Naxos, as evidenced by the archaeological findings at the sites of Grota and cave Za, was already inhabited in the 4th millennium BC during the Neolithic period, when there were settlements with developed societies.
During the 3rd millennium BC, when the Cycladic civilization developed in the Aegean, of which Naxos was one of the most important centers, as evidenced by the archaeological finds from tombs at the Grota sites (where the city of Naxos is today, a extensive settlement), Kastraki and Panormos (at the location of Korfari Amygdalion) but also from the masterpieces of Cycladic figurines of exceptional art.
After all, some of the archaeological sites of Naxos are used by archaeologists to name periods of the Cycladic civilization such as Grota, Shangri, as well as to characterize the typology of the idols (Louro type, Apirantho type).
During the period of the Cycladic civilization, navigation and trade flourished throughout the Aegean and in Naxos.
During the 2nd millennium BC, the flourishing period of the Mycenaean civilization, Naxos, with the city at the site of Grota growing, due to its geographical position plays the role of a connecting bridge between central Greece and the East.
The connection of Naxos with the Minoan civilization is reflected in the legend that tells that Naxos was the son of Apollo and Akalis, daughter of Minos and from him the island got its name.
The habitation and development of the island continued in the following centuries, so, during the 7th c. an oligarchic society is formed consisting of rich and powerful nobles, which resided in the city that was located on the hill of the Castle of Chora.
The main occupations of the inhabitants were agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing, trade
and the arts. Arkesini and possibly Aegiali are colonized by Naxians, while close relations are established with Thera.
From the 7th century works are also the colossal statues of Kouros from Naxos, such as the half-works that were discovered in the ancient quarries at Melanes and Apollo. The dedications to sanctuaries such as the Sphinx of the Naxians at Delphi and the Lions at Delos were also brilliant and of exceptional art, testifying to the power and wealth of the island.
Famous and sought after were the Naxian artisans who so skilfully carved marble and built all-marble temples like the one of Apollo and Demeter at Gyroula in Sagri.
The prosperity of Naxos was reflected in the works of ancient writers and poets: Pindar calls it "liparan" (rich) and Herodotus mentions that "Naxos blessed the islands". Archilochus the Parian likened the wine of Naxos to divine nectar.
According to the mythic tradition, the god Dionysus was born in Naxos (in the cave of Za) where he met Ariadne after she was abandoned by Theseus and made her his wife. Ariadne's marriage to the god Dionysus, her sleep - death and her resurrection were strongly celebrated on the island because they were related to the maturation and rebirth of Nature.
In 490 BC Naxos suffered destruction from the Persians who were trying to expand their influence in the Aegean. She was never able to recover and regain her former glory. In the naval battle of Salamis, the Naxians fought on the side of the Athenians, against the Persians, and after the victory of the Greeks, Naxos became a member of the Athenian alliance. When the Athenians lost their primacy, Naxos sided with the Spartans and thus, in the 4th c. BC Athenians and Spartans clash over Naxos. Later it passes from the Ptolemaic influence of Egypt to the Macedonian and then to the Rhodian influence.
In 41 BC, Naxos, following the fate of the rest of Greece, became a Roman province and was used as a place of exile.
During the Byzantine period, in the 8th - 9th century, many churches and monasteries were built with excellent frescoes, which testify to the prominent position that Naxos held at the administrative, ecclesiastical, economic and artistic level, in that period.
The conquest of the Cyclades, in 1207, by the Venetian Marco Sanoudos and the establishment of the Latin hegemony, with Naxos as its capital, marks a new period of prosperity for the island.
In 1537, Naxos is occupied by Barbarossa and the period of Turkish rule begins. However, the Turks did not settle on the island, limiting themselves only to collecting taxes.
Ottoman rule would last until 1829, when Naxos would also be annexed to the newly formed Greek state.
Editor: Fotini Anastasopoulou