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The recorded history of the island is confined mostly to the last 300 years; though excavations by Dimitris Theocharis on the promontory of Aghia Marina have shown that there was a flourishing Early Helladic settlement on the island in the mid-3rd millennium bc, with some later occupation in Mycenaean times. In historic antiquity the island is mentioned by name as Pityoussa. The Italians gave it the name ‘Spezia’ or ‘Spezie’—either in reference to the pungent pine and herb-scented air (‘spiced’), or to some perceived similarity with the verdant coast of La Spezia in Liguria. The island was settled during the 17th century by refugees from Turkish rule on the mainland. The abundance of wood both on the island and on the mainland favoured a flourishing industry of boat building. By the turn of the 19th century, the island’s population was c. 18,000, and it possessed a large merchant fleet. The first open call in the Islands to revolutionary arms in the Greek War of Independence, was from Spetses on 3 April 1821. Spetses, together with Hydra and Psara—the three ‘naval islands’ as they are referred to—contributed the uprising’s all-important navy. The island provided a number of prominent and successful naval commanders, and the country’s best-known heroine, Laskarina Bou boulina, who led her own ships in the siege of Nauplia in 1822. After the war, the arrival of steam-ships sidelined Spetses and its fleet, and the island’s economic situation languished. At the beginning of the 20th century, a Spetsiot tobacco magnate, Sotirios Anargyros, returned to Spet ses and put his wealth into projects for the island—roads, aqueducts, an international hotel and an elite school— laying thereby the foundations of a tourist industry which sustains the island today. Devastating forest fires in the 1990s and in 2000 destroyed the greater part of the island’s celebrated pine woods.
Spetses Island is part of the Argosaronic Island Group, Greece.