Kythira (/kɪˈθiːrə/, /ˈkɪθɪrə/; Greek: Κύθηρα
[ˈciθiɾa], also transliterated as Cythera, Kythera and Kithira)
is an island in
Greece lying opposite the south-eastern tip of the
Peloponnese peninsula. It is traditionally listed as one of the seven
main Ionian Islands, although it is distant from the main group.
Administratively, it belongs to the Islands regional unit, which is
part of the
Attica region (although at large distance from Attica
The island is strategically located between the Greek mainland and
Crete, and from ancient times until the mid 19th century was a
crossroads of merchants, sailors, and conquerors. As such, it has had
a long and varied history and has been influenced by many
civilisations and cultures. This is reflected in its architecture (a
blend of traditional, Aegean and Venetian elements), as well as the
traditions and customs, influenced by centuries of coexistence of the
Greek, Venetian, and Ottoman cultures.
2.1 Pre-classical and ancient
2.2 Medieval and modern
5.1 Villages of Kythira
9 Notable people
10 In popular culture
12 See also
14 External links
Kythira and the nearby island of
Antikythira were separate
municipalities until they were merged at the 2011 local government
reform; the two islands are now municipal units. The municipality
has an area of 300.023 km2, the municipal unit
279.593 km2. The province of
Kythira (Greek: Επαρχία
Κυθήρων) was one of the provinces of the
Piraeus Prefecture. It
had the same territory as the present municipality Kythira. It was
abolished in 2006.
Pre-classical and ancient
Antikythera mechanism, National Archaeological Museum, Athens
There are archaeological remains from the Helladic period,
contemporary with the Minoans. There is archaeological evidence of
Kythiran trade as far as
Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Kythira had a Phoenician colony in the early archaic age; the
sea-snail which produces
Tyrian purple is native to the island.
Xenophon refers to a Phoenician Bay in
probably Avlemonas Bay on the eastern side of the island). The archaic
Greek city of
Kythira was at Scandea on Avlemonas; its ruins have been
excavated. Its acropolis, now Palicastro (Palaeocastron, "Old Fort"),
has the temple of
Aphrodite Ourania, who may well represent a
Phoenician cult of Astarte.
In classical times,
Kythira was part of the territory of several
larger city-states. Sparta took the island from Argos early in the
sixth century, and ruled it under a kytherodíkes
(kυθηροδίκης, "judge on Kythira"), in Thucydides' time
Athens occupied it three times when at war with Sparta (in
456 during her first war with Sparta and the Peloponnesians; from 426
to 410, through most of the great Peloponnesian War; and from 393 to
387/386, during the
Corinthian War against Spartan dominance) and used
it both to support her trade and to raid Laconia.
Kythira was independent, and issued her own coins in 195 after the
Achaean defeat of Sparta. In Augustus' time, it was again subject to
Sparta, being the property of Gaius Julius Eurycles, who was both a
Spartan magnate and a Roman citizen.
By this time, the Greek cities were in practice subject to the Roman
Kythira continued to exist under the
Roman Empire and its
Byzantine successor state for centuries. Christianity is attested from
the fourth century AD, the time of Constantine; according to her
legend, Saint Elessa came from
Laconia to convert the island.
Medieval and modern
Ionian Islands under Venetian rule
Ruins of Paliochora
Katouni bridge (19th century)
The castle of Kithira,
copper engraving by Coronelli.
Kythira is not mentioned in the literary sources for centuries after
its conversion; in the period of Byzantine weakness at the end of the
seventh century, it might have been exposed to attacks from both the
Slavic tribes who raided the mainland and from Arab pirates from the
sea. Archaeological evidence suggests the island was abandoned about
When Saint Theodore of Cythera led a resettlement after the Byzantine
Crete in 962, he found the island occupied only by
wandering bands of hunters. He established a great monastery at
Paliochora; a town grew up around it, largely populated from Laconia.
Byzantine Empire was divided among the conquerors of the
Fourth Crusade, the Republic of
Venice took her share, three eighths
of the whole, as the Greek islands,
Kythira among them. She
established a coast patrol on
Antikythera to protect her
trade route to Constantinople;
Kythira was one of the islands Venice
continued to hold despite the Greek reconquest of Constantinople and
the Turkish presence all over the Near East. During the Venetian
domination the island was known as Cerigo. Ottomans called this island
Chuha Island (tr: Çuha Adası).
