Ancient Era

Θάσος, Αρχαίοι χρόνοιAccording to an ancient Greek tradition, goddess Demetra was born in Thassos and taught there for the first time the art of agriculture. The most familiar history of Thassos starts with its colonization. However, there are two different views about who were the first inhabitants of the island.

The first (and most prevalent) supports that warlike tribes of Thrace (Saioi, Sapes and Hedones), settled on the island between 2000 and 1600 BC. The second supports that the first inhabitants were the Corians. Still, it is certain that Thassos was reached by travelers and Phoenicians in order to exploit its mines. However, it is not certain that they settled and developed a significant civilization.

 Herodotus, supports that the Phoenicians built Thassos under the leadership of Thassos, much before the Parians appeared. According to this resource, the Phoenicians settled in Thassos expelling the Thracians. Knowing much about quarrying and mining, they worked on the exploitation of the mines. In addition, their knowledge on shipbuilding and sailing helped them to navigate in the closer coastlines. At the same time, they enclosed their city in walls and cultivated the land. In need for all these operations, Hellenes and other tribes reached the island, where they learned from the Phoenicians about manufacture, trade and the rest of their civilization. By the time, the greek element prevailed and the Phoenicians were assimilated by the Greeks who had a more dynamic numerical majority. The new colony, seized to have political bondage from the metropolitan Phoenicia, while the inhabitants gradually moved to the opposite coastline to begin the exploitation of the mines in Mount Pangaeus.

According to Thucydides, the father of the scientific historiography, the first inhabitants of Thassos were the Parians, led by Telesiklis, who started his mission after an oracle of the Delphi, which said:

“ Tell the Parians, Telesiklis, that you are asked to built a city in the island Aeria which can be seen from everywhere”.

Thereby, Telesiklis with the help of his son Arhilohos, discovered Thassos and the settled to the island Thracians. According to this recourse, the Phoenicians did not colonize the island systematically, but exploited the mines and established trading posts. The expatriation of the Thracian tribes was difficult, however Telesiklis managed to control Thassos residentially and authoritatively and begin a quick development which changed the island into one of the most developed and civilized lands. It is also reported that the Parians first attacked to the Thracians of the opposite coasts. In their first attack they were defeated, but in the second they managed to expel them and thus reach and exploit the mines of Mount Pangaeus. This second historic view referring to the Parians, is the most predominant in the historic community. Moreover, the Parians were established in the island of Thassos in the beginning of the 7th century BC, when the first historic resources appear. The archaeological findings certify the existence and the spreading of the Parians in the opposite coastlines. At this time, (7th century BC) the trading posts of Galipsos, Aisimi, Maronia, Strimi and Neapolis were established, most of them in the area of Mount Pangaeus.

The most remarkable artistic production belongs in this era. Magnificent pieces of sculpture, architecture, metalworking and ceramics were found in the ground and underground of the island. Thassos was “open” to foreign influences, therefore some findings of copper and ivory show relations with Cycladic islands, Rhodes, Ionia, Corinth, and by the 6th century with Athens. Coins representing Satyr and the Nymphs had great spread and show the extent of the trading relations as well as the economic potency of Thassos.  The city’s bondage with Paros remains thick as the same worships, capitularies and calendar are preserved.

In the end of the archaic era, the city is so wealthy that a unique city wall is built, made out of marble and shale, with sculptures on the gates and perimeter of 4 km around the inhabited area. However, the inhabitants of Thassos themselves had to knock it down and pay homage when the King of Persia Dareios and his general Mardonios invaded in Thrace. Later, between 412-411 BC, the wall was reconstructed, but until then the city was almost unfortified.

When between 480 and 478 BC the Persians left the Aegean Sea, Thassos stood again beside the Greek cities.  At that time (478-477 BC) the 1st Athenian confederacy was instituted in which Thassos also joined. During the spring of 477 BC, Thassos sends thirty ships in the so called “Delos Confederacy”. However, in 465 BC, the ambitions of general Kimon haste to endanger the sublimity of Thassos, with the settlement of Athenians in the “nine streets” nearby the outfall of the Strimonas River. Hion, the seaport of Amphipolis was conquered by the Athenians. The Thassians receded from the confederacy, but still Kimon turned against them, conquered the city and forced the inhabitants to bring down the city walls, to turn over their ships, to relinquish their colonies and in addition to pay an annual tax.

During the first years of the Peloponnesian war, the Athenians turned Thassos into a base of military operations towards Thrace. In 411 BC the Thassians reacted and rebelled, asking for help and support from Sparta.

By the years, Thassos impoverished while Athens became more and more demanding. When in 411 BC the “mutiny of the 400” broke, the oligarchic group put Thassos out of the Athenian occupation. At that time the Thassians entrenched the city, redeemed their fleet and hosted a Peloponnesian squadron. At this point a difficult period of ten years begin, as Thassos puts in danger its prosperity.

A few years later (407 BC), the Athenians forced them to acknowledge the domination of Athens. In 403 BC Lyssandros occupied Thassos and treated its inhabitants with cruelty, but later on the Athenians reoccupied the island, countering mutinies and civil wars.

In the beginning of the 4th century and after numerous destructions, Thassos tries to rebuild a good relation with Neapolis of Delphi asking for help from the metropolis of Paros. The city obtains architectural and administrative bounds, the wall is reconstructed and the market as the centre of political and commercial life is reorganized.

After the so called “Antalkidios Peace” (387 BC), Thassos regains its autonomy. Thassos enhances its relation with Paros and after 377 BC joins in the 2nd Athenian Confederacy. Through this, the islands’ influence to the opposite coasts is strengthened. In 360 BC the rhetorician Kallistratos, exiled from Athens, institutes together with the Thassians the town of Krinides, nearby Pangeon Mountain. The spread of the Thassian coins in the peninsula of Aimos, shows its economic potency in Hellenistic era.

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