History and legend

The discovery of a substantial Bronze Age shaft-grave on the promontory at Stafilos in 1936 provided clear evidence of Cretan colonisation on the island in the late 17th century bc. Dubbed locally the ‘tomb of King Staphylos’, because of the rich grave gifts which were unearthed in it, the find gave tendentious credence to the legend that the island’s first notable ruler was Staphylos, the son of Ariadne. As to whether he was her son by the hero Theseus or by the god Dionysos the sources are characteristically ambiguous, as Plutarch points out (Theseus, 21). His brother was Peparethos, the name which the city and island of Skopelos bore all through Antiquity. Since ‘stafili’ is the ancient Greek for a ‘grape bunch’, and the name Peparethos could be seen as cognate with the verb ‘pepainein’, ‘to ripen’, we may simply be looking at the mythical explanation of the island’s importance and fame throughout ancient times as a producer of a highly prized wine—the ‘Πεπαρήθιος οίνος’ which was exported to points all around the Euxine (Black) Sea, as the presence of the island’s amphorae there show. In historical times, much of the island’s history is identical with Skiathos: the city of Peparethos (modern Skopelos Chora) was founded in the 7th century bc, by colonists from Chalcis in Euboea, along with two other cities on the island—Panormos and Selinous (modern-day Loutraki). Some remains of the acropolis walls of all three cities are still visible. Skopelos joined the Delian League, paying the substantial annual tribute of 3 talents, indicative of its relative prosperity and trading strength, based on the export of its wine. In 427 bc earthquakes and tidal waves damaged the city of Peparethos according to Thucydides (III, 89). After the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 bc, the is land passed under Macedonian rule: it was freed by Rome in 197 bc, but was later gifted by Mark Anthony after the Battle of Philippi in 42 bc to Athens in acknowledgement of the city’s support.

   Christianity came to the island most notably in the person of the bishop-saint, Reginos, who was martyred for his faith under Julian the Apostate in 362 or 363 ad. In the 6th century the island’s name first emerges as ‘Schepola’ in Byzantine chronicles. Together with Skiathos, Skopelos belonged to the Byzantine theme of Macedonia. In 1204, after the Fourth Crusade, it came under the possession of the Ghisi family. In 1276 they were driven out by the Byzantine fleet. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 the inhabitants sought the protection of the Venetian Republic, which governed Skopelos until it was captured for the Turks by Khaireddin Barbarossa in 1538, who—as was his generally his custom—left the island devastated and de populated. Under Turkish control, however, the islanders possessed a number of privileges and freedoms. During the 1820s Skopelos accepted refugees from Thessaly and Macedonia, and in the 1920s, from Asia Minor. The island became part of the new Greek state in 1830.

Skopelos Island is part of the Sporades Island Group, Greece.

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