Often characterized as a cultural center since the dawn of history, Mykonos along with Delos and Rhenia form one of the most spectacular regions in the Mediterranean. Situated between the East and the West, the strategic position of the islands in the center of the Aegean Sea played a vital role in their cultural, economic and social development.
Historical evidence proves that Mykonos has been inhabited from the Prehistoric era. The tribes of the Phoenicians and the Kares were the first inhabitants of the isle who were banished from the Ionians during the 11th century BC. Mykonos experienced development as it was an important place for supplies and transit due to the neighboring Delos isle. Nonetheless, Mykonos was a poor island with inadequate agricultural resources. During the course of history, Mykonos fell under the domination of the Romans and afterwards the Byzantine Empire who established their command up until the 12th century. Following the fall of Constantinople (1204), Andrea Ghisi, the first lord of Mykonos and Tinos and a close relative of the Duke of Venice, conquered the island. However, Mykonos experienced a series of devestating destructions from the Catalans within the 13th century, just before the Venetians occupied it. The notorious Barbarossa admiral attacked Mykonos under the command of Suleiman the Magnificent in 1537, where an Ottoman fleet was installed on the island’s shores. Led by Kapudan Pasha, the Ottomans founded a system of self-governance supervised from him and a council of ‘syndics’ in order to maintain an equal balance between the Venetians and the Ottomans. After the domination of Tinos’ castle (1718), the last Venetians withdrew the region conclusively.
Throughout the 18th century, Mykonos flourished as a trading center, as the islanders were excellent sailors and tradesmen, attracting colonists from other Cyclades islands and Crete. A major historical event that took place in the period of the French Revolutionary Wars was the Battle of Mykonos (1794), a naval engagement between the British and the French fleets.
When the Greek Revolution of 1821 against the Ottoman Empire took place, Mykonos played a vital role under the command of the national heroine, Manto Mavrogenous, a historical persona who was led from the principles of the Enlightenment and sacrificed her fortune for the freedom of Greece. In 1830, when Mykonos formed part of the Independent Greek State, the economic life of Mykonos revived due to the island’s merchant and shipping activity. Its final decline and recession, though, reached its peak after the construction of the Corinth Canal, the prevalence of steam technology on sailing ships, and the disruptions of the First World War at the beginning of the 20th century. As a result, many locals migrated to larger cities in mainland Greece and abroad.
In the early 1960s, Mykonos became an international tourism destination gaining worldwide fame from artists and politics. A few years later, in 1873, the French School of Archaeology began the important archaeological excavations on the island of Delos. As a result, the tourism industry of Mykonos was exponentially boosted as many people, who were interested to learn more about the history of classical Greece, started visiting Mykonos.
Soon after, famous artists and politicians started visiting Mykonos and the island became a worldwide-known destination. Ever since, excluding the period of the Second World War, Mykonos has been recognized as one of the most popular destinations on national and European levels.