about the Kythera Island
Back to Ionian Islands
One asks oneself why Greek mythology
chose Kythera, an island unknown to many, as the birthplace for
Aphrodite, the goddess of love. No matter what your answer is,
one thing is clear: Kythera is not only addressed to those in
love but also to all those who are seeking a quiet shore to relax
Today's approximately 3,000 inhabitants live off of animal husbandry,
the cultivation of vegetables and a few olive trees. But remittances
from Australia are also an important source of in- come.
Isolated from the rest of the Ionian Islands,
Kythera is only 10 nautical miles from the south- eastern tip
of the Peloponnese, Cape Maleas, and 105 nautical miles from Piraeus
to which it belongs administratively. It has an area of 278 sq.
km., and a coastline of 52 km. The island is covered with low
mountains, the highest of which, Mermygaris, does not exceed 500
m. Between the mountains are small valleys on which wheat and
vegetables are cultivated.
You can go to Kythera from Athens
by plane or from Piraeus by ferry boat or the speedy hydrofoils.
You can also go overland down to Gytheio or Neapoli in the Peloponnese
and then by ferry boat. From Kythera you can visit Monemvasia,
Elafonisi, Antikythera and Crete.
According to mythology Kythera is the island of Aphrodite. The
goddess of beauty and love was born on the foam of the sea; she
first came ashore on Kythera and then went to Cyprus.
Kythera, which is also mentioned in antiquity by the name of Porphyrousa,
was a naval base for the Minoans at the beginning of the 2nd millenium
B.C. Porphyry, which there was an abundance of on the island,
was the reason the Phoenicians came there, involving themselves
with the processing of and the trade in this good, valuable during
The Phoenicians were succeeded
by the Myceneans. Their presence on the island is confirmed by
the Mycenean tools which were found in Palaiopoli, near Avlemonas.
Later, during the period of the Peloponnesian Wars, Kythera, which
was an ally of Sparta, was occupied by the Athenians for a brief
period of time.
The centuries that rolled by were characterized by repeated pirate
raids on the island which often led to its desertion. After a
series of such events the Venetian occupation finally began in
Kythera in 1207 with the Venetian Marco Venieri proclaiming himself
"Marquis of Kythera". The Venetians gave a new name
to the island, Cerigo, which is still used by the locals today
with only a slight change: Tsirigo.
The pirate raids abated for along time but in 1537 Kythera would
experience a great calamity when Barbarossa attacked it.
After the dissolution of the Serene Republic by Napoleon, the
Venetian occupation of the island came to an end and the French
took over in 1797.
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