Skopelos island is a part of Greece’s rich history and cultural heritage with its own distinctive customs and traditions. This fact makes the island more than just a tourist destination. It combines its unique beauty with a long journey through time that enchants all visitors.
Skopelos island in the Byzantine times
There are few historical sources that refer to the island of Skopelos during the early Byzantine era. The fact that it was a place of exile probably contributed to this. After the Sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204, the Venetians conquered the island and incorporated it into the Duchy of Naxos. Then, the island passed under the rule of the House of Ghizi (or Gizi) until 1276. The Byzantine admiral Licario, in service of the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos, reconquered many of the Aegean islands in the 1270s, including Skopelos. In the period that follows, the island is attacked and plundered by various invaders.
The Venetian era of Skopelos
Until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, Skopelos remained Greek. It was then occupied by the Venetians until 1538, thus avoiding Turkish occupation. Remnants of Venetian rule can still be found in family names, toponyms and many words in the Skopelian dialect.
An important date for Skopelos is 1538 AD, when the Ottoman Chief Admiral Hairedin Barbarossa conquered the island, marking the beginning of the Turkish rule over it.
During the Ottoman rule, there was no permanent Turkish population in Skopelos. This resulted in the preservation of its privileges, established during the Venetian rule. Many travelers who visited Skopelos Town from the 16th to the 19th century, mentioned a city with a large population and economic prosperity. During the 18th century, there was considerable commercial activity on the island.
Skopelos’ contribution to the Greek uprisal of 1821
During the Greek Independence Revolution of 1821, Skopelos took an active part in the struggle. The ship-owners and captains of Skopelos assisted their fellow countrymen, contributing 35 merchant ships to the struggle. When the revolution failed in Thessaly Region and Macedonia Region, 70,000 people, men, women and children, settled on the island overwhelmed by epidemics and poverty. Eventually, Skopelos island and the Northern Sporades islands became part of the First Hellenic Republic in 1830, forming the northern borders of the newly formed state.
The modern history of Skopelos
The social structure of Skopelos during the years of Ottoman rule directly influenced the island’s customs and traditions. There was a strong division of social classes on the island. The landowners and ship-owners were the ruling class, while most of the population were small farmers, laborers and sailors. Thus, in the second half of the 19th century, but also in the first half of the 20th century, there was a large migration flow due to the poverty that plagued the islands of the Northern Sporades.
During the Balkan wars and the Greco-Turkish War, Skopelos had its militant presence. Glossa and the wider area was present with its soldiers and paid its own blood tax. Fifteen Glossians lost their lives between 1912 and 1922. The same happened in the Greek-Italian and Greek-German wars of 1940 – 1941. Apart from those who fell on the warfront or died from their wounds, there were many who returned disabled to the island. Also, in 1940, a terrible phylloxera epidemic destroyed the island’s famous vineyards forever.
The Italian-German Occupation
After the German invasion of Greece in 1941, Glossa became a refuge for many men of the Allied Expeditionary Force. The inhabitants of the island generously offered them shelter and food. Those who arrived on the island were undertaken by a team that had been created in Glossa, to distribute them in various huts and feed them. Skopelitians, risking their lives saved several Jews, thus, the Jewish Community of Volos honored the citizens of Glossa and Klima in recognition of their bravery and generosity in helping fugitive Greek Jews during the Nazi occupation.
In 1965, a great earthquake significantly affected the lives of the inhabitants. The result was significant damage to several historic buildings and relocated the residents from Paleo Klima to Neo Klima (Elios).
The tourist development of Skopelos Island
The 80’s mark the beginning of the tourist development of Skopelos, which was based on its beautiful natural environment and its crystal-clear seas and beaches. Many young people who had emigrated began to return permanently or for vacation during the summer months.
In modern times, Skopelos island maintains its wonderful culture. Its legends and rich folk tradition, historical and artistic monuments, castles and monasteries are unique. Skopelos knives are also very well-known and folk quotes are engraved on their handles.