Symi’s mythological origins are variously and conflictingly told by different writers—Diodorus Siculus, Pliny, Eustathius of Thessalonica. It appears that the island cherished a connection with Glaucus whose particular skills associated him with the island’s trades—he was a fisher man, sailor and boatwright, and is said to have helped build Jason’s ship, the Argo. Born mortal, he later became a deity; he abducted Syme, the daughter of king Ialysos of Rhodes , and brought her to the island, endowing it with her name. Ancient Syme contributed three ships to the Greek fleet at Troy according to Homer, who says the delegation was captained by the island’s young prince, Nereios, who was—after Achilles—the most beautiful warrior amongst the Greeks. Homer relates that he was killed at Troy. Three ships constituted a substantial contingent for a small community which is hardly heard of otherwise in Antiquity and appears never to have minted its own coins. The island’s first settlers were allegedly from Caria in Asia Minor; later colonists (11th century bc) were from Laconia, and subsequently from Rhodes and Cnidos. Although the island appears in Athenian tribute lists of 434/3, most of its ancient history from 400 bc onwards is as a dominion of Rhodes . Thucydides briefly mentions the island in his narrative of the naval defeat of the Athenians by the Lacedaimonians off Cnidos in 411 bc. He says the latter set up a trophy on Syme to mark their victory: this may correspond to the ancient remains at ‘Pontikokastro’ (see below). In Roman and Byzantine times the fate of the island is closely bound with that of Rhodes . Symi appears early on to have begun providing Byzantium with fast ships and good sailors, a service they continued for the Knights of St John after they took the island in 1309. Two Ottoman attacks were successfully repelled in 1457 and 1485; but in 1522, perceiving the futility of further resistance, the is land negotiated an agreement with the Turks which guaranteed important concessions of self-governance and free trading, in exchange for certain favours, services and payment of the maktou (a fixed, annual, notional tax). Symi could also cultivate land on the Turkish mainland under this agreement. These arrangements ushered in a period of stability and prosperity for the island, in which its sponge-fishing, boat-building and trading all flourished. Theological and religious painting schools of wide repute were established on the island in the 18th century: the painter, Gregory of Symi worked here, and on Tilos and Rhodes . In 1821 Symi revolted and joined with the temporary administration of Independent Greece; but, when in 1830 it was taken under Turkish administration again, its ancient freedoms were severely curtailed. In 1912 the Italians took possession of the Dodecanese from the Turks: Symi’s reliance on the fertile lands she held in Asia Minor was cut, her trade collapsed and population declined. In the Second World War the island changed hands several times. In May 1945 the German surrender of all the Dodecanese Islands was signed on the waterfront at Symi, and in March 1948 Symi joined the Greek State.

Symi Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.


Symi Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.

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