History of Astypalaia
The myth says …
Astypalaia is named after the daughter of Phoenix and Perimidis, who was also Europe’s sister. From the coupling of Astypalaia with Poseidon, the legendary King Agaeos Argonaut and the King of Kos, Eurypylus, were born. Its first inhabitants were Kares, who initially named the island Pyrra (Fire) due to the red color of its rocks. The island kept the same name for centuries. There are only a few references of the island as Astoupalia, Astynea and Stypalia. However, the locals are used to call the island Astropalia up to the recent days.
In ancient times…
The island was conquered by the Cretans during the Minoan era. It was later on Hellenized by Greek settlers who came from Megara. During the Hellenistic era the island was an important marine station especially for the Ptolemies, while during the Roman Era the island significantly flourished due to the abundance of natural ports which served as the base for military operations against the pirates. During the Byzantine Ages the increase of pirate activity led to the alteration of the town-planning and the architectural structure and location of the houses on the islands, resulting to a gradual decline of the coastal settlements and the transfer of the population inland. At the same time the focus of the rulers was turned to the construction of more castles for the achievement of further protection. This was when the Castle of Agios Ioannis was constructed at the south-western coast of Astypalaia, the remains of which can still exist in the present days.
The Castle and the Querini
However, the most intense period for Astypalaia was when the island was under the Venetian rule. After the abolition of the Byzantine Empire by the Franks in 1204 and the establishment of the Ducat of Naxos, its Venetian founder, Markos Sanoudas, conceded Astypalaia to the nobleman John Querini, who was also of Venetian descent. The latter was the founder and first owner of a lodging which constituted the core of the present to settlement. The Venetians kept the island under their possession from 1207 to 1269, the year when the Byzantines overthrown the Venetians and took Astypalaia under their control. If you come to Astypalaia, you should definitely visit the Venetian Castle of Querini. There, you shouldn’t only mind taking pictures but to set your imagination free and let your mind travel to past Eras as well.