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For other uses, see Icaria (disambiguation).
Agios Kirykos, Ikaria's capital
Coordinates 37°35′N 26°10′E / 37.583°N 26.167°E / 37.583; 26.167Coordinates: 37°35′N 26°10′E / 37.583°N 26.167°E / 37.583; 26.167

Country: Greece
Administrative region: North Aegean
Regional unit: Ikaria
Population statistics (as of 2011)[1]
 - Population: 8,423
 - Area: 254.4 km2 (98 sq mi)
 - Density: 33 /km2 (86 /sq mi)
Time zone: EET/EEST (UTC+2/3)
Elevation (min-max): 0–1,037 m ­(0–3402 ft)
Postal code: 833 xx
Telephone: 22750
Auto: MO

Icaria, also spelled Ikaria (Greek: Ικαρία), is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, 10 nautical miles (19 km) southwest of Samos. It derived its name from Icarus, the son of Daedalus in Greek mythology, who fell into the sea nearby. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within the Ikaria regional unit, which is part of the North Aegean region. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Agios Kirykos.[2] The historic capitals of the island include Oenoe and Evdilos.


Icaria has been inhabited since at least 7000 BC, when it was populated by the Neolithic pre-Hellenic people that Greeks called Pelasgians. Around 750 BC, Greeks from Miletus colonized Icaria, establishing a settlement in the area of present day Campos, which they called Oenoe for its wine.

Icaria, in the 6th century BC, became part of Polycrates' sea empire, and, in the 5th century BC, the Icarian cities of Oenoe and Thermae were members of the Athenian-dominated Delian League. In the 2nd century, the island was colonized by Samos.[3] At this time, the Tauropolion,[4] the temple of Artemis was built at Oenoe. Coins of the city represented Artemis and a bull.[5] There was another, smaller temenos that was sacred to Artemis Tauropolos,[6] at Nas, on the northwest coast of the island.[7] Nas had been a sacred spot to the pre-Greek inhabitants of the Aegean and an important island port in antiquity, the last stop before testing the dangerous seas around Icaria. It was an appropriate place for sailors to make sacrifices to Artemis Tauropolos, who, among other functions, was a patron of seafarers; here, the goddess was represented in an archaic wooden xoanon.

Fate of classical remnants

The temple stood in good repair until the middle of the 19th century when the marble was pillaged, for their local church, by the Kato Raches villagers. In 1939, it was excavated by the Greek archeologist Leon Politis. During the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II, many of the artifacts that were unearthed by Politis disappeared. Local custom states that there are still marble statues embedded in the sand off the coast.

Ottoman era

Further information: Ottoman Greece

The Knights of St. John, who had their base in Rhodes, exerted some control over Icaria until 1521, when the Ottoman Empire incorporated Icaria into its realm. The Icarians hanged the first Turkish tax collector but managed to escape punishment, as none would identify the guilty one and the Turks realistically determined that there was neither profit nor honour in punishing all.[8]

The Turks imposed a very loose administration, not sending any officials to Icaria for several centuries. The best account we have of the island during these years is from archbishop J. Georgirenes who in 1677 described the island with 1,000 hardy, long-lived inhabitants, who were the poorest people in the Aegean.[9] Without a port, the island depended for its very limited intercourse with the outside world on small craft that were drawn up on the beaches, for which Icarian boat-builders had a high reputation, building boats from the abundant fir forests; they sold boats and lumber for coin and grain at Chios. The inshore waters, Georgirenes asserted, provided the best cockles in the Archipelago. Goats and sheep roamed virtually untended in the rocky landscape. Cheeses were made for consumption in each household. Icaria in the 17th century was unusual in the Archipelago in not providing any wine for export; rather than keeping the wine made for local consumption in barrels, they continued to store it in the age-old fashion, in terracotta pithoi sunk to their rims in earth.