Kythirans still talk about the destruction and looting of Paliochora
by Barbarossa; it has become an intrinsic part of the Kytherian
folklore. One can easily accept the stories of locals by noticing the
number of monasteries embedded in the rocky hillsides to avoid
destruction by the pirates.
Barbary pirates ranged across the Mediterranean waters, raiding ships,
coasts and islands, taking booty and slaves for the Barbary slave
Kythira was at the mercy of Barbary pirates due to its
strategic location in the Mediterrean. In order to intercept merchant
vessels, islands along the trade routes were of course more
interesting for pirates. In the 17th century the small islands like
Sapientza (Kalamatas) south of Messinia (district in south-western
part of the Peloponnese), Cergio (Kythira) south of the south-eastern
tip of the Peloponnese, and along the coast of Asia minor, the then
deserted islands of Fourni southwest of Samos, and the island of
Psara, west of Chios, all functioned as pirates nests.
Napoleon put an end to the Venetian Republic in 1797,
among the islands incorporated in that most distant départment of
France, called Mer-Égée.
Kythira shared a common destiny with the
Ionian islands during the turbulent Napoleonic era, and is still
regarded as one of them; it was counted as one of the
In 1799, the
Ionian islands became the Septinsular Republic, nominally
under Ottoman suzerainty, but in practice dominated by Russia. In
1807, France took them back only to have the British seize the islands
in 1809 and set up one of their first protectorates, the United States
of the Ionian Islands. The British held them for nearly half a
century; under the British, they were governed by a High Commissioner
who could act with both legislative and executive powers. After a long
history of turbulence, never settled even by such eminent
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone for three weeks in the winter
of 1859, the British discussion whether they were a waste of money or
a vital Imperial possession ended with the cession of the Ionian
Islands, including Kythira, to the new King George I of Greece, who
was brother-in-law to the Prince of Wales. Under the British, Kythira
was known as Carigo or Cerigo, as was its chief town, the name it had
under the Venetian Republic.
The chief town of the island,
Kythira (or Chora, "village") has the
Historical Archives of Kythira, the second largest in the Ionian
islands, after Corfu.
Fonisa Waterfall at Mylopotamos, Cythera
Kythira has a land area of 279.593 square kilometres
(107.95 sq mi); it is located at the southwestern exit from
the Aegean Sea, behind Cape Malea. The rugged terrain is a result
of prevailing winds from the surrounding seas which have shaped its
shores into steep rocky cliffs with deep bays. The island has many
beaches, of various composition and size; only half of them can be
reached by road through the mountainous terrain of the island. The
Kythirian Straits are nearby.
Kythira is close to the
Hellenic arc plate boundary zone, and thus
highly prone to earthquakes. Many earthquakes in recorded history have
had their epicentres near or on the island. Probably the largest in
recent times is the 1903 earthquake near at the village of Mitata,
that caused significant damage as well as limited loss of life. It has
had two major earthquakes in the 21st century: that of November 5,
2004, measuring between 5.6 and 5.8 on the Richter scale and the
earthquake of January 8, 2006, measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale. The
epicenter of the latter was in the sea about 20 km (12 mi)
to the east of Kythira, with a focus at a depth of approximately
70 km (43 mi). Many buildings were damaged, particularly old
ones, mostly in the village of Mitata, but with no loss of life. It
was felt as far as Italy, Egypt,
Malta and Jordan.
Kythira has a
Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification
Csa) with mild, rainy winters and warm to hot dry summers.
Climate data for
Record high °C (°F)
Average high °C (°F)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Record low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)
Average relative humidity (%)
In Ancient Greek mythology,
Kythira was considered to be the island of
celestial Aphrodite, the Goddess of love (cf. Cyprus, another island
devoted to the Goddess of Love).
Like many of the smaller Aegean islands, Kythira's population is
decreasing. While the island had reached a peak population of about
14,500 in 1864, that has steadily declined mostly due to emigration,
both internal (to major urban centres of Greece) and external (to
Australia, the United States, Germany) in the first half of the 20th
century. Today its population hovers around 3,354 people (2001
Villages of Kythira
View of Avlemonas
View of Kapsali from the castle of Chora
The largest villages (2001 Greek census) are Potamós (pop. 396),
Agía Pelagía (281), Chóra/Kýthira (267), Áno Livádi (175),
Kálamos (157), and Livádi (126).
