Last modified: 2006-05-27 by ivan sache
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In the VIth century BC, Ikaria was absorbed by the neighbouring city of Samos and was incorporated into Polycrates' maritime empire. In 490 BC, the Persian army touched upon Ikarian shore. After the Greek victory, Ikaria joined the Delian League and became renowned for the Pramnian wine. Ikaria paid a tribute to Athens, who set up a military colony on the island in order to watch Samos, which was prone to rebellion. The two main cities of the island, the rich, wine-producing Oenoe and the poor Therma did not seem to have had much contact. The island had then c. 13,000 inhabitants. Its decline started during the Peloponesus War, when the fleet from Sparta landed twice on Ikaria. The island was later threatened by pirates, until the two cities of Oenoe and Therma joined the Second Athenian League in 387.
After the death of Alexander the Great in 323, Ikaria became a military base; the Drakano tower and the adjacent fortress are among the best preserved military remains from the Hellenistic period in the Aegean. The Romans took the control of Ikaria, which was probably incorporated in 129 BC with Samos into the Asian province; however, the Romans neglected the area and all coastal settlements in Ikaria were trashed by pirates. Emperor August pacified the Aegean and ordered Samos to develop Ikaria. Strabon and later Pliny the Younger went to Ikaria and did not notice any significant development.
During the Byzantine period, Samos maintained a local fleet, which protected Ikaria. In 1081, Emperor Alexis Comnenus founded the St. John's monastery in the neighbouring island of Patmos. At the end of the XIIth century, the Byzantine navy collapsed and the islands had to defend themselves against the pirates; the fortresses of Paliokastro and Koskino were built on Ikaria.
In the XIVth century, Ikaria was incorporated into the Genoese Aegean
empire, along with Chios. The Genoese were expelled by the Ottomans;
the Knights of St. John, based in Rhodes, exerted some control on
Ikaria until its incorporation to the Ottoman Empire in 1521.
Ikaria was then the poorest island of the Aegean, inhabited by c. 1,000 and without any permanent Ottoman administration. In 1827, the island broke away from the Ottoman Empire for a short period. On 17 July 1912, the small Turkish garrison was expelled and the independence of the island was proclaimed. Ikaria could not join Greece, which was involved into the Balkan Wars. The independence lasted five months, with shortage of food, transportation and postage service. The two sections of the islands almost went to a civil war to determine the site of the capital.
Ikaria remained for a long time among the most backwards regions in Greece. The islanders were mostly helped by natives who had started to emigrate to America in the 1890s. The island suffered great loss in property and lives because of the Italian and German occupation during the Second World War. After the War, the island was used as a place of exile for 13,000 Communists from 1945 to 1949. In the 1960s, the situation of Ikaria improved when the Greek government started to develop local infrastructures and promoted tourism.
Source: Ikarian Enterprises website, using material from Anthony J. Papalas' book Ancient Ikaria (1992).
Ivan Sache, 2 December 2004
Flag of independent Ikaria - Image by Ivan Sache, 28 June 2003
The island of Ikaria declared its independence from
Turkey as a free state at the end of July 1912, and stamps were
issued on 8 October 1912. Island was occupied by Greece in support of
the new state on 4 November 1912 and overprinted Greek stamps were
issued in 1913. United with Greece in June 1913 and Greek stamps were
used thereafter. On 14 August 1912 the neighboring islands of Fournoi
were also liberated and became part of the free state.
The flag of the free state was very similar to the then flag of Greece but the cross was smaller, it didn't extend across the whole field. A couple of flag books published these last years in Greece have failed to include any mention at all for this short-lived state and its symbols.
Ben Cahoon, 28 June 2003
A plate forwarded by A.N. Kollias shows the name of the state,
its dates (17-7-1912 to 4-11-1912), flag, arms, president's photo,
anthem (music by K. Psachos and verse by Fr. Karrer) and five postage
stamps. As the source is not stated I don't know how reliable the
information about the flag is.
The flag is blue with a white cross not reaching the edges of the flag.
Jaume Ollé, 30 June 2003
A photo taken during those few months of Ikaria's autonomy shows a group of people displaying a large flag of autonomy exactly as described above.
Parren Plytra, 30 June 2003
The Ikaria website quoted in the first section of this page is illustrated with a picture entitled "The Ikarian battle for independence", showing the Greek plain cross flag and the Turkish flag, as well as a steamboat flying a flag similar to the one described above.
Ivan Sache, 2 December 2004