(1900 Times Atlas of the World)
1204: the Byzantine Empire is parcelled out among the leaders of the Fourth Crusade, but Schiro falls into the hands of the Ghisi and the Tiepolo, both families of Venetian merchants.
1390 ca. the Ottomans seize Schiro and later on return the island to the nominal rule of the Byzantine Emperor.
1453: the Ottomans conquer Constantinople: Schiro becomes a Venetian possession.
1538: Hayreddin Barbarossa, admiral of the Ottoman fleet, seizes Schiro.
Floor mosaic from a Roman villa near Tipasa in Algeria: detail showing Odysseus/Ulysses (with the "pileus", a felt cap) and Achilles (naked) at the court of King Lycomedes of Scio (see another floor mosaic depicting the same scene at Kourion on Cyprus)
"Calchas, the priest of Apollo, had foretold that Troy could not be taken without the aid of
young Achilles, the seventh son of Peleus and Thetys. ... now Thetys knew that her
son would never return from Troy if he joined the expedition, since he was fated either
to gain glory there and die early, or to live a long but inglorious life at home. She disguised
him as a girl, and entrusted him to Lycomedes, king of Scyros, in whose palace he lived under the name of Cercysera, Aissa, or Pyrrha; and had an intrigue with Lycomedes's daughter Deidameia by whom he became the father of Pyrrhus, later called Neoptolemus.
Odysseus, Nestor, and Ajax were sent to fetch Achilles from Scyros, where he was rumoured to be hidden, Lycomedes let them search the palace, and they might never have detected Achilles, had not Odysseus laid a pile of gifts - for the most part jewels, girdles, embroidered dresses and such - in the hall, and asked the court-ladies to take their choice. Then Odysseus ordered a sudden trumpet-blast and clash of arms to sound outside the palace and, sure enough, one of the girls stripped herself to the waist and seized the shield and spear which he had included among the gifts. It was Achilles, who now promised to lead his Myrmidons to Troy." (Robert Graves - The Greek Myths - 160).
This introduction explains why the ferry for Schiro is named AXILLEAS (you can see it in the image used as background for this page).
View of the town (Skyro today, but in the past St. George) from the beach
October 1807. At sunset pass the town of Andro,
which is situated near the sea, and is crowned
with a castle on the summit of a peak, about one-third of the length of the island from the northern
cape. From hence we steer for Skyro and at day-break find ourselves near the southern end of
that island. Soon
after sunrise the wind freshens, and as we pass
along the coast, which is lofty, rocky, and precipitous, it increases to a gale, and descends from
the hills in such squalls, that we fail in fetching
Port Akhili, and anchor in a dangerous situation
to the eastward of the town of St. George, which
covers the northern and western sides of a high
rocky peak, which to the eastward falls steeply to
the sea. Akhili, the harbour which lies south-east of St.
George, is evidently an ancient name, and a memorial of Achilles.
William Martin Leake - Travels in northern Greece - 1835
A modern Thetys would surely choose Schiro even today if she wished to protect her children from the dangers of modern life. The island is (relatively) far from everything: it can only be reached via a daily ferry from Kimi, a port on the eastern coast of Negroponte (Eviā or Euboea).
Thetys chose Schiro also because the town was hidden by a high rock and it was not visible from the sea (today this is only partially true).
En route to the fortress
Skyro is divided into two parts, nearly equal,
by an isthmus, which lies between Port Akhlli and
the great harbour called by the Greeks Kalamitza,
and by the Italians Gran Spiaggia. All the
southern portion is uncultivated, and consists of
high mountains, which are intersected by deep
gullies, and are rugged and bare, except towards
the summits, where they are clothed with oaks, firs,
and beeches. The northern part of the island is not
so mountainous: and all the hills bear corn, vines,
and madder; besides the plain adjacent
to the khora or town, there are two other fertile
levels, one at the northern extremity of the island,
and another at Kalamitza. The island abounds in sources of
water, and affords pasture to a few oxen, and to
15,000 head of sheep and goats, of which 2,000
are annually exported. The (Christian poll) taxes amount to 20
purses a year, paid by 500 families, all of whom
have dwellings in St. George, the only other village in the island being merely an occasional
residence of those who take care of the cattle. (..)
