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Argosaronikos Islands | Kythira

Kythira History

The mythological tale of Kythira focuses on Aphrodite, goddess of beauty and love.  She was born on the froth of the sea and first ventured ashore on this island. Practically in the center of the island at Kastri is where the ancient town of Skandeia once stood, not far from the hill on which the Temple of Aphrodite was located.  Stones from the ancient temple were used to build the nearby chapel of Ai. Kosmas.  From the 2nd millennium BC, the Phoenicians, who came for the purple dye that was found in a mollusk abundant in the seas of Kythira, inhabited the island.  Then it was used as a Minoan naval base; from then and until 1207, when the Venetians occupied the island, there had been a series of more than 80 foreign occupations and pirate raids.  In 1537, the island was completely destroyed when it was attacked and sacked by the legendary, odious pirate, Barbarossa.  It wasn’t until the beginning of the 18th century that it was reoccupied and rebuilt, again by the Venetians.  It changed hands several times again (French, Russian, Turkish, and British) until it was finally united with the rest of Greece in 1864.

During the first Venetian occupation, the majority of the island’s significant castles and settlements were constructed, the most noteworthy of which is the castle that sits 300 meters above the sea in Chora and overlooks the two bays of the port of Kapsali and further to the Cretan Sea.  The view, as you might expect, is outstanding.  The town spreads out just below the castle and has lovely old traditional houses and more than 40 churches.  The castle itself is very well preserved, was built in 1503, and contains the original Catholic cathedral, a second church with rare wall paintings, and a third church, which is the oldest.  Historical archives are located within the castle, in the former palace of the high commissioner.  The town also has a small Archaeological Museum with finds dating to the Minoan period, some pottery from the Mycenaean period, and a variety of finds from the Archaic and Classical periods.