Apart from three small towns, none of which exceeded 100 houses,[10] and numerous village settlements, each house had a walled orchard and a garden plot. Unlike the closely built towns of Samos, the hardy inhabitants lived separately in fortified unfurnished farmsteads. They slept without bedding and wrapped themselves in their clothing. They often lived to great ages.[11] They admitted no strangers, and strictly married among themselves.

The ruins of the lighthouse on the promontory that faces Samos, called the "Tower of Icarus", were strictly off limits to the islanders, as tradition asserted that there was treasure to be found in them.[12]

In 1827, during the Greek War of Independence, Icaria broke away from the Ottoman Empire, but was not included in the narrow territory of the original independent Greece and was forced to accept Turkish rule once more a few years later.[13]

Free State of Icaria

It remained part of the Ottoman Empire until July 17, 1912 when the Icarians expelled a Turkish garrison and thereby achieved independence.[13]

George N. Spanos (c. 1872–1912) of Evdilos, killed in a Turkish ambush on that July 17, 1912, is honored as the hero of the Ikarian Revolution. His bust, depicting him defiantly, with bandoliers and rifle in hand, may be seen at the memorial established in his honor at the site of his death located in the Icarian town of Chrysostomos.

On July 18, 1912, the Free State of Icaria (Ελευθέρα Πολιτεία Ικαρίας, Elefthéra Politía Ikarías) was declared. The neighboring islands of Fournoi Korseon were also liberated and became part of the Free State. Ioannis Malachias was the only president of the short-lived nation.[13]

For five months, it remained an independent state, with its own armed forces, flag, stamps, and anthem. These five months were difficult times. There were food shortages, the people were without regular transportation and postal service, and they were at risk of becoming part of the Italian Aegean Empire.[13] In November 1912, after a delay due to the Balkan Wars, Icaria became part of Greece.

Second World War occupation and starvation

The island suffered tremendous losses in property and lives during the Second World War as the result of the Italian and then German occupation. There are no exact figures on how many people starved, but, in the village of Karavostamo alone, over 100 perished from starvation.

Red Rock

After the ravages of the war the nationalists and communists fought in the Greek Civil War (1945–1947), the Greek government used the island to exile about 13,000 communists. To this date, many of the islanders have remained sympathetic to communism (KKE wins 35–40% of the vote), and, for this reason, Icaria is referred to by some as the Kokkino Nisi (Greek: Κόκκινο νησί) (Red Island) or the Kokkinos Vrahos (Greek: Κόκκινος Βράχος) (Red Rock).

In his analysis, "Rebels and Radicals; Icaria 1600–2000", historian Anthony J. Papalas (East Carolina University) examines modern Icaria in the light of such 20th-century questions as poverty, emigration to America, the nature of the Axis occupation, the rise of Communism, the Civil War and the rightwing reaction to radical post-war movements.

Modern Era

The quality of life improved greatly after 1960 when the Greek government began to invest in the infrastructure of the island to assist in the promotion of tourism. Today, Icaria is considered one of the world's five "Blue Zones" – places where the population regularly lives to an advanced age (one in three make it to their 90s).[14] This is due to healthy diets and lifestyles.[15]

In 2002 Greek authorities captured Icarian-born, Christodoulos Xiros, a member of Revolutionary Organization 17 November.[16][17] A 58-year-old professor and economist, Alexandros Giotopoulos, was identified as the group's leader and was arrested on the nearby island of Lipsi.[18]

Ethnic groups

Icarian Greeks
Έλληνες της Ικαρίας
Flag of the Free State of Icaria.
Total population
c. 8000–15,000 worldwide
Regions with significant populations
The Islands of Icaria, Thimena and Fournoi in Greece, also in Athens. The diaspora can be found in Australia, USA, Canada and United Kingdom
Predominantly Modern Greek and local dialects (see Culture_of_Greece#Dialects). Also the languages of their respective countries of residence.
Greek Orthodox Christianity

