Thassos or Thasos (Greek: Θάσος) is a Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea, close to the coast of Thrace and the plain of the river Nestos but geographically part of Macedonia. It is the northernmost Greek island, and 12th largest by area. Thasos is also the name of the largest town of the island (also known as Limenas Thasou, “Harbour of Thasos”), situated at the northern side, opposite the mainland and about 10 kilometres (6 mi) from Keramoti.
Thasos is a separate regional unit of the East Macedonia and Thrace region, and the only municipality of the regional unit. As a part of the 2011 Kallikratis government reform, the regional unit Thasos was created out of part of the former Kavala Prefecture. The municipality, unchanged at the Kallikratis reform, includes a few uninhabited islets besides the main island Thasos. The province of Thasos (Greek: Επαρχία Θάσου) was one of the provinces of the Kavala Prefecture. It had the same territory as the present municipality. It was abolished in 2006.
Samples of rock carvings
© Archaeological Museum of Thasos
One-8th-Stater from Thasos (silver): Satyr running right/Quadripartite incuse square, circa 500-463 BC, SNG Copenhagen
Lying close to the coast of Eastern Macedonia, Thasos was inhabited from the Palaeolithic period onwards, but the earliest settlement to have been explored in detail is that at Limenaria where Middle and Late Neolithic remains have been found that relate closely to those of the Drama Plain. In contrast, the remains of the Early Bronze Age on the island align it with the culture that developed in the Cyclades and Sporades to the south in the Aegean. Even earlier activity is demonstrated by the presence of large pieces of ‘megalithic’ anthropomorphic stelai built into these walls, which, so far, have no parallels in the Aegean area. There is then a gap in the archaeological record until the end of the Bronze Age c 1100 BC, when the first burials took place at the large cemetery of Kastri in the interior of the island. Here built tombs covered with small mound of earth were typical until the end of the Iron Age. In the earliest tombs were a small number of locally imitated Mycenaean pottery vessels, but the majority of the hand-made pottery with incised decoration reflects connections eastwards with Thrace and beyond.
The island was colonized at an early date by Phoenicians, attracted probably by its gold mines; they founded a temple to the god Melqart, whom the Greeks identified as “Tyrian Heracles”, and whose cult was merged with Heracles in the course of the island’s Hellenization. The temple still existed in the time of Herodotus. An eponymous Thasos, son of Phoenix (or of Agenor, as Pausanias reported) was said to have been the leader of the Phoenicians, and to have given his name to the island. Around 650 BC, or a little earlier, Greeks from Paros founded a colony on Thasos. A generation or so later, the poet Archilochus, a descendant of these colonists, wrote of casting away his shield during a minor war against an indigenous Thracian tribe, the Saians. Thasian power, and sources of its wealth, extended to the mainland, where the Thasians owned gold mines even more valuable than those of the island; their combined annual revenues amounted to between 200 and 300 talents. Herodotus says that the best mines on the island were those opened by the Phoenicians on the east side of the island, facing Samothrace.
Archilochus described Thasos as “an ass’s backbone crowned with wild wood.” The island’s capital, Thasos, had two harbors. Besides its gold mines, the wine, nuts and marble of Thasos were well known in antiquity. Thasian wine was quite famous. Thasian coins had the head of the wine god Dionysos on one side and bunches of grape of the other. Thasos was important during the Ionian Revolt against Persia. After the capture of Miletus (494 BC) Histiaeus, the Ionian leader, laid siege. The attack failed, but, warned by the danger, the Thasians employed their revenues to build war ships and strengthen their fortifications. This excited the suspicions of the Persians, and Darius compelled them to surrender their ships and pull down their walls. After the defeat of Xerxes the Thasians joined the Delian confederacy; but afterwards, on account of a difference about the mines and marts on the mainland, they revolted.
The Athenians defeated them by sea, and, after a siege that lasted more than two years, took the capital, Thasos, probably in 463 BC, and compelled the Thasians to destroy their walls, surrender their ships, pay an indemnity and an annual contribution (in 449 BC this was 21 talents, from 445 BC about 30 talents), and resign their possessions on the mainland. In 411 BC, at the time of the oligarchical revolution at Athens, Thasos again revolted from Athens and received a Lacedaemonian governor; but in 407 BC the partisans of Lacedaemon were expelled, and the Athenians under Thrasybulus were admitted.
After the Battle of Aegospotami (405 BC), Thasos again fell into the hands of the Lacedaemonians under Lysander who formed a decarchy there; but the Athenians must have recovered it, for it formed one of the subjects of dispute between them and Philip II of Macedonia. In the embroilment between Philip V of Macedonia and the Romans, Thasos submitted to Philip, but received its freedom at the hands of the Romans after the Battle of Cynoscephalae (197 BC), and it was still a “free” state in the time of Pliny.
It is related, that Byzantine Greek Saint Joannicius the Great (752–846) in one of his miracles freed the island of Thasos from a multitude of snakes.
Thasos was part of the Eastern Roman Empire, later known as Byzantine Empire. It was captured by the Turks in 1462. Under the Turks the island was known as Ottoman Turkish: طاشوز Taşöz. A brief revolt against Ottoman rule in 1821, led by Hajiyorgis Metaxas, failed. The island was given by the Sultan Mahmud II to Muhammad Ali of Egypt as a personal fiefdom in the late 1820s, as a reward for Egyptian intervention in the War of Greek Independence (which failed to prevent the creation of the modern Greek state). Egyptian rule was relatively benign (by some accounts Muhammad Ali had either been born or spent his infancy on Thasos) and the island became prosperous, until 1908, when the New Turk regime asserted Turkish control. It had the status of a sanjak in the vilayet of Salonici until the Balkan Wars. On October 20, 1912 during the First Balkan War, a Greek naval detachment claimed Thasos as part of Greece, which it has remained since.
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