Skyros, with its strategic position in the middle of the Aegean, has been known since time immemorial. Those who controlled Skyros controlled the trade routes to Asia Minor, mainland Greece and the kingdoms of Italy. Skyros is mentioned in the writings amongst others of Homer, Pliny and Sophocles. In mythology Skyros was the ancestral home of Theseus and it is said that Achilles spent his early youth living in the women’s quarters of King Lykomedes’ palace, the King of Skyros. The small natural harbour of Achilli is from where Achilles set sail for Troy.
The countryside of Skyros provides ample evidence of its ancient past with the settlement of Palamari, the rock-hewn graves at Markessi and the relics of an early Christian shrine at Kalamitsa. The earliest settlers are thought to have come to Skyros from Evia, the coastal regions of Asia Minor and neighboring islands. These settlers were suspicious of each other and created self-administrating city states.
Skyros’ strategic position has meant that throughout history Skyros has been fought over and ruled by a host of occupiers amongst them the Cretans, the Dolopians, the Athenians, the Romans and the Turks.
During the time of Constantine the Great and the division of the Roman Empire, Skyros lost its dependence on Rome and came under control of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire. With the fall of Constantinople, it came under the rule of the Venetians. In the middle of the 16th Century Turkey decided to take over those islands in the Aegean, including Skyros, which belonged to Venice and sending a fleet of 150 ships under the command of the ex-pirate Barbarossa. This turning point saw the beginning of Turkish rule and in 1538 Skyros was seized by Barbarossa. Although under Turkish control from 1538 it is not known exactly when the Turkish community actually settled on Skyros though documentation shows Turkish officials were present on the island from about 1550.
Skyros remained under the rule of the Ottoman Empire until the Greek Revolution of 1821 when it became a part of the Free Greek State and Greece as we know it today.
Since the revolution and becoming part of modern Greece, perhaps more than any other region of the country Skyros has retained the basic elements of its social structure and traditional culture.