The houses of Skyro, though flat roofed like
those of the Cyclades, are in other respects very
differently built, being generally of two stories, of
which the lower is formed of stone and the upper
of wood. The latter has projections on the outside
in the Turkish fashion. (..) The women,
unlike those of the other islands, live quite retired
in the houses, and hide themselves on the approach of a stranger. Leake
The precious assistants of the inhabitants of Skyros
Cars and buses reach only the lower (modern) part of the town. A long walk through winding streets leads to the acropolis, where once Lycomedes had his palace and upon which the Byzantines and the Venetians built a fortress. In addition to donkeys which are widely used in many old Greek locations (see Nasso and Malvasia) the inhabitants of Schiro make use of very small horses, a unique breed of semi-wild horses which live in the mountainous southern part of the island.
The fortress and Agios Georgios
On the table summit of the rock which crowns
the town, are the ruins of a castle, inclosing many
houses, which are now all abandoned except the
bishop's, and some store houses where the rich inhabitants place their valuable effects whenever
they are in danger from pirates or lawless Turkish
seamen. The castle was the site of the acropolis
of the ancient city of Scyrus, justly described by
Homer as the lofty Scyrus. Remains of Hellenic
walls are traced round the edge of the precipices,
particularly at the northern end of the castle;
others half way down the peak, just include the
town in that part, and in another place a piece of
wall occurs among the modern houses. Leake
In 2001 an earthquake caused a landslide which crushed a section of the fortress. The monastery of Agios Georgios, although damaged, was spared and now it hangs on the rock as if it were stuck into it.
The main gate
greater part of the ancient city was to the eastward,
towards the sea. (..) Its walls were between three and four hundred yards in length, and
served, like the long walls of other maritime cities,
to protect the communication between the city and
the shore, which was probably sheltered by a mole.
Not a trace of it however now exists, which is not
surprising as all this rocky coast is much exposed
to the easterly winds. (..) The only
other objects of antiquity are a sepulchral stone
in one of the churches, and a cornice of dentils in
a chapel in the gardens. Nor can I hear of the
existence of any other remains in the island, except
those of a large arched cistern at Kalamitza.
The fortified tower which protected the entrance to the fortress is embellished by a medieval statue portraying a beast, which with some openness of mind can be labelled as a lion, a symbol of the Venetians who most likely built the tower.
View from the fortress
View of Kimi
The anonymous appearance of today's Kimi hides its very ancient past. It is located on a low plateau at the eastern tip of Negroponte. In the VIIIth century BC settlers from ancient Kyme founded Cumae in today's Gulf of Naples. Cumae soon became one of the richest colonies in what the Romans called Magna Grecia (Great Greece), the southern part of the Italian peninsula and the eastern part of Sicily, which both were part of the Greek world. A round ruin having the appearance of a tower is actually a former wind mill.
Introductory page on the Venetian Fortresses in Greece
List of the fortresses
|Geographic area||Location||Ionian Islands||Corfų (Kerkyra) Paxo (Paxi) Santa Maura (Lefkadas) Cefalonia (Kephallonia) Asso (Assos) Itaca (Ithaki) Zante (Zachintos) Cerigo (Kythera)||Greek Mainland||Butrinto (Butrint) Parga Preveza and Azio (Aktion) Vonizza (Vonitsa) Lepanto (Nafpaktos) Atene (Athens)||Peloponnese (Morea)||Castel di Morea (Rio), Castel di Rumelia (Antirio) and Patrasso (Patra) Castel Tornese (Hlemoutsi) and Glarenza Navarino (Pilo) and Calamata Modon (Methoni) Corone (Koroni) Braccio di Maina, Zarnata, Passavā and Chielefā Mistrā Corinto (Korinthos) Argo (Argos) Napoli di Romania (Nafplio) Malvasia (Monemvassia)||Aegean Islands||Negroponte (Chalki) Castelrosso (Karistos) Oreo Lemno (Limnos) Schiatto (Skiathos) Scopello (Skopelos) Alonisso Schiro (Skyros) Andro (Andros) Tino (Tinos) Micono (Mykonos) Siro (Syros) Egina (Aegina) Spezzia (Spetse) Paris (Paros) Antiparis (Andiparos) Nasso (Naxos) Serifo (Serifos) Sifno (Syphnos) Milo (Milos) Argentiera (Kimolos) Santorino (Thira) Folegandro (Folegandros) Stampalia (Astipalea)||Crete||Grambusa (Granvousa) Castello (Kasteli/Kissamos) La Canea (Xania) Souda Candia (Iraklion) Rettimo (Rethymno) Spinalonga and Castel Mirabello Castles on the southern coast Sittia and Paleocastro|
You may refresh your knowledge of the history of Venice in the Levant by reading an abstract from
the History of Venice by Thomas Salmon, published in 1754. The Italian text is accompanied by an English summary.