The Icarians (also spelled Ikarians ), also known as Icarian Greeks (Greek: ΙκαριότεςIkariótes ) are an ethnically Greek[19] group whose ancestry consists of Pelasgian and Carian settlers, as well as Greek settlers from Miletus and Samos. Historically, Icaria has been under the control of Polycrates' Sea Empire, the Second Athenian League, the Roman province of Asia, the Byzantine Empire, the Republic of Genoa, the Knights of Saint John and the Ottoman Empire before becoming an independent people on the 17th of July, 1912.[13][20] Later that year they became part of Greece. Nowadays, Icarians are found throughout Greece, specifically on the Islands of Icaria, Thimena and Fournoi Korseon, as well as in Athens, where a large community is found. The Icarian Diaspora can be found throughout the world, mainly in Australia, USA, Canada and United Kingdom. Icarians have a large population of atheists and communists, much more than any other Greek ethnic group.

Icarian Greeks are closely related to other Aegean island Greeks, such as Greeks from Samos, Chios, Fournoi Korseon and Patmos, as well as Greeks from Asia Minor.

Icaria is also home to many Greeks of Cretan ancestry.[13]


The Icarus myth, where the island gets its name, is a major part of the local curriculum. The island has many schools and participates in student exchanges with schools in Athens.


It is one of the middle islands of the northern Aegean, 255 square kilometres (98 sq mi) in area with 102 miles (164 kilometres) of coastline and a population of 8,312 inhabitants. The topography is a contrast between verdant slopes and barren steep rocks. The island is mountainous for the most part. It is traversed by Aetheras range, whose highest summit is 1,037 metres (3,402 feet). Most of its villages are nestled in the plains near the coast, with only some of them on the mountains. Icaria has a tradition in the production of strong red wine. Many parts of the island, especially the ravines, are covered in large bushes, making the landscape lush with green. Aside from domestic and domesticated species (small goat herds make their presence known with their bells, disturbing the serenity of the island) there are a number of small wild animals to be found, such as martens, otters, jumping spiders and toads. Icaria exhibits a typical Mediterranean climate.


The present municipality Ikaria was formed at the 2011 local government reform by the merger of the following 3 former municipalities, that became municipal units:[2]


The municipal units Agios Kirykos, Evdilos and Raches are subdivided into the following communities (constituent villages in brackets):

Agios Kirykos

  • Agios Kirykos (Agios Kirykos, Therma Ikarias, Katafygio, Lardades, Mavrato, Mavrikato, Xylosyrtis, Oxea, Tsouredes, Faros)
  • Perdiki (Perdiki, Kioni, Mileopo, Monokampi, Ploumari)
  • Chrysostomos (Chrysostomos, Vardarades, Vaoni, Livadi, Plagia)


  • Evdilos (Evdilos, Agia Kyriaki, Droutsoulas, Kerameio, Kyparissi, Xanthi, Fytema)
  • Arethousa (Arethousa, Kyparissi, Pera Arethousa, Foinikas)
  • Dafni (Dafni, Akamatra, Kosoikia, Petropouli, Steli)
  • Karavostamo
  • Manganitis (Manganitis, Kalamonari)
  • Frantato (Frantato, Avlaki, Kalamourida, Kampos, Kremasti, Maratho, Pigi, Stavlos)


  • Raches (Christos, Agios Dimitrios, Armenistis, Vrakades, Kares, Nas or Kato Raches, Kouniadoi, Mavriannos, Nanouras, Xinta, Proespera, Profitis Ilias, Tsakades)
  • Agios Polykarpos (Agios Polykarpos, Agios Panteleimonas, Gialiskari, Kastanies, Lapsachades, Lomvardades, Mandria)
  • Karkinagri (Karkinagri, Amalo, Kalamos, Lagkada, Pezi, Trapalo)

Notable people

Pop Culture

In the popular Heroscape game, Dragons are said to be from a world called "Icaria".


External links

  • "The Island Where People Forget to Die" by Dan Buettner, New York Times, October 24, 2012

External links

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