Other Islands of the Dodecanese.


Map of Kastelorizo.
Map of Kastelorizo.


The name Megiste, which was applied to Kastrelorizo in very ancient times, comes according to one tradition from Megistes, first colonist of the island, or perhaps - since it maens 'largest' - from the fact that it has the largest area of the group of twelve islets of which it forms part.

It acquired the name Kastellorizo in the late fourteenth century, from the castle which the Knights of St John of Rhodes built on the reddish rock by the harbour: Castello Rosso = Red castle. According to yet another version, the name comes from the words "castelli", castle, and "rizovouni", foothills. since the town is situated at the foot of the hill topped by the castle (C. Papachristodoulou).

Finds from caves on the island (including axes) and Cyclopean polygonal and isodomic walls demonstrate that Kastelorizo was inhabited in very distant times. Grave goods found in Mecenean burials - such as a gold chaplet of the Mycenean period - now in the National Archaeological Musem in Athens - are among the evidence for a Mycenean presence on the island. The Doreans, who conquered Rhodes, soon colonised Megiste too.

Although Kastelorizo was culturally and administratively dependent on Rhodes, it maintained a considerable degree of autonomy. Many ancient writers mention Kastellorizo, including Skylax (100), the anonymous author of the Stadiasmos of the Great Sea (234-244), Strabo (14, 666), Ptolemy (5,3,9), Stephen of Byzantium - who gives the island a separate entry in his Lexicon, Pliny (5,31,35) and Livy (37,22,45).
There are also references in ancient inscriptions. The ancient city is believed to have been situated at the spot called Palaiopoli, in a precinct of isodomic masonry standing on Cyclopean foundations. We now that this was the location of a temple of Apollo Megistes.

In later times, Kastelorizo's history is identical to that of Rhodes. It was conquered by Rome and formed part of the Byzantine Empire. In 1306 it fell into the hands of the Knights of St John, in 1400 it was taken by Jemal Aldin, Sultan of Egypt, and in 1480 it passed to the Ottomans. Conquerors - Spaniards, Venetians, Ottomans - succeeded one another. In 1915, Kastelorizo was occupied by the French, who ceded it to the Italians in 1921. It was liberated after the end of the Second World War and united with Greece.

In modern times, Kastelorizo had a population of as many as 14.000 souls, but the scanty, infertile soil caused many of these people to work as sponge-fishermen or sailors. At one time, Kastelorizo had a fleet of 150 merchant ships - quite a considerable number, by the standards of the day.
During the struggle for liberation from the Ottomans, these vessels were converted into war craft. Later, the sailing vessels were replaced by steamships and motor craft. The prosperity created on the island by shipping did not outlast the Second World War.
During the War, the island was hard-hit by continous bombing raids and the inhabitants were evacuated by the Allies. After the War, only a few of them returned. Today, the population is a mere 275.


The Island Kastelorizo:
Kastelorizo is the most easterly island of the Dodecanese group. The island's official name - Megisti (Greatest) - is derived from the fact that it is the largest of the 14 surrounding islands.
Small and rocky, Kastelorizo, on the frontiers of Greece, is 328 nautical miles from Piraeus, 72 from Rhodes, and only 2,5 km from the coast of Turkey. It has an area of 9,30 km² and a coastline of 19,20 km.
The island featured strikingly in the film Mediterraneo - Oscar 1991 - based on a book by an Italian military surgeon.

The only village still inhabited, port and capital of the island, standing on the slopes around the bay. Its houses are imposing and elegant, with painted wooden balconies and red tiled roofs, and a reminder of the days of the island's prosperity. - Before the Second World War, when it had a population of 14.000 and 4.000 houses. On the other hand, a stroll along the narrow stone alleyways reveals ruined houses smothered in ivy, wich bear witness to the damage done during the Second World War and the emigration of the inhabitants. The Cathedral of Sts Constantine and Helen with its pointed arches is impressive; the columns are of granite and came from the temple of Apollo at Patara in Lycia.

Castle of St Nicholas:
The ruined castle of the 14th century stands in an imposing position above the bay. It was built in antiquity by Sosicles son of Nicagor (inscriptions in the castle) and reconstructed in the 14th, in the time of Grand Master Juan Fernando Heredia. A metal stairway leads to the highest point, from which there is an enchanting view. There is a museum inside the castle. Near the castle and in the direction of the sea shore - at the end of the Street of the Knights and to the right - there is a rectangular Doric tomb hewn out of the rock.

Monastery of St George:
A footpath from Kastelorizo leads east and then south to this attractive monastery.

Monastery of the Holy Trinity:
On the road from Kastelorizo to the airport. There is a footpath between the monastery and that of St George.

The road continues from the Holy Trinity Monastery and a path which leads off to the right brings the visitor to Palaiokastro. This, on the top of Mt Vigla (252 m), was the ancient acropolis of the island. Inside the Hellenistic walls there are the remains of a gateway with a Doric inscription (3rd - 2nd century BC) which mentions the name Megiste and the fact that the island was independent, a cistern with steps of carved stone, an ancient tower and three churches. At this point, too, is a lookout post dating from the Italian period and still manned today.

Monastery of St Stephen:
A walk of 45 mins brings the visitor to the Monastery of St Stephen, which stands high up, looking out over a bay at the northern end of the island. Altough the monastery itself is often locked, it is worth following this route for the view. A footpath leads down to the beach.

The Blue Cave or "Tou Parasta" or Phokia:
A cave with a fantastic decor of stalactites and colours, with blue predominating, produced by reflections of the light. It is considered to be superior to the famous Blue Grotto on Capri. Thirty minutes by kaïki from Mandraki.

A little island 6 nautical miles to the west of Kastellorizo, from which it can be reached by tourist launch. Despina Achladioti, know as the Lady of Rho, lived on the island until her death in 1982, symbolising the indomitable spitit of the entire Greek nation: for 40 years she hoisted the Greek flag each day under the shadow of the Asia Minor coast, and during the Second World War she performed important services for Greek and British commando forces. On the island is a church os St George.

Five nautical miles to the south-east, Strongyli can be reached by kaïki from Kastelorizo.

Text from Davaris Publications. Greek Islands: DODECANESE.

The Town of Kastelorizo. Kastelorizo. Kaselorizo.
Click on the image to enlarge.

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© Nostalgia Travel ™ / Other Islands / Kastelorizo.