The history of Symi

Symi is a beautiful and mountainous island on which according to tradition the 3 Graces were born. The islandís history begins in ancient times and some of its ancient names were Kariki, Aigli and Metapontis. The island got its current name from the nymph Symi, who according to mythology married the God of the seas Poseidon and brought to life Hthonios who became the leader of the islandís first inhabitants.

It is postulated that the islandís first inhabitants were the Carians and Leleges. Homer mentions Symi in Heliade, for its participation in the Trojan War with three ships, headed by the Symiot King Nireas.

Having gone through its own history during the ancient and Byzantine period (that is when islandís fortress was built), Symi was conquered in 1309 by the Kings of St. John. This is when a period of prosperity begins for the island with the development of shipping, sponge commerce, boat building, and other crafts.

The neoclassical mansions, which remain intact to this day, and most of the islandís churches were built in that period. The houses begun to spread outside the castle area and at the same time, many of the up to then traditional settlements were abandoned.

The Turks conquered Symi in 1522. In an attempt to preserve as many rights as they could, the Symiots offered gifts to the Sultan and gained in return the grant of many special privileges such as the freedom of religious express and speech. Great progress was achieved in letters, crafts, and schools such as the Ag. Marina Academy was founded (1756 Ė 1821). Prosperity in shipping and commerce gave the Symiots the opportunity to support the national war of independence from the Turkish dominion both by participating in the war and by financially supporting this national cause.

Unfortunately, in 1832 Symi was found once again under the Turkish dominion, which in 1912 was succeeded by the Italian dominion, which was particularly harsh on the locals. Once very prosperous, Symi confronted poverty Ė at that time the replacement of sailing with motor ships also occurred, sponge driving decreased and World War II begun resulting in a great migration wave of Symiots abroad.

From 1943 when the Italian dominion ceased and onwards, Symi changed hands several times between the English and the Germans, with the English taking over the island for the third time on September 25 1944, date when the islandís Castle and its surroundings were blown up.

On May 8th 1945, the Germans signed the Treaty of the Dodecanese Surrender while on April 1st 1947, the British Military Command handed over its rights to a Greek one.

At last, it was on Symi that on March 8th 1948 the Protocol of Integration of all Dodecanese islands to the Greek state was signed.

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