The existence of three independent cities with autonomous constitution and the same currency, which have been preserved to this day, the size and artistic works of the walls surrounding the city of Arkesini, the ancient towers to which skeletons were raised to this day all over the island, the ancient tombs, the stone tools, the inscriptions, the vases and other antiquities are all powerful proof of the size of the ancient civilisation of Amorgos.
Amorgos is also known as Yperia, Patagy, or Platagy, Pagali, Psichia, and Karkisia. Part of the island is named Aspis, where the ancient temple of the Goddess Aphrodite stood. From the name Minoa we suspect that from ancient times Amorgos had been colonised by the Cretans. Also, according to Suidan and from inscriptions, Samians inhabited the island under the leadership of Simmias. With the passing of time the islands name changed to Amolgon, Amourgon, Amorgian, and Amourgian. After the 5th century you can also find the name Amoulgos from Bishop Theodore who signed a Synod in Constantinople, as Theodore the Bishop of Parion, Sifnion, and Amoulgion. Skilax mentions it as Tripoli (the circumnavigation of the Cyclades Islands).
The three cities
The names of the three cities given by Stefanos Vizantios are Arkesini, Minoa, Aigiali or Melania where according to inscriptions, are the more correct. The three towns are on the island’s east coast because only there you can find the right bays and natural ports that could provide the proper positioning for seaside towns and forts.
Aigiali was on the north East Side of the island close to the present day locations of Tholaria and Stroumvos and to this day can still be found there. Whilst Minoa is situated at the centre of the northern side close to the present day village of Katapola, and Arkesini close to the present day lowland location Castri.
From excavations and findings, especially burial tombs we believe that the presence of Amorgos during the prehistoric years existed intensely, particularly during the first period of Cycladic civilisation (3200 to 2000 BC).
The town of Minoa could be considered a colony of Crete, but if the name Minoa was Greek, then it would represent towns established in subsequent periods, expanding in areas where the Cretan domination was situated. The three towns were considered colonies of Samos, though most probably Minoa was a Samiaki colony, Aigiali a colony of Milisia and Arkesini a colony of Naxos. These three cities flourished during historical times and had enormous trade and naval power. They were composed of a commonwealth until the second half of the 4th century BC, which is why in the taxation catalogues of the first Athenian alliance with Dilos, the inhabitants of the towns are cited by the name Amorgians. The naval battle of Amorgos happened in the area in 322 BC, which was the last of the Lamiakou war, between the Athenians and the Macedonian Generals of Alexander the Great of Antiparou, Leonnato and Kratero. That was when Athens lost if naval power forever. Amorgos became known for the tunics called Amorgina or Amorgides, which were very transparent, leaving the body almost naked and had a unique red colour. The tunics are even mentioned in Lisistratis of Aristophanis at the time where Lisistratis was motivating the women to wear them in order to attract men’s attention. These tunics were made from flax of excellent quality and came from the plant Lichina Roccela tinctoria or Roccela Phicopsis Ach, which was found plenty on the island and was used by the English industry until the beginning the 20th century.
Amorgos is the homeland of the poet Simonides the so-called iambic writer who was the biggest iambic and elegy writer of ancient lyrical poetry. During historic times the island was under the Roman leadership to whom they would pay annual taxes of 1 talent coin. During the roman age Amorgos was a place of exile.
During the Byzantine Era, Amorgos did not flourish and it was placed under the state islands municipality, with Rhodes as the capital and ecclesiastically it was connected separately to the islands of Paros and Sifnos. Amorgos was the first island captured, during Frankish rule in 1207 AD, by Andreas and Jerome Gizi. It was then passed to Marcus Sanoudo the First, and after that to the hands of the emperor of Nice Ioanni Batagi until 1269 AD where the islands was given back to the Jerome Gizi who re-organised the islands defence by raising a Frankish castle in present day Hora, where ruins still stand today, and initiated the colonisation of the deserted island. After the death of Jerome and his successor, the island was conquered by the Duke of Naxos, William Sanoudos the Fourth, and annexed to the Aegean Duchy in 1309AD. Admiral Domenicos Skiados conquered the island under the command of William Sanoudo the Fourth, whose coat of arms (a Lion carrying a flag), is in the Chozaviotissa Monastery. In 1353 the island of Amorgos was distributed to Marco Grimani and the Skiavon Family of Iou, but later on Nikolaos Sanoudo gave Skiavon back to the Gizi Family.
