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A few words about Tilos:
Tilos (Greek: ΤΗΛΟΣ) is a small Greek
island located in the Aegean Sea. It is part of the Dodecanese group of
islands, and lies midway between Kos and Rhodes.
Population: 535 (2001)
Popularly, Telos was the son of Helios and Halia, the sister of the Telchines.
He came to the island in search of herbs to heal his ill mother, and later
returned to found a temple to Apollo and Neptune. However, Telos (Telo or Tilo)
does not appear in Greek mythology and the name probably has an unknown
Pliny the Elder notes that in antiquity Telos was known as Agathussa (Αγαθούσσα)
(also Agathusa and Agathousa). In the middle ages it was known by the Italian
Piscopi or Episcopi (also Pisconia).
Tilos has an inverted 'S' shape, is about 14.5 km long, north-west to
south-east, with a maximum width of 8 km and an area of about 61 km˛.
The island has a mountainous limestone interior, volcanic lowlands, pumice
beds and red lava sand, like its north western neighbour Nisyros. It is well
supplied by springs, and is potentially very fertile and productive. Its
coasts are generally rocky or pebbled, but there are also a number of sandy
At the north-west end of the island, the Monastery of Ayios Pandeleimon, (also
the island's patron saint), sits on the slopes Mt. Profitis Ilias (651 m). The
mountain borders a fertile plain running across the island's width, with the
settlements of Ayios Andonis to the north and Eristos to the south. To the
north-east of the plain is the island's capital, Megalo Chorio, built in the
early 19th century at the foot of the ancient city of Telos. The archaic ruins
strech up to the site of the acropolis of the ancient city, dedicated to
Pythios Apollo and Poliada Athina, and the Venetian Kastro, built over it. To
the west is Kharkhadio Cave, where excavations in 1971 unearthed Neolithic
finds and bones of dwarf elephant. Above the cave stand the ruins of the
medieval Fortress of Mesaria . At southern end of the island, bordered by more
fertile meadows, is Livadhia, the major harbour and economic centre of the
island. The island's old capital, Mikro Chorio, first settled in the 15th
century by the Knights of the Order of St John, overlooks the bay. It has been
completely abandoned since 1960, its inhabitants having moved down to the
harbour in the 1930s. A number of other settlements such as Lethra, Ghera &
Pano Meri have similarly been abandoned. Mt. Ayios Nikolaos (367 m) stands to
the south of the bay.
Kastros (castles) have protected the island's inhabitants from pirate raids
since the dark ages.
Pottery and stone tools discovered in Kharkhadio indicate human activity on
Tilos in the early neolithic period 8000 BC – 7000 BC, along with the large
assembly of dwarf (1.20-1.60 m tall) elephant bones, carbon dated at 4000 –
7000 before present (some now in the museum). Masseti (2001) suggests
coexistence of these animals with humans, possibly into the historic period.
Excavation has identified Pelasgian masonry, as well as suggesting Tilos was
successively dominated by Minoans, Mycenaeans and Dorians.
The island flourished during the classical era, minting its own coinage and
being famed for clothing and perfumes.
Telos claims the poetess Irinna (said to be Sappho's equal) was born on the
island around 350 BC?. Charles Anthon (1853) describes her thus: "Erinna (Ήριννα)
friend & contemporary of Sappho (about 612 BC) died at 19, left behind her
poems which were thought worthy to rank with those of Homer. Her poems were of
the epic class; the chief of them was entitled Ήλακάτη, " The Distaff" it
consisted of three hundred lines, of which only four are extant. It was
written in a dialect which was a mixture of the Doric and ?olic, and which was
spoken at Rhodes, where, or in the adjacent island of Telos, Erinna was born.
She is also called a Lesbian and a Mytilenean, on account of her residence in
Lesbos with Sappho. There are several epigrams upon Erinna, in which her
praise is celebrated, and her untimely death is lamented. Three epigrams in
the Greek Anthology are ascribed to her, of which the first has the genuine
air of antiquity, but the other two, addressed to Baucis, seem to be a later
In the 7th century BC, colonists from Tilos and Lindos settled in Sicily and
founded the city of Gelas.
Herodotus (484 BC – c. 425 BC) described the centuries preceding him as the
golden age of Tilos.
In the 5th century BC, Tilos was a member of the First Delian League and kept
its independence until the end of the Peloponnesian War.
From the turn of the 4th century BC, for the next 200 years, Tilos was subject
to the Seleucid Empire, Caria and then Egypt under the influence of Rhodes,
until in 200 BC, the island was incorporated in to the Rhodian confederacy.
The island was conquered by the Romans in 42 BC. Archaeological finds from
Roman and early-Christian times demonstrate the prosperity of the island until
the great earthquake of 551 AD.
Tilos followed Rhodes into the Byzantine Empire following the death of
Theodosius I and was a member of the naval Theme of Samos between the 9th and
The Knights of St John took control of Tilos from 1309, restoring the
Byzantine castles, and building new ones in order to defend against pirate
raids, until 1522 when Rhodes fell to Suleiman I.
In 1523, Tilos was occupied by the Ottoman Empire and the island was put under
the privileged administrative and tax system known as "maktou". Christian
pirates, under the pretext of revenge the against the Turks, pillaged the
The Ottoman rule lasted until 1912, when the island was ceded to Italy. In
1943 it was invaded by German troops and in 1948, Tilos united with Greece, as
did all the Dodecanese islands. Since 1948, the population of the island has
declined rapidly, as many Tilians migrated to America or Australia.
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