The History of Kos

The island was originally colonised by the Carians. They participated in the War of Troy. The Dorians invaded in the 11th century BC, establishing a colony with a large contingent of settlers from Epidaurus who took with them their Asclepius cult and made Kos their new home famous for its sanatoria.

The other chief sources of the island’s wealth lay in its wines, and in later days, in its silk manufacture.

Location and map of Andreas Self Catering Apartments Kos
Map of Kos showing Kefalos

At the end of the 6th century Kos fell under Achaemenid domination, but rebelled after the Greek victory at Cape Mykale in 479. During the Greco-Persian Wars, when it expelled the Persians twice, it was ruled by tyrants. In the 5th century it joined the Delian League. In 366 BC, a democracy was instituted and the capital was transferred from Kefalos to the new-built town of Kos.

Kos was also known as Meropis and Nymphæa

In the Hellenistic age Kos attained the zenith of its prosperity. Its alliance was valued by the kings of Egypt, who used it as an outpost for their navy to watch the Aegean. As a seat of learning it rose to be a kind of provincial branch of the museum of Alexandria.

Kos was also known as Meropis and Nymphæa. Its position gave it a high importance in Ægean trade; while the island itself was rich in wines of considerable fame. St Paul visited the island briefly, (Acts 21:1).

Afriendly attitude towards the Romans

Except for occasional incursions by corsairs and some severe earthquakes, the island has rarely had its peace disturbed. Kos generally displayed a friendly attitude towards the Romans. In 53 AD it was made a free city. The island was later conquered by the Venetians, who then sold it to the Knights Hospitaller of Rhodes (the Knights of St John) in 1315. Two hundred years later the Knights faced the threat of a Turkish invasion and abandoned the island to the Ottoman Empire in 1523. The Ottomans ruled Kos for 400years until it was transferred to Italy in 1912. In World War II the island was taken over by the Axis Powers. It was occupied by Italian troops until the Italian surrender in 1943. British and German forces then clashed for control of the island in the Battle of Kos, in which the Germans were victorious. German troops occupied the island until 1945, when it became a protectorate of the United Kingdom, who ceded it to Greece in 1947.

Culture of Kos

The Culture of Kos has evolved over thousands of years, beginning in the Mycenaean and Minoan civilisations, and continuing most notably into Classical Greece, through the influence of the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. The Ottoma Empire significantly influenced Greek culture, but historians credit the Greek War of Independence with revitalising Greece and giving birth to a single entity of its multi-faceted culture.

Greek Orthodox is the main religion. Kos has one of the four cathedrals in the Dodecanese. There is also a Roman Catholic Church on the island as well as a mosque catering to the Muslim community. The synagogue is no longer used for religious ceremonies as the Jewish community of Kos was practically wiped out by the Nazis in World War II. It has, however, been restored and is maintained with all religious symbols intact and is now used by the Municipality of Kos for various cultural events.

During the summer months there are many cultural festivals that take place in the many archaeological museums, old churches, monasteries and ancient monuments scattered across the island. Most are related to the Greek Orthodox religious calendar.

The island’s three municipalities organise separate cultural events and festivals covering a wide range of activities giving locals and visitors a chance to truly enjoy themselves.

Kefalos is in the municipality of Iraklidon, which organises “The Heraclia” during July and August. This festival includes concerts, theatrical performances, traditional music and dance, and photography exhibitions

The municipality of Kos organise “The Hippocratia” from July to September. This festival includes the reading of the Hippocratic Oath, classical and other music concerts, theatrical works, ancient tragedies, folklore exhibitions, art, sculpture & photography exhibitions, traditional dances and song, special educational – entertainment events for children and yacht races.

The municipality of Dikeos organise “The Dikea” during July and August. This festival includes concerts, theatrical performances, traditional dances, new book presentations and events for children.

During summer months there are many celebrations organised with a purely local timbre relating to religious festivals and the island products. During these festivals many of the island’s old customs and usages are revived, some of which will certainly be of interest to the visitor due to their peculiarity. On 15th August at Kefalos local livestock breeders serve up boiled goat with rice. The feast of Aghios Ioannis, a few miles from Kefalos, is marked by the Fanos (fire) and the Klidona (fortune telling) custom and practices. There are many, many more.