The island of Naxos has been inhabited as early as the fourth millennium B.C., as attested by the archaeological finds revealed in the archaeological site of Grotta and the Cave of Zas in Naxos. Located in the Aegean Sea where the Cycladic civilization flourished during the third millennium B.C., Naxos was one of its most important centres, as evidenced by archaeological finds in graves and the Cycladic figurines excelling for their exquisite art.
During the second millennium B.C. when the Mycenaean civilization was blossoming, the island of Naxos served as a bridge between central Greece and the East. The island maintained strong bonds with the Minoan civilization; according to Greek Mythology, Naxos was the son of god Apollo and Akale, daughter of Minos, the King of Crete. It is believed that the island was named after him.
The habitation of the island continued uninterrupted through the centuries that followed and so was its growth. In the 7th century BC, an oligarchic society started being formed and the population of the island was engaged in farming, cattle breeding, fishing, commerce and the arts – especially marble sculpture. The sculpture of the Sphinx dedicated by the state of Naxos to the oracle of Delphi, the lion sculptures dedicated to the Sanctuary of Apollo in the island of Delos are a living proof and a shining example of the island’s power and wealth at the time.
In 490 B.C. Naxos suffered severe damage from the furious attacks launched by the Persians in their attempt to expand their influence over the Aegean. Unfortunately, Naxos never succeeded in regaining its strength and former glory. During the naval battle of Salamis fought between the Athenians and the Persians, Naxos supported the Athenians and after the defeat of the Persians, it joined the Athenian Alliance.
In 1537 the Venetian Rule in Naxos came to an end. The island fell into the hands of the celebrated Pirate Barbarossa and the Ottoman Turks, who never established themselves on the island but made their presence felt through the imposition and the collection of taxes.
The island of Naxos became part of the newly formed Greek State in 1831.The emery mines constituted for long the island’s major growing source of wealth while the agricultural and cattle breeding activities of its inhabitants enabled Naxos to cater independently to its own needs.
In our days, contrary to the path that other islands of the Cyclades have followed, tourism is not a one-way street for Naxos and has never been the Naxiots’ top priority. Thus, the island of Naxos rightfully deserves to be called a model island which has achieved balanced growth.