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Leros

Leros

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Leros is a Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 island
Island
An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, cays or keys. An island in a river or lake may be called an eyot , or holm...

 and municipality
Communities and Municipalities of Greece
For the new municipalities of Greece see the Kallikratis ProgrammeThe municipalities and communities of Greece are one of several levels of government within the organizational structure of that country. Thirteen regions called peripheries form the largest unit of government beneath the State. ...

 in the Dodecanese
Dodecanese
The Dodecanese are a group of 12 larger plus 150 smaller Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, of which 26 are inhabited. Τhis island group generally defines the eastern limit of the Sea of Crete. They belong to the Southern Sporades island group...

 in the southern Aegean Sea
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...

. It lies 317 km (171 nautical miles) from Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

's port of Piraeus
Piraeus
Piraeus is a city in the region of Attica, Greece. Piraeus is located within the Athens Urban Area, 12 km southwest from its city center , and lies along the east coast of the Saronic Gulf....

, from which it can be reached by an 11-hour ferry ride (or by a 45-minute flight from Athens). Leros is part of the Kalymnos peripheral unit
Kalymnos (peripheral unit)
Kalymnos is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of South Aegean. The regional unit covers the islands of Kalymnos, Agathonisi, Astypalaia, Leipsoi, Leros, Patmos and several smaller islands in the Aegean Sea.-Administration:...

. The island has been also called in and in .

Geography



The island is 74 square kilometres (29 sq mi) and has a coastline of 71 km (44 mi). The municipality includes the populated offshore islands of Pharmakonisi
Pharmakonisi
Farmakonisi is a small Greek island of the Dodecanese prefecture. Alternative names are Pharmakos, Pharmacusa, Farmaco, and Pharmakousa ....

 (pop. 74), Levitha (8), and Kinaros (2), as well as several uninhabited islets, and had a 2001 census population of 8,207, although this figure swells to over 15,000 during the summer peak. It is known for its imposing medieval castle of the Knights of Saint John possibly built on a Byzantine
Byzantine
Byzantine usually refers to the Roman Empire during the Middle Ages.Byzantine may also refer to:* A citizen of the Byzantine Empire, or native Greek during the Middle Ages...

 fortress. Nearby islands are Patmos
Patmos
Patmos is a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea. One of the northernmost islands of the Dodecanese complex, it has a population of 2,984 and an area of . The highest point is Profitis Ilias, 269 meters above sea level. The Municipality of Patmos, which includes the offshore islands of Arkoi ,...

, Lipsi, Kalymnos
Kalymnos
Kalymnos, is a Greek island and municipality in the southeastern Aegean Sea. It belongs to the Dodecanese and is located to the west of the peninsula of Bodrum , between the islands of Kos and Leros : the latter is linked to it through a series of islets...

, and the small islands of Agia Kyriaki
Agia Kyriaki
Agia Kyriaki is a small Greek island less than one mile from Astypalaia in the Dodecanese islands.On the island is the small church of Agia Kyriaki. Every July the people of Leros will go to the small island to celebrate the name day of the saint...

 and Farmakos. In ancient times it was considered the island of Parthenos Iokallis and linked to the Hellenistic and Roman literature on Meleager and the Meleagrides. The administrative center and largest town is Agia Marina, with a population of 2,672 inhabitants. Other sizable towns are Lakkíon (pop. 1,990), Xirókampos (908), Kamára (573), and Álinda (542).

Antiquity


Thucydides
Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

 stressed the special importance of the bays and the harbours of Leros during the Peloponnesian War
Peloponnesian War
The Peloponnesian War, 431 to 404 BC, was an ancient Greek war fought by Athens and its empire against the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. Historians have traditionally divided the war into three phases...

 (431 BC – 404 BC), where Leros supported the democratic Athenians. After the end of the war Leros came under the sovereignty of the Spartans. The island had a famous sanctuary of the goddess Artemis
Artemis
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name and indeed the goddess herself was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: "Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals"...

.

It then followed the fate of the rest of the Dodecanese
Dodecanese
The Dodecanese are a group of 12 larger plus 150 smaller Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, of which 26 are inhabited. Τhis island group generally defines the eastern limit of the Sea of Crete. They belong to the Southern Sporades island group...

 Islands during the years of Alexander the Great and his successors, the Roman years and the Byzantine period. After the division of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, it, like all of Greece, was ruled from Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. On the island of Farmaco east from Leros, a few miles from Didyma on the Turkish coast, Julius Cesar was held as a hostage by local pirates for forty days.

Venetian and Ottoman Era


During the Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 Age, the island was incorporated into the Theme of Samos. During the thirteen century, the island was occupied by the Genoese
Genoa
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

 and then by the Venetians
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

. In the year 1309, the Knights of St John
Knights Hospitaller
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta , also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta , Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, is a Roman Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. It is the world's...

 seized and fortified Leros. In 1505, the Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 Admiral Kemal Reis
Kemal Reis
Kemal Reis was a Turkish privateer and admiral of the Ottoman Empire. He was also the paternal uncle of the famous Ottoman admiral and cartographer Piri Reis who accompanied him in most of his important naval expeditions....