Agia Pelagia Kythira, Port
Chora, (also Kythira) Kytherian Capital
Livadi, which is becoming the business center of the island
Potamos, largest village
Since the late 20th century, the Kythirean economy has largely focused
and, in the process, has become dependent on tourism, which provides
the majority of the island's income, despite the fact that
not one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece. The
popular season usually begins with the Greek holiday of
the end of May, and lasts until the middle of September. During this
time, primarily during August, the island's population will often
triple due to the tourists and natives returning for vacation.
Dependence on tourism has resulted in increased building activity in
many of the island's villages, mostly for commercial purposes (hotels
and hospitality facilities, shops etc.), but also secondary homes;
prominent examples are Agia Pelagia and Livadi, both of which having
witnessed significant growth in their size since the early 1990s.
Minor sources of revenue are thyme honey, famous within
Greece for its
rich flavor, as well as some small-scale cultivation of vegetables and
fruit and animal husbandry that is, nevertheless, increasingly
restricted to local consumption.
Only five of the island's villages are on the coast (Platia Amos, Agia
Pelagia, Diakofti, Avlemonas, & Kapsali). During July and August,
several traditional dances will be held in various villages. These
dances usually attract the majority of the island's population, the
biggest of which are the festival of 'Panagia' in Potamos on 15
August, and the wine festival in
Mitata on the first Friday and
Saturday of August.
View of the capital, Chora
Street of Chora
The capital, Chora, is located on the southern part of the island
having no ports connected to the southern
Peloponnese or Vatika.
Kythira's port for Vatika was previously situated at Agia Pelagia,
although in recent years this port has been decommissioned and has
been replaced by a new port at the coastal town of Diakofti, Kythira.
Most of the over 60 village names end with "-anika" and a few end with
-athika, -iana and -ades. This is due to the villages being named
after influential families that settled first in that region. For
Example, 'Logothetianika' is derived from the Greek last name of
Officially, Greek is Kythira's main language. Despite popular belief,
most places such as public services and local administrations, will be
able to oblige to an individual's needs in English as well. In
specific areas, some of Kythira's population is fluent in Italian.
The island in the past has been plagued by a poor infrastructure,
exacerbated by the effect of weather on transportation during the
winter months. However the construction of the new port in Diakofti
along with the renovation of the island's airport have significantly
reduced these effects. A new road from the island's most populated
town of Potamos in the north to the island's capital of Chora in the
south is currently in the planning and development stage.
Despite the fact that the island has been a trade route for centuries,
construction of a modern port was postponed several times until the
latter half of the 20th century. In 1933, efforts were made to
construct a port in the village of Agia Pelagia, yet financial and
governmental problems meant that it was only decades later that one
was built. That small port of Agia Pelagia (currently being renovated
from a ferry dock to a tourist/recreational boat dock) was the
island's main port until the mid-1990s. Around that time the new port
of Diakofti, the site originally chosen by the island's British rulers
in the 19th century, was constructed along with a modern wider road,
aiming to support larger cargo and passenger vessels. The port of
Diakofti currently serves scheduled routes to/from Gythion, Kalamata,
Crete & Neapolis - Vatika. Proposals have
been made to attach a Marina to the south side of the port, however no
plans or timetables have been produced. Additionally, the harbour of
Agia Patrikia (north of Agia Pelagia) is the primary fishing boat
harbour, housing two wide boatramps and a boat repair facility.
The island's primary airport is the Alexander S. Onassis Airport also
Kithira Island National Airport, located in the region
between the village of Friligiannika and Diakofti, about 20 km
(12 mi) from the capital. The airport was revamped and extended
at the turn of the 21st century, largely by private funds provided by
the local population. The island is served by
Olympic Air flights.
Philoxenus (435-380 BC), dithyrambic poet
Marco Venier, Lord of Cerigo (– 1311) was a Lord of Cerigo
Valerios Stais (1857–1923), archaeologist
Yianis Vilaras (1771–1823), poet and author
Juliette de Bairacli Levy (1912–2009), herbalist and author
George Miller, Academy Award-winning Australian director and producer,
Mad Max, Babe, Happy Feet
Alex Freeleagus, Australian lawyer and former Consul-General to Greece
Tess Mallos, food and cooking writer, journalist, author and
Manuel Aroney, organic chemistry
Georgia Cassimatis, journalist, Australian Cosmopolitan magazine
Nick Politis, car retailer and chairman of the Sydney Roosters rugby
In popular culture
Named as a destination of the galley carrying Judah
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace.
