In historic times Alonnisos – called Ikos throughout classical antiquity – was, like Skiathos and Skopelos, a 7th century BC colony of Chalcis on Euboea. A geographic text ascribed Scylax of Caryanda mentions two cities on the island. Ikos, as a member of the First Athenian League from 478 BC, was assessed at 1,500 drachmae in annual tithe, as opposed to 1,000 drachmae for Skiathos, and 18,000 drachmae (3 talents) for Peparethos (Skopelos). Having been allies of Athens in the Peloponnesian War, the Northern Sporades were subsequently occupied by Sparta. Ikos regained independence and was a member of the 2nd Athenian League until its dissolution in 346 BC. In 355 BC the island of Halonnesos (possibly the neighboring Kyra Panaghia) was occupied by the pirate Sostrates; he was later expelled by the Macedonians, who built a fort on the island in 343 BC. In the settlement following the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC the Sporades along with Northern Greece fell under Macedonian supremacy. The island of Ikos, along with Skiathos and Skopelos, was devastated by Phillip the V of Macedon in 220 BC in his attempt to render them of no strategic use to his adversaries, the Romans who nonetheless became masters of the region after 146 BC. Mark Anthony later ceded the islands to Athens in gratitude for the city's military support.
Christianity must have come to the island around the time of the martyrdom of St. Reginus on Skopelos in 362/3 AD, but the island was even more exposed than most to the destructive Slav and Arab incursions into the Aegean during the 7th and 8th centuries. In 1204, after the 4th Crusade, the island now apparently called ‘Chelidromia', came under the possession of the Venetian Ghisi family together with the other Sporades islands. In 1276 they were driven out by the Veronese admiral Licario, acting on behalf of Constantinople, and the island was returned to Byzantine control up until 1453. After the fall of Constantinople the inhabitants sought the protection of the Venetian Republic, which subsequently governed the island, except for a decade of Turkish occupation between 1475 and 1486, until 1538 when it was ransacked and finally captured for the Turks by Khaireddin Barbarossa. During the following centuries the outer islands of the Sporades suffered particularly from piracy; but they enjoyed tax privileges bestowed by Osman III in 1756. In 1821, in the course of the Greek War of Independence, a free ‘Demos Alonnisou' under the jurisdiction of the new Greek administration of the Sporades was declared. The island was officially ceded to the Greek State by Turkey in 1830.
In 1965 the island's main centre of population at Chora was badly damaged by a severe earthquake; the population was moved to Patitiri, in the area of the harbour. In May 1992, the “National Marine Park of Alonissos - Northern Sporades” was established by Presidential decree to protect the landscape and waters of the area, and the habitats of rare and threatened species of plant and animal – most especially the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus).
A ‘patitírion' is a place where grapes are trodden. Amphorae for the transporting of wine, stamped with the legend ‘IKION', implying ‘produce of Ikos' (the ancient name of Alonnisos), have been found at various points around the Aegean and Black Sea area, and at Alexandria in Egypt.
The site of ancient Ikos is on the point at Kokkinókastro (6 km), a long peninsula projecting into the sea in the middle of the lower eastern half of the island, defining two sweeping beaches to either side. At sunset, as the headland takes on a deep orange colour, it merits its name of ‘kokkino kastro', or ‘red acropolis'. The point of the promontory where the remains of the city are, with its steep seaward cliffs, is attached by a high, razor-thin isthmus of eroding sandstone which effectively denies any access by foot. There are only two means of access – by boat, or by swimming out from the south beach (c. 20 mins.) and climbing ashore at the southeastern point where the headland slopes down to the sea.
The tip of the headland is indented by a deep cove, which served as a protected roadstead. Cutting transversely across the lower slopes is a fine stretch of fortification wall in high Classical, 5th century BC masonry, which has recently been cleared and excavated. There is a dense scatter of potsherds, and evidence of foundations and walls, still buried, further up the heavily overgrown slope to the west. Archaeological exploration has also revealed a far earlier Palaeolithic and Mesolithic human presence on the peninsula, as well as on the offshore island of Kokkinónisi to the south, where evidence of Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements has also been found. Chronique des Fouilles linkWikidata ID: Q647941
Info: McGilchrist's Greek Islands
(From McGilchrist’s Greek Islands, © Nigel McGilchrist 2010, excerpted with his gracious permission. Click for the books)