered during the Geometric era.
The island was colonised by Ionians and in the 7th century bc established its own colony on Thasos —an expedition in which one of the greatest poets of early Greek literature, Archilochus, participated. Thasos brought her mother-city great wealth, and Paros enjoyed its golden age of influence and creativity in the early 6th century bc when many of its finest buildings were raised and the quarries of its preeminent marble were first seriously exploited. By the end of the 6th century bc the island was under the dominion of Naxos . In 490 bc Paros sent a trireme with the invading Persian fleet, an action which brought upon it a retaliatory attack by Athens, un er Miltiades, after the Battle of Marathon. The islanders resisted inenious ways (Herodotus, Hist. VI, 133), and during the siege Miltiades broke his knee in the Sanctuary of Demeter. The siege was lifted: Miltiades returned to Athens in disgrace and the injury to his knee which had turned gangrenous eventually took his life. Paros did not contribute to the defeat of Xerxes in 480 bc, and afterwards became subject to Athens. During the Peloponnesian War it tried to shake off Athenian dominion, failed, and was assessed to pay the highest tribute of any Cycladic island, namely 18 talents annually.
Free for a brief period after 403 bc, it was then incorporated in the second Athenian League in 377 bc and came under Macedonian influence after 357 bc. From 100 bc, Paros was part of the Roman Eparchy of Asia. Both Agorakritos in the 5th, and Scopas in the 4th century bc, were sculptors from Paros: Scopas was one of the greatest of his age, and worked on the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. The visit in 326 ad of St Helen, mother of Constantine the Great, resulted in the building on Paros of one of the most important churches in the Aegean, the Panaghia Katapoliani, often called ‘Hekatontapyliani’ or ‘Church of a Hundred Gates’. Justinian rebuilt the church more grandly in the 6th century, probably after a fire had destroyed the original Constantinian structure.
As a favoured base for Saracens and pirates during the 8th and 9th centuries, the island became poorer and dramatically less populated. Its fortunes revived when it was taken by Marco Sanudo in 1207 into the Duchy of Naxos ; in 1260 the Kastro was built in Parikia. In the 15th century the capital was moved to the castle on the hill of Kephala on the east coast of the island, which was believed to be easier to defend against the increasing pressure of Turkish attacks. In 1537 Khaireddin Barbarossa laid siege to the castle and captured it in four days. The island was thereafter to remain under Turkish dominion, with an administrative centre at Lefkes, for almost 300 years. Piracy once again flourished, and Hugues Creveliers, the original of Byron’s Corsair, was one of the many celebrated pirates who operated from Paros in the 17th century. During the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–74 Naousa became the naval base for the Russian Aegean fleet of Count Alexei Orloff. Paros was re-united with the fledgling Greek State in 1832, at which time it became the home of the heroine of Greek Independence, Mando Mavrogenous (1796–1840): she is buried in the courtyard of the Katapoliani church in Parikia.
The approaches to the harbour of Paros are notoriously hazardous, and it was on the isolated reefs called the Portes at the entrance to the Bay of Parikia that the ferry, Express Samina from Piraeus, foundered in a storm on the 26 September 2000 with the loss of 80 lives.
Travel Guide to Paros & Greece