Milos is a volcanic island which has been mined for its minerals ever since the Minoans used obsidian fromt he island in the Bronze Age. The mining and quarrying, which has continued to the present day, has inevitably left ugly scars on the landscape. The island is, however, very fertile with grains and orchards providing the staple crops of the island. The island's distinctive houses are built of lava.
A huge bay almost splits the island in two. The island had an area of 160 square kilometres and neasures 22 kilometres by 14 kilometres at its longest and widest points. Mount Profitis Ilias, to the south-west, is the highest point on the island at 883 metres, 2900 feet. The population of 4,500 is only one-fifth of what it was two hundred years ago.
Excavations at Phylakopi, one of the most important Cycladic Bronze Age sites, suggest that the island has been inhabited since the Early Cycladic period, with Minoan influence very strong on the island during the Middle Cycladic period. Later, Mycenaean influence can be detected before the island came under the control of the Dorians from Lacedaemon around 1100 BC. This led to hostilities later on between Milos and Athens, when Milos refused to join the Athenian Alliance. After ten years of hostilities, the Athenians finally conquered the island, slaughtered all the males and sold the women and children as slaves. Eventually the island was repopulated by 500 colonists from Athens.
Almost nothing more is heard of Milos until, together with other islands in the vicinity, it was incorporated into the Latin Duchy of the Archipelago in 1207. Under the Ottomans, Milos suffered terribly from pirate attacks until eventually a group of islanders abandoned the island and moved to England where they were given homes in what is now Greek Street in Soho.
The port town, Adamantas, was founded by Cretan refugees from the 1841 uprising. The chapel of Ayia Trinada houses some fine 17th century icons by Cretan painters which the refugees brought with them. The main town on the island is officially called Milos, but most locals still call it by its original name of Plaka. The Archaeological Museum has finds dating back to the early Bronze Age as well as a copy of the Venus de Milo which was found nearby. The other museum in the town is the Folklore Museum.
Ancient Milos, on top of which subsequent habitations have been built, was first excavated by the British School of Archaeology in Athens in 1896. It's principal finds are in the National Archaeological Museum. The best part of the site is the Roman theatre. Large-scale catacombs from the early Christian period, some with their original frescoes still intact, can be visited near the village of Trypiti, a short distance from Plaka.
The most picturesque village on the island is the fishing village of Klima. On the north coast, Pollonia, named after a temple of Apollo, is the place to go for windsurfing. It has plenty of amenities including rooms, tavernas, supermarket, travel agency and motorbike rentals.
To the south, Loutra Provata, four kilometres from Zephyria has thermal baths fed by hot springs. Roman mosaic pavements suggest that the baths have been in use since antiquity. There are also a number of Byzantine churches in the area.
by Ian Swindale