Timeline for Spetses

“How old is Spetses?” Visitors often ask this question and I have tried to respond with this timeline. They also asked me to provide context, so I have included key world events which help them them relate Spetses to their own history. Any suggestions and corrections are welcome.

~30000 b.C. == Paleolithic traces discovered at Frachti cave on the opposite coast. The sea-level at that time was lower and what is now Spetses was connected by a strip of land to the opposite mainland.

~7000 b.C. == Obsidian tools in Frachti cave indicate existence of long-distance maritime traffic.

~3000 b.C. == Cycladic civilization in the Aegean, Minoan on Crete, proto-helladic on mainland. The beaked vases in Spetses Museum

~1200 b.C. == Capture of Troy by Achaians (Mycenaeans). Moses in Palestine (-1250)

770 b.C. == First Olympic Games. First triremes in eastern Mediterranean.

490 b.C. == 1st Persian War. The battle of Marathon draws a line which separates East from West.

330 b.C. == Alexander the Great creates Hellenistic kingdoms up to India and Greek becomes the lingua franca.

100 b.C. == Romans conquer Greece. Funerary sculptures in Spetses Museum.

330 == Constantine turns Byzantium into the new capital of the Roman Empire, which is first called New Rome, then Constantinople.

450-550’s == Two large Christian basilicas built on Spetses, indicating that the island is a large regional maritime center.

1204 == 4th Crusade sacks Constantinople. Catholic princes occupy Greek lands.

Franks in Athens. Venetians in the Aegean. Feudalism. “Good fishing” reported in Spetses.

1453 == Ottoman sultan Mohammed II takes Constantinople. Turkish occupation of Greece begins.

1571 == Battle of Lepanto (Nafpaktos): Turkish expansion halted by Christian powers.

1670’s == Building of the first Bouboulis mansion, which evolved into today’s Bouboulina Museum, named after Spetses’ heroine in the War of Greek Independence.

1680’s == Period of Morosini’s extension of Venetian power in the area, as witnessed by Catholic remains on Zogeria Bay in Spetses.

1715 == Turks prevail in Venetian-Ottoman war. Shipbuilders leave fortresses of Monemvasia and Nafplion for Spetses. This technology transfer is a key factor for Spetses’ economic take-off.

1748 == First recorded arrival of Spetses ship in Malta. Ship cargoes financed by rich landowners on the opposite coast.

1765 == Russia sends navy into the Mediterranean to break the Turkish stranglehold on access to the Black Sea. Admiral Orloff encourages the Greeks to revolt. Spetses joins. Hydra abstains.

1769 == Reprisals: Turks massacre Spetses population. Shipowners resort to piracy.

1773 == Amnesty granted to Spetses by Kapudan Pacha, the Ottoman Chief Admiral. Boston tea party.

1774 == Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji opens Turkish straits. Russia needs Greek ships to export its wheat. Greek shipowners, including Spetses, fly Russian flag and benefit from new rules.

1776 == American Declaration of Independence.

1789 == French Revolution.

1795-95 == Hadjiyiannis Mexis builds his mansion, now the Spetses Museum.

1802 == Elgin cuts marbles off Acropolis.

1803-15 == American operations in Mediterranean against North African pirate states.

1806 == Golden age for Spetses shipowners: great profits gained from running the British naval blockade against Napoleon’s forces on the European continent.

1821 == Greek War of Independence begins. Spetses naval force under Bouboulina besieges Nafplion coastal fortress. Ships from Spetses, Hydra and Psara besiege other fortresses and disrupt Turkish supply lines.

1822 == Turkish reprisals. Massacre of Greeks on Chios. Turks try to relieve Nafplion and are repulsed at the “Armata” naval battle off Spetses, celebrated every year on the island.

1825 == Second Turkish army invades from the north. Bouboulina killed in family dispute.

1827 == Navarino: Allied fleet destroys Turkish-Egyptian fleet.

1828 == Greek Government installed in Nafplion. Distance from Spetses: 4-5 hours by sail.

1830 == Traditional Mani chieftain kills modernizer: Capodistrias assassinated by Mavromichalis. Anarchy. Allies install Otto of Bavaria as first King of Greece.

1834 == Athens, the new capital, is twice the distance from Spetses, now far from center of power. Spetses shipowners build new mansions on St.Nicholas shore to entertain royals, politicians and other VIP contacts from Athens.

1854-56 == Crimean war. Spetses ships return empty from the Black Sea. Sailors demand to work, attack Chancellery but third-generation shipowers are out of touch with alternative routes and cargos. Decline of Spetses shipping fleet begins.

1868 == Panoramic photo in Spetses Museum shows ships rotting away. Anargyros emigrates.

1912-13 == Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece at war with Turks. Greece controls the sea.

Takes Thessaloniki, Ioannina. Titanic sinks (1912).

1914 == Anargyros opens Poseidonion Hotel in Spetses. Panama Canal is inaugurated.

1917 == National schism: Venizelos vs King Constantine, who abdicates. Spetses and southern Greece blockaded by British fleet. Greece enters WWI on the Allied side.

1920 == Daskalakis spinning mill opens in Spetses, a political decision to favour the Venizelist cause by creating much-needed jobs.

1940 == Italian ultimatum to Greece is rejected. Germany invades France.

1941 == Germans overrun Greece. Plunder. Starvation in Spetses. Hyperinflation. Resistance and reprisals. Spetses is not spared.

1944 == Liberation.

1949 == End of Greek Civil War. Spetses is mired in poverty. A house is worth less than a fishing boat, while 50 years later it will be worth millions.

Today == In the 1960’s shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos buys Spetsopoula, the small island off the coast of Spetses and converts it into a hunting reserve to entertain royals, politicians and other VIP contacts. In turn, this attracts other wealthy Greeks to start buying properties in and around Spetses, converting it into what an American described as “the Greek Nantucket” and a Frenchwoman as “the Greek Cap Ferrat”.


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