Spetses (Modern Greek: Σπέτσες, Katharevousa: Σπέτσαι,
Spetsai, Ancient: Πιτυούσσα, "Pityoussa") is an affluent
island and a municipality in the Islands regional unit, Attica,
Greece. It is sometimes included as one of the Saronic Islands.
Until 1948, it was part of the old prefecture of Argolidocorinthia,
which is now split into
Argolis and Corinthia. In ancient times, it
was known as Pityoussa, and later as Petses.
The island is now an independent municipality (pop. 4,027), with no
internal boundaries within the municipality. The town of
4,001 in 2011) is the only large settlement on the island. The other
settlements on the island are Moní Agíon Pánton (pop. 0), Ligonéri
(4), Ágioi Anárgyroi (18), Kouzoúnos (4). Also part of the
Spetses are the islands of Spetsopoula, Falkonera, and
Velopoula (all uninhabited). The municipality has an area of
An unusual aspect of
Spetses is the absence of private automobiles in
the town limits. The most common modes of transport are walking,
horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, mopeds, and motorcycles. Only taxis
and delivery vehicles are allowed in the downtown area. Ferries and
high-speed hydrofoils arrive regularly from Piraeus. Trails encircle
the island and total about 25 to 30 km. Beaches closest to the
Spetses include: Agios Mamas in the center of town; and Kaíki
(previously College) beach 1 kilometre (0.6 miles) to the northwest
and Agia Marina 2 kilometres (1 mile) to the south, both of which
offer water-sports. Public buses serve beaches further outside town,
including Zogeria, Agioi Anargiroi, and Agia Paraskevi.
1.1.1 1900s: The Poseidonion Grand Hotel
1.1.2 1960s-1990s: The rise and fall of the package holiday
1.2 The Armáta Festival
2 In wider culture
3 Demographic evolution
4 Notable residents
5 See also
7 External links
The island of Spetses, located in the Mediterranean Sea, was first
occupied during the
Mesolithic Age, in around 8000 BC. During that
period the island was connected through an isthmus to the island of
Argolida, now named Costa. Pieces of flint from that time were found
near the part of the island named Zogeria, containing a water source
probably available since that time. Other archaeological finds were
located in the area of Saint Marina, which contained the first
Hellenistic settlement to be found on the island and dates to the 3rd
millennium BC. At least three natural harbours of
Marina, Saint Paraskevi and Zogeria) served as a refuge for ships
carrying goods to and from the
Argolis Gulf during the peak of the
State of Lerna (about 2300 BC).
After the collapse of the State of Lerna,
Spetses experienced a period
of decline. Artefacts in the areas of Saint Marina and Saint Anargyroi
show the existing settlements belonging the late Mycenaean
period ; the 12th to 13th century BC. At the time of the
Peloponnesian War, stone observatories were built at the sites of
Prophet Elias and Zogeria.
Mention of the island of
Spetses was made both by Strabo in the 1st
century BC and Pausanias in the 2nd century AD, referring to the
island as Pitiousa. The raid by the Goths in the Eastern Roman empire
caused a wave of refugees to flee to Spetses, resulting in the
re-settlement of the island, focusing on the Old Port, making it one
of the three largest cities of
Argolis (including Argos and Hermione).
In the 15th Century, the Venetians named the island Spezia ("Spice")
for its position on a major traderoute; over time the name was
Hellenised to Spetsai (Spetse/Spetses).
Portrait of Ioannis Kyriakou, fighter of the Greek War of
Independence, from Spetses.
During the 18th century, during the conquest of the Peloponnese from
the Turks and the Venetian expulsion, many Arvanites took refuge in
Spetses in order to escape Turkish persecution. These refugees created
the old village of Spetses, in the area of Kastelli, which is
fortified by a wall that reinforces the natural protection provided by
the terrain. Over the years the island developed a significant naval
power. The Greek Coalition[clarification needed] in cooperation with
the Russians in the Russian-Turkish war in 1768–1774 turned the
powerful merchant fleet of
Spetses to a significant power against the
Turks during the so-called Orlofika. In response to these events the
Turks destroyed the only village on the island in 1770. For some years
after the destruction of the island it remained deserted, but was
re-occupied in 1774 by new settlers from the opposite coast of
Peloponnese after the
Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca
Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca that allowed the
Russian free movement of ships in the Mediterranean and the recreation
of the powerful commercial fleet by using the Russian flag to
establish trade routes with neighbouring countries. Merchant seafaring
was the only source of livelihood for many rocky, non-arable Greek
islands, and the brisk Mediterranean and Black Sea trade of the 18th
and 19th centuries allowed them to prosper – especially and
spectacularly so during the trade embargoes of the Napoleonic Wars,
which found Greek merchantmen and crews willing and able work with, or
against, both belligerent sides at tremendous profit.
