Its official name, Megisti, it got, according to the prevailing version, due to the fact that it is the largest of a cluster of fourteen small islands, the most famous being Rho. The name Kastelorizo is of western origin and means red fortress.
From the archaeological finds, we conclude that the island has been inhabited since Neolithic times, while during the Mycenaean and Minoan era it was a commercial station of Crete "emporion", due to its strategic location and also had commercial contacts with Cyprus.
It was colonized by the tribes of the Dorians, who also built the citadel at Paleokastro, on the western side of the port, parts of which are preserved to this day. They also gave the island the pompous name Megisti
A later legend attributes the island's name to the first settler named Megisteas, but it is more likely that the name is due to its size standing out from the surrounding rocky islets.
It was then occupied by the Persians and from the 4th BC until Roman times it was part of the Rhodian state. For the Rhodians, Megisti played the role of an important transit center, while between 333-304 it enjoyed a period of autonomy, when it minted its own coin. At the time of Rhodian rule, the island's fortress was also built by the prefect of Rhodes, Sosiklis Nikagoras.
For Byzantine times, information is scarce. It seems to have belonged to the province of the islands provincia insularum. In the Middle Byzantine years, the settlement is believed to have been in Paleokastro, far from the sea due to pirate raids.
The island had its maritime heyday during the medieval years. In 1306 the island passed into the possession of the order of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem. Then the castle, Castel Rosso, was built, from which the island got the name Kastellorizo.
In 1440 the Mamelukes of Egypt conquered the island, desolating the settlement and capturing its inhabitants, but the Knights soon recaptured it and rebuilt the castle. In the following centuries, the island, due to its important geographical position, became a theater of military operations, and often changed rulers.
In 1522, it fell to the Turks, but it was granted privileges and thus showed spiritual and financial prosperity, while the administration was exercised by the local senate.
During the revolution of 1821, women and children fled to Kasos, Karpathos and Amorgos, to avoid reprisals from the Turks.
In 1913, the Ottoman authorities were overthrown by the inhabitants. In 1915 it was occupied by the French and then they granted it for a fee to the Italians who called it Castelrosso.
During the Second World War it was an important military base, while in 1943 the island was bombed by the Germans and suffered great destruction. This resulted in a large part of its inhabitants leaving Kastellorizo and immigrating to other places, especially to Australia. It is noteworthy that while today the inhabitants of Kastelorizos number a few hundred, the flourishing Greek community in Perth, Australia numbers approximately 10,000 Kastelorizos.
In 1948 it was incorporated into the Greek state.
Editor: Fotini Anastasopoulou