, with three galleys and other seventeen warships, besieged the castle but could not capture it. The operation was repeated in 1508 with more ships, but again nothing was achieved.

Legend has it that then the island was rescued by the only surviving knight, barely 18 years old. He dressed women and children with the armor of the dead defenders, convincing the Ottomans that the garrison of Leros was still strong. Finally, on 24 December 1522, following the siege of Rhodes, a treaty was signed between Sultan Suleiman and the Grand Master of the Knights, Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam
Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam
Fra' Philippe de Villiers de L'Isle-Adam was a prominent member of the Knights Hospitaller at Rhodes and later Malta. Having risen to the position of Prior of the Langue of Auvergne, he was elected 44th Grand Master of the Order in 1521.He commanded the Order during Sultan Suleiman's long and...

, and Leros, along with all the Aegean possessions of the Order, passed into Ottoman hands which ruled the island with brief interruptions during a period of four hundred years.
During the Ottoman rule, and along with the other islands, Leros enjoyed a privileged regime, with partial autonomy and self–government. During the Greek Revolution of 1821, the island was liberated and became an important base for the re-supplying of the Greek Navy. Administratively, it came under the jurisdiction of the Temporary Committee of the Eastern Sporades.

With the Treaty of London, on 3 February 1830, however, which determined the borders of the newly–established Greek state, the freed islands of the Eastern Sporades were given over to the Ottoman Empire again. In the "Diary of the Prefecture of the Archipelago" of 1886, Leros, along with the islands of Patmos, Lipsos and Fournoi, belonged to the Ottomans. The island's administrative council was made up of both Greeks and Turks.

The Italian Period


In 1912, during the Libyan War
Italo-Turkish War
The Italo-Turkish or Turco-Italian War was fought between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Italy from September 29, 1911 to October 18, 1912.As a result of this conflict, Italy was awarded the Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania, Fezzan, and...

 against the Ottoman Empire, the Italians occupied all of the Dodecanese
Dodecanese
The Dodecanese are a group of 12 larger plus 150 smaller Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, of which 26 are inhabited. Τhis island group generally defines the eastern limit of the Sea of Crete. They belong to the Southern Sporades island group...

 islands (except Kastelorizo
Kastelorizo
Kastelorizo, , is a Greek island and municipality located in the southeastern Mediterranean. It lies roughly off the south coast of Turkey, about 570 km southeast of Athens and east of Rhodes, almost halfway between Rhodes and Antalya and to Cyprus...

). On May 12, 1912 the island was seized by the sailors of the Italian Navy
Regia Marina
The Regia Marina dates from the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 after Italian unification...

 cruiser "San Giorgio
Italian cruiser San Giorgio
San Giorgio was an armoured cruiser of the Italian Royal Navy . Commissioned in 1910, it served in both the First World War and the Second World War, being scuttled at Tobruk in 1941.-Design and construction:...

". The Greek inhabitants of the islands declared the autonomy of the islands under the title "The Aegean State", with the aim of unification with Greece, but with the outbreak of the First World War, these moves came to nothing, and the Italians retained control of the islands.
From 1916 to 1918, the British used Leros as a naval base. In the Venizelos-Tittoni Agreement of 1919, the island was to be returned to Greece, along with all of the Dodecanese except Rhodes, but after the Greek defeat in the Greco-Turkish War
Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922)
The Greco–Turkish War of 1919–1922, known as the Western Front of the Turkish War of Independence in Turkey and the Asia Minor Campaign or the Asia Minor Catastrophe in Greece, was a series of military events occurring during the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire after World War I between May...

 the Italians canceled the agreement. As a result, the Treaty of Lausanne
Treaty of Lausanne
The Treaty of Lausanne was a peace treaty signed in Lausanne, Switzerland on 24 July 1923, that settled the Anatolian and East Thracian parts of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. The treaty of Lausanne was ratified by the Greek government on 11 February 1924, by the Turkish government on 31...

 confirmed the Italian possession of Leros and the Dodecanese.

The new Italian Fascist regime actively attempted to Italianize the Dodecanese, by making the Italian language
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 compulsory, giving incentives to locals to adopt the Italian nationality, and clamping down on Greek institutions. In the 1930s a new model town, Portolago, was built by the Italian authorities. It is one of the best examples of Italian Rationalist
Rationalism (architecture)
The intellectual principles of rationalism are based on architectural theory. Vitruvius had already established in his work De Architectura that architecture is a science that can be comprehended rationally. This formulation was taken up and further developed in the architectural treatises of the...

 architecture. The Greeks later renamed it Lakki.

During the 31 years that the Italians remained in Leros, they set up a great plan to build and fortify the island, since its strategic position and its large natural harbours (the largest of which, Lakki, is the largest deep water harbour in the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

), made it an ideal naval base. The fortification of Leros and the creation of a major naval base at Lakki, ensured that the Italians had control over an area of vital interest to the Allies (the Aegean, the Dardanelles and the Near East). Mussolini, who called Leros "the Corregidor
Corregidor
Corregidor Island, locally called Isla ng Corregidor, is a lofty island located at the entrance of Manila Bay in southwestern part of Luzon Island in the Philippines. Due to this location, Corregidor was fortified with several coastal artillery and ammunition magazines to defend the entrance of...

 of the Mediterranean", saw the island as a crucial base for the Italian domination of the eastern Aegean Sea
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...

