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History of Kos island, Greece

As in many other cases, archaeological surveys have confirmed the traditions insisting that the history of Kos goes back to prehistoric times. The excavations at the cave Aspri Petra («white stone») on the hill of Zini at Kefalos have brought to light finds dated in the early 3rd millennium b.C., that is to say in the Early Bronze Age, when several movements of various people took place in the Aegean and the broader area around.

The first settlement in the area of the actual town of Kos would have taken place by the end of the third millennium b.C; ever since, the town exists in various forms and under various dominations. It flourishes during the Minoan and Mycenaean periods and, according to traditions, the island took part to the Trojan War with 30 ships. After the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization, the island becomes Doric and a new period of glory starts.

In the Archaic period, during the 7th and 6th centuries b.C., Kos along with the cities of Knidos and Alicarnassos, of the opposite coast and the cities of Rhodes (Ialyssos, Kamiros and Lindos) form the Doric Hexapolis , an economic and political alliance of six cities, whose center is the temple of Apollo Triopios at Knidos.
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Later on, Persians conquer the island and the people are forced to participate to the Persian Wars against Greeks.

After the defeat of the Persians at Salamis, Kos becomes free again and takes part to the Athenian Alliance. It is the period of Hippocrates, who establishes his school and teaches medicine on the island.

After the Athenian alliance was broken-up, the island entered to and unstable period: frequent invasions and dominations from Persians, Macedonians, the kingdom of Ptolemy and Mithridates, until it was conquered by the Romans.

New days of flourishing followed during the Byzantine period, although the island often suffered from earthquakes. In the 11th century the island was pillaged by the Arabs and after the conquest of Constantinople by the Francs in 1204, the island passed to the Venice, Genoa and finally to the Knights of St. John, who constructed most of the strong fortresses, preserved today.

In 1523, the island passed to Ottoman domination for a long period, up to 1912, when it was given to Italians, along with the rest of the Dodecanese. During the World War II, the island passed to German occupation, from 1943 up to the end of the war. From 1945, the island was under the government of British troops, until 1948 when it was finally given to Greece.

Kos is one, among several, of the towns that have kept the same name for millenniums. It is difficult to know the origin of its name; several suggestions have been made about it. Having passed through centuries and various changes, from the mythological fight of the Giant Polyvotis with Poseidon, up to the foreign domination that ended in 1948, Kos is today on its way to prosperity and development.

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Famous historical persons of Kos


Hippocrates is considered today as the founder of Medical Science, but he was also an important philosopher and a great humanist.

According to his biographer, Soranus from Ephesus, he was born in 460 b.C; however, according to some scholars it is thought that he was born in 470 b.C., or even earlier, in Astypalaea, the capital city of ancient Kos, situated near Kefalos. Along with Soranus, also Plato and Menon, a doctor who was student of Aristotle, confirm Hippocrates’ origin from Kos. It seems that Kos had already a tradition in Medicine, as both Asclepieion and a famous medical school existed on the island even before Hippocrates.

Following Mythology and local tradition, Hippocrates was considered as a descendant of Hercules. His father, also a famous doctor was called Herakleides and his mother Faenarete. He was married to Avlovia and had three children.

By the end of his life, Hippocrates moved to Thessaly; for that reason he was given the name «Thessalos» (Thessalian). Ancient traditions state that he died very old, at the age of 104 years, and was buried near Larissa; for many years a swarm of bees flew above his tomb and the honey they produced was said to have healing qualities. Only a few historic details of the life of this important person are available in ancient historic sources. Most important among them are certainly the references of Plato and Aristotle, who calls him «Great».

Hippocrates had set the bases of rational medicine during the «golden age» in Athens. Following the long tradition of the doctors of the island, Hippocrates achieved to classify with an excellent method all the data available about diseases and human body. Leaving apart many superstitions and rejecting religious explanations, he considered the human body as an organism which gets ill whenever it is not well cured.

Numerous medical works are attributed to Hippocrates, but, as modern works have clearly shown, several of them were written either by his students or by other famous doctors, contemporary to him. Many of these works were preserved thanks to their continuous reproduction in form of instructive leaflets. His works were extensively studied and commented by famous scholars both of antiquity and of medieval times. Some of the works of Hippocrates were preserved thanks to the copies kept in the Byzantine monasteries. The most well known works are «Precepts» «Epidemics», «Nutriment» «Ancient Medicine» etc.

The oath that Hippocrates established for doctors is in use even today and bears his name (Hippocratic Oath).
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Titanomachy (The Battle against Titans)

According to Greek Mythology, Titans and their brothers, the Giants, all of them sons of Gaea and Ouranos (Earth and Sky), dominated the universe before the Olympian gods. Their leader was Cronos (Saturne), the father of Zeus. When Zeus and his brothers and sisters decided to expel Cronos from his throne, a hard and violent fighting took place between the Titans and the new generation of gods, all over the Mediterranean area. It was during one these battles that Poseidon (Neptune) pursued the giant Polyvotis. When he was about catching him up, they had arrived near Kos. Thus, Poseidon detached a huge rock from the island and fell it down upon the giant. This latter didn’t die, immortal as he was. He keeps ever since snarling and breathing out fire. This rock is the small island of Nisyros, with its volcano, still active. What a nice mythological explanation of a natural phenomenon! And, according to contemporary geological surveys, the island of Nisyros was, in fact, detached from Kos after a strong earthquake.

«Kinnis», the mythological name of Kos

Kinnis, the mythological name of the island is also due to a Titan. According to another myth, the Titan Kinnos, along with his brothers Phoebus and Chios took refuge on Kos when pursued by the Olympian gods during Titanomachy
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Hercules in Kos

The island is also linked to Hercules. According to the myth, Hercules, on his way back to Greece, after an expedition to Troy, fell in a storm sent by Hera who hated him very much. Five out of the six boats of Hercules went down and only him along with a few friends survived and swam to the nearest beach that happened to be the cape Gourniatis at Kos.

Once ashore the shipwrecked people came across a shepherd called Antagoras and asked shelter and food from him. Antagoras refused and insulted Hercules and his friends. The hero got mad and fought with the shepherd. As fighting lasted long, without a clear victory of either, the friends of Hercules, as well as the friends of Antagoras, coming from the nearby city of Antimachia, were also involved. After a while, Hercules and his friends escaped and found refuge in the house of a Thracian woman; disguised to women, they escaped though the nearby wood and arrived to a town close to the actual village of Pyli. The residents of the town welcomed the refugees and declared the war to the people of Antimachia. Eyrypylos, the king with Antimachia, fought with Hercules and, after a strong fighting, Hercules, although wounded, ended up by killing him. After that, the people of Antimachia elected Halkon to be their king and his sister Halkiopi became the wife of Hercules. Halkiopi gave birth to a son, called Thessalos, who, later, would become the king of Kos and Nisyros.
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