Only scattered evidence of prehistoric (Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age) settlement has been encountered on Patmos, mostly in the areas of Kastelli, Kalikatsouand Kambos. In historic times, the island was inhabited by Dorians, and later by Ionian colonists from Miletus. Patmos is briefly mentioned by Thucydides (Hist. III. 33.3) (in connection with the Athenian pursuit of the Spartan fleet in 428 bc), by Strabo (Geog. X.5.13), and by Pliny (Nat. Hist. IV 70), but never with any significant detail. It had limited water and only minor importance in the Ancient Greek world, even though there appears to have been a sizeable city to the east of the acropolis of Kastelli in Hellenistic times, and a temple to Artemis Patnia on the summit where the monastery now stands. The island was a small Roman outpost when St John the Divine was exiled here from Ephesus in 95 ad, at the end of the reign of Domitian. By his own testimony, he received the vision of the Revelation, which is now the last book of the New Testament, during his 18 month sojourn on the island.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the island, ravaged by Saracen incursions, became depopulated, and we hear almost no mention of it until the moment when its history was to change for ever with the arrival in 1088 of the Blessed Christodoulos—a learned and resourceful abbot from Asia Minor who had obtained the blessing and sup port of the Byzantine Emperor, Alexios I Comnenus, to establish a monastery on the island in honour of St John. Only three years after beginning the enterprise, Seljuk Turkish attacks forced the monks and the founder to flee the island: Christodoulos died in Euboea in 1093, but his followers returned to complete the monastery according to the instructions he had laid down. Under Venetian occupation after 1207, under the protection of Pope Pius II (Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini) after 1461, and finally under Ottoman dominion after 1523, the monastery’s integrity and independence, bestowed on it originally by the Byzantine Emperor, was respected and preserved, sometimes in exchange for appropriate tribute. Refugees arrived on the island from Constantinople in 1453, and from Candia on Crete in 1669, enriching and embellishing the island’s cultural and architectural heritage, although the year 1659 saw the Chora plundered by the Venetian admiral, Francesco Morosini. An influential and long-lived Theological School was first established in 1713; and in the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, a growing mercantile class, based on shipping and trade, brought prosperity to the is land and developed the port area of Skala. Immanuel Xanthos who was one of the co-founders of the secret Greek Independence Party, or Philiki Etaireia (‘Friendly Association’) in 1814, was from Patmos. Independence came in 1821, only for Turkish control to be re-imposed according to the terms of the London Protocol of 1830. The Italian occupation after 1912 gave rise to the only instance of coercion to change language and liturgy which the monastery faced in its long history. The island joined the Greek State together with the other Dodecanese Islands in 1948. Over the last three decades, Patmos has become increasingly popular with a discriminating and independent tourism, and strict rules govern the construction and restoration of buildings, especially in Chora. The island’s biggest challenge, however, now comes from its popularity with cruise-ship tourism, which risks overwhelming the small scale and sacred nature of its most important monuments.
Patmos Island is part of the Dodecanese Island group
– Patmos history –