, and even built a mansion for himself in the town of Portolago.

World War II


From 1940, when Italy entered the Second World War on the side of Germany, Leros suffered bombing raids by the British Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

. As a result of the excellent anchorage provided to warships by the many natural coves, the island was the second most bombed during World War Two (after Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

). On 8 September 1943, as Italy could not continue the war on the German side, it signed an armistice
Armistice with Italy
The Armistice with Italy was an armistice signed on September 3 and publicly declared on September 8, 1943, during World War II, between Italy and the Allied armed forces, who were then occupying the southern end of the country, entailing the capitulation of Italy...

 and came over to the Allied camp. After the Italian armistice, British reinforcements arrived on Leros and other Dodecanese islands and the island suffered continuous German aerial bombardment. One of the largest attacks was on the Greek Navy's flagship, the Queen Olga
Greek destroyer Vasilissa Olga (D 15)
Vasilissa Olga was a Greek destroyer of the Vasilefs Georgios class, which served with the Royal Hellenic Navy during the Second World War, becoming its most distinguished and successful ship until her loss in 1943...

, sunk by German bombers on Sunday September 26, 1943, along with HMS Intrepid
HMS Intrepid (D10)
HMS Intrepid was an I-class destroyer that served with Royal Navy during World War II.In World War II, Intrepid attacked and sank the German submarine U-45 south-west of Ireland on 14 October 1939 in company with the destroyers and...

, while they were anchored in Portolago. The island of Leros was finally captured by German troops during operation Taifun
Battle of Leros
The Battle of Leros was the central event of the Dodecanese Campaign of the Second World War, and is widely used as an alternate name for the whole campaign. Leros was occupied by British forces on 15 September 1943...

 in airborne and amphibious assaults between 12-16 November 1943. The forces involved were paratroop units and a battalion from the elite Brandenburg division
Brandenburgers
The Brandenburgers were members of the Brandenburg German Special Forces unit during World War II.Units of Brandenburgers operated in almost all fronts - the invasion of Poland, Denmark and Norway, in the Battle of France, in Operation Barbarossa, in Finland, Greece and the invasion of Crete,...

. The ground troops were supported by bombers of the "Luftwaffe". Among them I. and II. group of Stuka-Wing 3. I. Group operated from Megara Air Base. The island remained under German occupation until the end of the war.

Post-war history


After the Germans evacuated the island, it came under British administration, until, on 7 March 1948, together with the other Dodecanese Islands, Leros was united with Greece. Approximately 700 years after the end of Byzantine rule, the Dodecanese was incorporated into the Greek State. During the post-war years the Greek governments used many buildings in Leros for various reasons. In 1959, the mental hospital of Leros was founded, whose original primitive conditions have been improved. During the junta of the Colonels, the island was used as a place of internal exile
Internal Exile
Internal Exile was Fish's second solo album after leaving Marillion in 1988. The album, released 28 October 1991, was inspired by the singer's past, his own personal problems and his troubled experiences with his previous record label EMI.The album's music reflects Fish's indulgence in the vast...

 for political dissenters, with old Italian barracks of the island used as a concentration camp.

In 1989 Leros came to Europe-wide attention as a result of a scandal involving embezzlement of funds and the maltreatment of about 3,000 mental patients at an institution on the island. Funding and increased monitoring by the EU led to a rapid and substantial improvement in conditions. A June 2009 BBC report suggests these improvements have not all been sustained.

Notable people

  • Georgios Roussos, lawyer and politician
  • Santino Christos Niarchos, investor/shipping magnate, the great-nephew of Stavros Niarchos
    Stavros Niarchos
    Stavros Spyros Niarchos was a Greek shipping tycoon, sometimes known as "The Golden Greek." In 1952, Stavros Niarchos built the first supertankers capable of transporting large quantities of oil, and subsequently earned millions of dollars as global demand for his ships increased.- Early life :He...

    .

Transportation


Leros has an Airport at Partheni that connects daily the island with Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

. There are also ferry connections to and from Pireus and the other islands of the Dodecanese
Dodecanese
The Dodecanese are a group of 12 larger plus 150 smaller Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, of which 26 are inhabited. Τhis island group generally defines the eastern limit of the Sea of Crete. They belong to the Southern Sporades island group...

. The Catamaran Dodekanissos Express and the Hydrofoils (only during the summer) connect Leros with most of the Dodecanese islands. For those who want to visit Leros the alternative way to Ferry travel (8–10 hours) is to fly to Athens and then fly to Leros with domestic flight or fly direct to Kos and then to Leros by boat (1 – 2 hours).

Traditional Music


Many local songs of Leros are among the most famous among the traditional Music of Greece
Music of Greece
The music of Greece is as diverse and celebrated as its history. Greek music separates into two parts: Greek traditional music and Byzantine music, with more eastern sounds...

: among the most famous are Pote tha'nixoume pania, Mes tou Aegeou ta Nisia and proutzos.

External links