Like all the other Cyclades, Paros began to play its part in the history of the area with the rise of the great naval powers of the eastern Mediterranean. When the great naval state based in Crete came to dominate the area, Paros was important as one of the empire’s outposts. At that time, Crete ensured safe communication and transport of minerals between the kingdoms of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria and the Balkan states. The Minoans found that Paros had safe harbors to offer them, and its central position in the Cyclades made it of strategic importance. This blend of safe harbors and fertile plains round them made the island into a major naval station.
Of these harbors, Parikia faces the Peloponnese and Naousa face north, while Drios is opposite Naxos, and the island as a whole lies on the route to Rhodes and Asia Minor. The importance of the military and communications role played by Paros in the Minoian empire is shown by the name the Cretans gave it: Minoa, which was a title of honor given only to royal cities.
According th mythology, the island’s first colonist was the Minoan Alcaios, who built the first city on the site on which Parikia stands today. After the departure of the Minoans, the island was settled by Ionians who had left mainland Greece when the Dorians descended from the North in about 1100 B.C.
The island was still in the hands of the sons of Minoa when the Ionians arrived (the sons’ names are recorded as being Eurymedon, Chrysos, Niphalion and Philolaos). After initial defeats, the Ionians subjugated the island, and then proceeded to sack it, destroying the Cretan civilization and murdering the Cretans themselves. However, archaeological discoveries have shown the extent to which Paros had developed during the Minoan period.
Sculpted from Parian marble, whose
transclucency is unique in the world,
and which contributed to the beauty
of the Classical Period. Hermes by
Praxitelis at Olympia (330 B.C.)
Prehistoric finds from Paros
and the island Despotico
(First Cycladic Period)
| … then and now…
A first got to know Paros three decades ago. Back then, the ‘Pharmacy of Nafplioti’ in Parikia was the meeting place of the island; the barber was a kind of doctor, or at least a prescribe of remedies. He used cupping glasses on those with colds and gave prescriptions for a whole range of ills. It was then that the Katapoliani church was a whole complex. Then, Paros was an unprofitable sea route and only five or six passengers would disembark at the port of Parikia. Where the taxis now line up under the trees on the beach front, donkeys were once tethered side by side, waiting to transport the disembarking passengers. Then, the Parians were no different from those who inhabited the island 100 or 200 or even 500 years before. Parians today have incorporated all this past history harmoniously into their daily lives.
It is with pride that Parians show off the church of Parikia, and with the same pride that they have managed to make the little houses they rent out in Naoussa or Lefkes as comfortable as good hotel rooms.
Parians have understood that it is Parian marble and the Katapoliani Church that, since ancient times, have brought them wealth and culture. Thus, antiquity and Byzantium have become linked in the clain of their course through time.
In antiquity Paros saw a flourishing of the art of sculpting and eve architectural work.
In the beauty of the contemporary home, whose style developed out of the Byzantine and post-Byzantine periods, can be traced features from as far back as antiquity.
The Parians taste and their love of their buildings is apparent in both the small and large details of their homes in Parikia, Naoussa and Lefkes; in the tall windows of the aristocratic houses, in the decorative reliefs carved on the marble drinking fountains, in the country chapels, monasteries, ‘fourousia’, ‘vardonaria’ and ‘fides’. These affable Aegean sea dwellers, who differ so much from the neighboring Naxians and Sifnains, had the inspiration to continue their artistic traditions.