Kimolos (Cyclades) 31 Kimolos - Κίμωλος

Κίμωλος - Kimolos, an island in the Cyclades famous for the medicinal Cimolian earth (chalk)

Modern description McGilchrist's Greek Islands

The coast of Kimolos is shot through with veins of orange and purple, and the shoreline is fenced with outcrops of jaggedly eroded volcanic rocks. The first glimpse of the island is of the staring white gashes of its easternmost point, Cape Aghios Giorgios, where the promontory has been reshaped by man's relentless quarrying of the native earth so as to extract a kind of kaolin, known as ‘fuller's earth', which was widely exported through the centuries for use in medicine and in the finishing of cloth. Were it not for this natural resource— whose brilliant silver-gray colour led to the island being referred to later by the name of ‘Argenteria'— Kimolos, because of its lack of water and its infertility, might have remained virtually uninhabited, like the island of Polyaigos to its east. On the contrary, it had a flourishing centre in antiquity, often in conflict with its more powerful neighbour Melos. It also had an important settlement at Chorió in the Middle Ages, which is one of the few examples of mediaeval town-planning ex novo in the Cyclades.
A violin-shaped marble figurine, showing traces of colour, which was found on Kimolos and dates from the 3rd millennium BC, indicates that there may have been a settled, Early Cycladic presence on the island. Later there was a small Mycenaean trading-post in the southwest of the island, at the point where the later historical city was to grow up. After the end of the Bronze Age, the island was occupied by Doric-speaking Greeks. Like its neighbour, Melos, with whom its history is closely linked, Kimolos did not at first become a member of the Delian League: later, in 425/4 it was assessed by Athens to pay a tribute of 1,000 drachmae. After the subjugation of Melos by Athens in 416/415 BC, Kimolos enjoyed some independence for the first time. In c. 335 BC it was involved in a dispute with Melos over the possession of the island of Polyaigos and its two outlying islets, Heteireia (Aghios Efstathios today) and Libeia (Aghios Giorgios). External judges from Argos were appointed and decided in favour of Kimolos. By the end of the 3rd century BC the island was under the control of the Macedonian kings.
For a long period it may be that the island was deserted, since we have no historical notices until the 13th century when it was one of the islands taken by Marco Sanudo in 1207 and incorporated in his new Duchy of Naxos, later to be called the Duchy of the Archipelago. It later passed in the 14th century with the other Sanudo possessions to the Cripso family, and thence to the Bolognese Gozzadini family, who were feudal lords of Siphnos, Kythnos, Folegandros and Sikinos. The Gozzadini managed to hold on to their islands, in the role of Turkish tributaries, for almost half a century longer than all the other islands of the archipelago which already had Ottoman Governors from 1573. During their rule, they resettled a large portion of the population of Kimolos in fortified towns on the island of Antiparos, in order to respond to a period of agriculturally straitened circumstances. In 1617 the Turks took over direct management of the island. Kimolos joined the Greek State in 1829.


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