After the re-occupation of
Spetses the settlement began to expand
beyond the Kastelli region and brought about further growth in the
maritime economic activities of the island.
From 1821, the island played an important role in the Greek War of
Independence and was the home of celebrated war heroine Bouboulina.
Spetses was the first of the Greek islands that raised the flag of
Revolution the morning of 3 April (O.S.) 1821. Its fleet, consisting
of merchant ships, played a key role in the struggle, both by
participating in raids against the Turkish coast and the exclusion of
fortresses in the Peloponnese. Particularly important is the
involvement of the Spetsiote fleet in sieges of the fortresses of
Nafplion and Monemvasia and naval battles of
Samos (1824) and Kafireas
(1825). Along with their counterparts in nearby Hydra Island,
Spetsiote captains were so wealthy they had been hoarding their gold
in wells, a wealth that they tapped to fund the war of liberation.
The new port of Spetses
Several ships have been named after the island, including modern Hydra
class frigate F 453 Spetsai, the World War 2 era destroyer Greek
destroyer Spetsai (D 98) and the historic Greek battleship Spetsai.
1900s: The Poseidonion Grand Hotel
View of the seafront.
The Poseidonion Hotel was built by Sotirios Anargyros, descendant of a
great 18th century Spetsiot shipping family. His branch of the family
had fallen on hard times and he emigrated as a young man in 1868, when
Spetses was declining as a maritime center. In 1899 he returned from
the USA, now a wealthy tobacco tycoon and started to transform the
island of his youth. He built an impressive mansion and met with the
rich Athenian hunters who visited
Spetses from August to October, to
hunt the turtledoves and quail migrating between Africa and Europe.
Anagyros had pine seedlings planted in the hills, and now the island
is one of the most wooded in the southern Aegean.
He saw the need for a comfortable hotel and built the Poseidonion in
the style of its models, the Carlton in Cannes (1911) and the Negresco
in Nice (1912). The hunters could now bring their wives and children
to enjoy the comfort, the spa, the donkey rides, dancing to the
orchestra in the evening and mixed bathing on the beaches across the
channel. The Poseidonion rapidly became the favorite vacation spot for
high society, royalty and the rich Athenians who came to enjoy a small
slice of the grand life.
1960s-1990s: The rise and fall of the package holiday
In the 1960s and 1970s, the island attracted a number wealthy Greek
Athens and elsewhere, owning villas or living on
large yachts in the port. Some had children who became students of the
Anargirios School. Although some hotels were present, tourists often
stayed in purpose-built holiday homes. From the 1980s, these were
often supplanted by north European tourists, especially from Britain,
who were attracted by the low cost of a holiday.
Package tours to
Spetses declined and eventually ceased during the
1990s; nowadays the island's holiday clientele remains more upmarket
and largely Greek.
Street of Spetses
Spetses is where superyachts bob up and down next to traditional
wooden fishing boats and where the super-rich rub shoulders with the
locals in quayside tavernas. All are drawn to this pine-covered island
for its secluded coves and clear waters and the glories of Spetses
Town, the island hub, untainted by package tourism."
The main Athenian tourist season lasts for only two months of the
year, although most hotels and restaurants are open from Easter until
October. Efforts are being made to extend the season
with the addition of major events:
Spetses Classic Yacht Regatta
In June a weekend of sailing races, starting/finishing in the straight
Spetses and Kosta. A record number of 75 yachts took part in
the 2015 Regatta, that celebrated its anniversary, 5th year;
categories were Vintage (built prior to 1947), Classic (built between
1948–1974), Spirit of Tradition (built after 1976), Traditional
Caiques and Open Boats.
Spetses Mini Marathon
The main event is an international 26 km (16 mi) marathon
around the Island. A 10 km (6 mi) race was added to the
program in 2014. The mini marathon is held since
2011. The swimming races of 2.5 km (1.6 mi) and 5 km
(3 mi) as well as the children’s 1,000m. Running and swimming
races are also part of the three-day program. More than 2,000 men and
women participate in the running events, while over 3,000 athletes in
total take part in all sports. In September 2013, Dr Marina Lyda
Coutarelli, President of the Organizing Committee and CEO of
Communication Lab, was named “Honorary Citizen” of
for her work and effort, with regard to the island’s
In the early 21st century, there was a distinct shift away from
package tourism on
Spetses and the island once again became
fashionable amongst the wealthier Greeks. Nowadays,
the majority of visitors are Greek or independent travellers from
around the world. Whilst it is still possible to find traditional
lower cost rooms to rent and tavernas to eat in on the island there
are now many higher priced restaurants and so called ‘boutique’
hotels around the town.