Botticelli's The Birth of Venus and other similarly themed paintings
show the goddess Venus arriving either at the shore of
Cyprus, as classical mythology identifies both islands as her
In the 1499 text Hypnerotomachia Polifili the protagonists Polia and
Polifilo travel to Cythera to explore their love and find the fountain
The island's status as the birthplace of the goddess is also
referenced in the title and subject of the
Antoine Watteau painting
Embarkation for Cythera.
Couperin wrote Le Carillon de Cythere for harpsichord.
Charles Baudelaire, in the poem A Voyage to Cythera, called the island
a "banal Eldorado".
The Baudelaire poem is quoted and the island is referenced in Anthony
Powell's The Kindly Ones (1962), part of A Dance to the Music of Time.
A stanza from the Baudelaire poem is quoted as an allusion to Haiti by
young Philippot in Graham Greene's The Comedians.
A Voyage to Cythera is the title of a short shory (1967) by Margaret
Kythira (Voyage to Cythera) is the title of a movie (1984)
directed by Theo Angelopoulos.
The song "In Cythera" was released by alternative rock group Killing
Joke on their 2012 album MMXII.
View on Kapsali
Church of Agios Georgios
View of the Kytherian Straits
Avlemonas at southeastern coast
Monastery of Panagia Myrtidiotissa
Gold Icon of Panagia Myrtidiotissa
Church of Agia Despoina
The castle of
Kythira by night
Winery in Martesakia (Pitsinianika) showing neoclassical architecture
Cave in islet Hytra
Kythira's main port, Diakofti
Hytra view from the castle
List of islands of Greece
^ a b "Απογραφή Πληθυσμού - Κατοικιών 2011.
ΜΟΝΙΜΟΣ Πληθυσμός" (in Greek). Hellenic Statistical
^ The Italian Cerigo can be used in speaking of late medieval and
early modern Kythira.
^ Kallikratis law
Greece Ministry of Interior (in Greek)
^ "Population & housing census 2001 (incl. area and average
elevation)" (PDF) (in Greek). National Statistical Service of Greece.
Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-21.
^ Brill's New Pauly, article on "Cythera" (for entire section), citing
Paus. 1,27,5; Thuc. 4,53,1ff.; 57,4; 5,14,3; 18,7; 7,26,2; 57,6; Xen.
Hell. 4,8,7; Isoc. Or. 4,119, and Cassius Dio 54,7,2).
^ Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in
the age of Philip II, trans. Reynolds. In the 1995 ed. Vol II, p.877.
^ Simbula, P F. Iles. p. 3.
^ Zakythinos, D A. Corsaires et pirates. pp. 713–714.
^ C.Michael Hogan. 2011. Aegean Sea. Eds. P.Saundry &
C.J.Cleveland. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and
the Environment. Washington DC
^ Kottek, M.; J. Grieser; C. Beck; B. Rudolf; F. Rubel (2006). "World
Map of the Köppen-Geiger climate classification updated" (PDF).
Meteorol. Z. 15 (3): 259–263. doi:10.1127/0941-2948/2006/0130.
Retrieved January 22, 2013.
Kythira Island Climate Normals 1961-1990". National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
^ "Useful information about Kyhera". Visit Kythera. Retrieved 16 June
13. ^Islands, Pirates, Privateers and the
Ottoman Empire in the Early
Modern Mediterranean 
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Kythira.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kythira.
Visit Kythera Travel Guide
Kythera (in Greek)(in English)(in Italian) Travel Guide
The Kythera Island Project—an archaeological, ecological, and
historic research project of the island and its peoples.
Kythera-Family.net—A cultural archive for the island of Kythira,
with over 15,000 heritage entries from people of Kytherian descent
from all over the world.
Administrative division of the
3,808 km2 (1,470 sq mi)
3,827,624 (as of 2011)
66 (since 2011)
Regional unit of Central Athens
Regional unit of North Athens
Regional unit of West Athens
Regional unit of South Athens
Regional unit of Piraeus
Nikaia-Agios Ioannis Rentis
Regional unit of East Attica
Regional unit of West Attica
Regional unit of Islands
Rena Dourou (since 2014)
Subdivisions of the municipality of Kythira
Municipal unit of Antikythera
Municipal unit of Kythira
Diapontia (Largest islands: Othonoi, Ereikoussa, Mathraki)
Echinades (Largest islands: Petalas, Oxeia, Drakonera)
Oinousses (Largest islands: Schiza, Sapientza)
Former provinces of Greece
Grouped by region and prefecture
East and West Attica
East Macedonia and Thrace
Note: not all prefectures were subdivided into provinces.