Despite the stability of the Grimani Dominance on half of the island, the Gizi Dominance met with sudden changes. Zannakis participation of Andrea Gizi’s uprising of the Venetian colony of Crete against Venice in 1363 AD, provoked the interference of the Venetian armada which later re-occupied Amorgos. Venice kept its domination of the ? of the islands and gave the other ? back to the Gizi Family by signed treaty whilst enforcing their domination on the part of the island that was under the Grimani possession. In the meantime the island suffered the worst from the pirates in such degree that the inhabitants left their homeland and made their way to Crete for shelter. After some time, the authority of the island Astipales, Ioannis Kouirinis, became master of the part of the island which was possessed by Venice and the gizi family, whilst in 1446 AD he bought a large hectares of land from the Grimani family and finally became master of the whole island. The continuous raids of the Catalonian Spaniards and Turks caused the desertion of Amorgos, which was finally occupied by the Turk Naval Admiral Hairedin Barbarosa (in 1537) according to the articles of the French-Turkish treaty for the expulsion of the Venetians from the Eastern territory. The Venetian-Turkish treaty in 1540 AD, established the Turkish rule on the whole islands because the Duke of Astipalea could not fulfil his role on Amorgos.
After the possession of the island by the Turkish leadership most of the inhabitants of Amorgos found refuge in Crete, which at the time was under Venetian rule. In 1550 AD the Turks gave the economic advantage of Amorgos to Ioannis Diakos for the price of 3,000 Grossia. During the following year the inhabitants successfully requested and managed to collect their earnings from the island and then pay the Turks an annual tax of 3,200 Grossia. The conditions of the relevant security provided on Amorgos resulted in the re-establishment of the island from 1580 AD and by the end of the 17th Century, the population of Amorgos was nearly 1,500 inhabitants.
Administratively they were under the Admiral of the Turkish fleet, but the municipal rules of Frankish Rule had been kept. The administration on the island had been made by Castelianos together with three syndicates (old judges that mainly practised the judicial power) and the Secretary.
The intellectual development of Amorgos seemed to have a slowdown and only in 1751 AD is there mention of an establishment of a Greek school by the St. Mary Monastery. During this time, due to its rough landscape and lack of efficient sources forced a big part of the economically active population to immigrate to Constantinople and the coastal towns of Minor Asia. During the Orlof incidents, the Russians who remained until 1774 captured the island but the inhabitants kept their own internal autonomy. In 1797 the island met big disasters from the raids of thieves from Mani. During the Russian – Turkish war of 1806 Amorgos ruled by the Russia admiral Seniavin, from 1808 after the Russians departure, the island for a few years was kept under the protection of the English naval forces of the Mediterranean. Amorgos joined the Greek rebellion of 1821 almost immediately. On the island, a lot of refugees from the mainland found refuge hospitality, when in 1824 the island faced problems of overpopulation. In 1822 the government sent Minister of Justice, Metaxas, to supervise the administrative and fiscal organisation of the island. The Amorgians kept their right to vote for their judges whom they judged together with the elected sub-prefect. After the arrival of Kapodistrias in Greece, peace finally settled and a co-educational school was established. Amorgos was officially recognised as a part of the first Greek Government State with a treaty of Kalender Kiosk on 9/7/1832. During the dictatorship of John Metaxas the island existed as a place of exile for political prisoners.