Thasos - history

The area of Limenas, or Thasos town, has seen human habitation since before 10,000 bc, at which point the island was probably still attached to the mainland. This is indicated by the finding of bone and stone tools which were used to obtain ochre in caves in the vicinity of the town. The discovery of an important Early Bronze Age settlement of the 3rd millennium bc at Skala Sotiros, where defensive walls and carved anthropomorphic stelai have come to light, was followed by a number of other later Bronze Age (14th century bc) finds in the interior of the island, principally at Kastri­, between Potos and Theologos. A greater need for security from sea-borne attack may have encouraged the move towards the interior from the coast.
   Around 680 bc colonists from the island of Paros arrived to settle the island, purportedly on the instigation of the Delphic Oracle. Their leader was Telesicles, father of the poet and soldier Archilochus, who describes the is land’s appearance as like ‘the back-bone of an ass, covered in dense forests’. Herodotus, who visited Thasos to see its gold mines, states that the original colonisers of the island were Phoenicians ‘who came with Thasos , their leader, to colonise the island which has borne his name eversince’ (Histories VI.47). The names of the towns he refers to on the east coast, ‘Ainyra’ and ‘Koinyra’, are unusual and could well be Phoenician in origin. The mines certainly brought prosperity to Thasos ; with growing wealth and population, she in turn colonised the Macedonian and Thracian mainland opposite, in part so as to develop further mines around Mount Pangaios. On the strength of this, the is land developed strong trade links with the Cyclades and the Ionian islands, and with Corinth and Athens. In the build-up to the Persian wars, Thasos acceded to Darius’s demands that it dismantle its walls in 491; likewise in 480 it offered no resistance to Xerxes, but rather fited him at huge public expense. After 477 bc the island was part of the Delian League, but it seceded in 465 bc in a dispute with Athens over mining and trading rights. Thasos held out against the aggressions of Athens for over two years according to Thucydides (Peloponnesian War I.101) before surrendering her fleet, once again dismantling her walls, and renouncing her claims on the mainland. A period of compliance with Athens then followed until the island defected from the alliance in 410 bc. In 405 bc, after his defeat of the Athenian fleet at Aegospotami, the Spartan leader Lysander gathered the island’s Athenian partisans into the sanctuary of Hercules by means of a deceit, and massacred them.
   In the course of the 5th century bc Hippocrates lived on the island for almost four years on his return from the Macedonian court—working with the sick and meticulously noting medical conditions and seasonal climatic changes. One of the greatest of all Ancient Greek painters, Polygnotos (fl. 475–450 bc), was born on Thasos , although he worked for most of his life in Athens.
   The 4th century bc saw stability and prosperity for the island and a great deal of new building in the city. At first Thasos was part of the Second Athenian League from 375 bc; it then passed under loose Macedonian control after Philip of Macedon’s victory at Chaeronea in 338 bc. This was the island’s golden age of theatre and drama. The is land flourished also under Roman rule after 196 bc and was rewarded by Rome for its staunch resistance to Mithridates in 80 bc. Its wine and marble were much in demand in the capital, both before and throughout Imperial times (see Seneca, Epist. LXXXVI).
   The mediaeval history of Thasos is relatively obscure. The island was a naval base for the Byzantine fleet, but when taken by the Genoese overlords of Lesbos—the Gattilusi family—it benefited from its Genoese connections and traded its produce as far afield as Northern Europe. In 1455 the Gattilusi descendants gave up the island to the Ottoman Sultan in order to safeguard their rights over Lesbos. In 1770, following a Russian defeat of the Turkish navy, Thasos became a naval base for the Russians who made heavy inroads into the tree-cover of the island for the maintenance and replacement of their fleet. In 1813, depopulated and deforested, the island was given by Sultan Mahmud II as part of a settlement to Mehmet Ali, Viceroy of Egypt. It became in consequence a quasi-independent apanage of Egypt, with its own ‘president’, for almost a century until 1902 when it again reverted to Turkish rule. In 1912 Admiral Koundouriotis liberated the island for Greece. The period between the Wars was marked by an influx of refugees from Asia Minor in 1922/3, who were settled mostly at Limenas and Limenaria, creating new centres which slowly began to supersede the former inland capitals of Panaghia and Theologos. In 1985, and again in 1989, areas of the island in the south and west were devastated by extensive forest fires, but they are now recovering their thick cover of green once again.

Thasos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.


Thasos Island, Greece.

Access to the island is by car-ferry from two harbours close to Kavala—(Nea) Péramos to the west, and Keramoti to the east—and from the port of Kavala itself.
   The service from Keramoti is now the most practical and reliable, and is the only one that serves Thasos town/Liménas itself with departures approximately every 90ms (crossing time, 40mins);
   The other connections are all to Prinos Skala which lies 16km to the west of the main town of Liménas. In the summer there are generally 6 car-ferry services (90mins), daily from Kavala to Prinos Skala. All these services are reduced in the winter. The service from Nea Péramos to Prinos Skala runs only April–end Sept and takes c. 75mins: its schedule is currently being renegotiated (2010).
All the above are operated by Thassos Ferries: T. 25930 24001/2,, from whom information on costs and schedules can be obtained. Kavala ("Megas Alexandros") Airport is served by three daily flights from Athens (Olympic Air and Aegean Air lines), and is close (c.10km) to Keramoti for the crossing to Thasos .
Taxi transfer from the airport to Keramoti costs in the region of €10.

Thasos Travel Guide


Thasos Island, Greece.

In Limenas, the Taverna Mouses by the modern harbour has well-prepared local dishes and welcoming hospitality. The plateia of Kazavíti is one of the most picturesque places on the island to dine, though it has recently become popular with tour groups: the family-run Taverna Vassilis on the square takes appropriate care with both food and setting.
At Theologos, both Kleoniki and Stelios serve a variety of good dishes prepared with locally-raised meats. Nowhere especially recommends itself in Liménas but the Taverna Platanaki be side the "old harbour" provides a pleasant setting and a good selection of fish dishes.


Thasos Travel Guide

further reading

Thasos Island, Greece.

Yves Grandjean & François Salviat, Guide de Thasos (Paris/Athens 2000)—an exemplary account of the ancient city which will long remain unsuperseded.
Thasos Travel Guide


Thasos Island, Greece.

In spite of its size, Thasos still has no truly ‘simpatico’ places to stay and little that seems satisfactorily to combine comfort with tastefulness. In the main town of Liménas, the best and most genuine hospitality is offered by the Acropolis Hotel (T. 25930 22488, fax 58118, At Panaghia is the pleasant Thassos Inn, in a traditional style building (T. 25930 61612, fax 61027); below, at Chrysi Ammoudiá, is the Hotel Dionysos (T. 25930 61822, fax 61823, email: dionyso1@, an unpretentious and comfortable hotel just above the beaches of Potamiá Bay. All of the above are moderately characterful and of good value, in the medium price range.Thasos Travel Guide

practical info

Thasos Island, Greece.

640 04 Thasos: area 383 sq. km; perimeter 116km; population 13,447; max. altitude 1,206m. Port Authority: 25930 22106 Travel and Information: www.gothassos.comThasos Travel Guide

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