Since package tours were actively discouraged by the island in the
early 1990s, the island's holiday clientele remains more upmarket and
largely Greek. The fact that most tourists to
Spetses are wealthy
Greeks has led to inflated prices in all of the shops on the island,
meaning that Spetsens have to pay premium prices for even the most
The Armáta Festival
See also: Battle of Spetses
The mansion of Laskarina Bouboulina.
Spetses during the Greek War of Independence. The text reads:
"Freedom or Death".
On 8 September (O.S.) 1822 the Turkish fleet, coming from Monemvasia,
endeavoured to supply the town of Nafplion, which was at the time
besieged by Greek forces since the spring of 1821. Sailing between
Trikeri and Spetsopoula, the Turkish force confronted the combined
fleets of the three nautical islands, Spetses, Hydra and Psara. The
admiral of the Greek fleet, Andreas Miaoulis, gave orders to withdraw
to the Gulf of Argolis, in order to outmanoeuvre the more numerous and
powerful Turkish fleet.
According to general descriptions, the battle consisted in distant and
ineffectual cannonade between the two fleets. An Algerian brig was
damaged by fire, having boarded by mistake a Greek fireship.
According to Spetsiot local historian Anastasios Orlandos, however,
the retreat of the Ottoman fleet was the result of an attack by the
fireship of Kosmas Barbatsis (1792–1887) against the Ottoman
flagship. The latter fled to avoid it, followed by the other Ottoman
ships. The besieged castles of
Nafplion could not be relieved, and
fell to the Greeks two and a half months later.
Each year, the second weekend of September is dedicated to celebratory
events aimed at commemorating the events of the battle of Sept. 8,
1822, in combination with the feast of the chapel of Panagiá Armáta
(the Madonna-in-arms), near the lighthouse. The events culminate with
a fictionalized re-enactment of the battle, including the torching of
the Turkish flagship in the harbour, an incident not mentioned in
historical depictions of the battle.
Spetses is one of nine European cities that participates in the
European Network of Historical Reconstructions (Brussels, Belgium;
Dublin and Cork, Ireland; Bailen, Spain; Slavkov, Czech Republic;
Tewkesbury, UK; and Hydra and
Spetses in Greece).
In wider culture
Spetses was the basis for the island of Phraxos in John Fowles' 1965
novel The Magus. Many locations described there actually existed,
including the "Lord Byron School" (the private Anargyrios &
Korgialenios School of Spetses) and the "Villa Bourani" (located on
the south side of the island above a popular public beach). Both the
school and villa still exist, although the house is under private
List of settlements in Attica
Fishtales – The island appears in the children's film.
Free-diving – World record free-diving attempts frequently take
place around the island.
^ a b "Απογραφή Πληθυσμού - Κατοικιών 2011.
ΜΟΝΙΜΟΣ Πληθυσμός" (in Greek). Hellenic Statistical
^ Kallikratis law
Greece Ministry of Interior (in Greek)
^ "Population & housing census 2001 (incl. area and average
elevation)" (PDF) (in Greek). National Statistical Service of
^ Haritatos, Petros. Poseidonion and Spetses. Poseidonion Hotel
re-opening brochure, 2009, p. 1.
^ Lance Chilton, Marc Dubin, Mark Ellingham. The Rough Guide to the
Greek Islands. Rough Guides, 2004. p.106.
^ Daily Mail. Overseas Property. 4 June 2010.
Spetses Classic Yacht Regatta.
^ Anderson, Naval Wars in the Levant, p 488-489
^ A Orlandos, Ναυτικά, ήτοι Ιστορία των κατά
τον υπέρ ανεξαρτησίας της Ελλάδος
αγώνα πεπραγμένων υπό των τριών
ναυτικών νήσων, ιδίως δε των Σπετσών, t.
1 p 310
GNTO's web page - Visitgreece.gr
Agios Georgios Salaminos
Agios Thomas Diaporion
Agios Ioannis Diaporion
Administrative division of the Attica Region
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)
Küçük Tavşan Adası
Agios Georgios Skopelou