History of the island

The Argonauts’ journey and Anafi



The journey of the Argonauts from Iolkos to Colchis

Jason staffed the boat “Argo” with contemporary heroes like Hercules, in order to bring back the “Golden Fleece” from Colchis to the throne’s usurper, King Pelias, and take over the kingdom.

During their return and after having obtained the Golden Fleece, the Argonauts’ journey became adventurous. Through the Danube River, the Adriatic and the Thyrrenian Sea they arrived in Crete, from where they set off for Iolkos. The Argonauts were sailing in the darkness, desperately asking for Apollo’s help, who revealed the island of Anafi. The Argonauts moored the ship in the island and, to honor the god, they built the temple of Apollo Aiglitis (aigli=glamour, brilliance), naming the island “Anafi”, due to its appearance (“anefani”=appeared, in ancient Greek) out of nowhere.








Pre-Christian era



left statue of Apollo Anafi (kouros) century located at the British Museum ,Right praying woman statue of the 1st century AD from Anafi. The statue was discovered in 1823 and acquired by the museum Petersburg Hermitage 1863

The existing historical evidence shows that during the 8th century B.C. Anafi, like Santorini, was colonized by Dorians.

The ancient city in Kastelli was prospering during the Hellenistic period too (3rd-2nd century B.C.), having its own coinage, which had the image of Apollo Aiglitis on one side and a crate with a bee on the other one, symbolizing the growth of beekeeping on the island, an activity that is preserved to this day.

The island’s great sanctum was the temple of Apollo Aiglitis or Apollo Anafian, at the eastern side of the island.
At the south of Kastelli, in a beach with no port, the city’s seaport was created and named Katalimatsa.
The Romans conquered Anafi and made the island part of their empire. The numerous statues and sarcophagi saved to this day are a confirmation of the city’s prosperity during this period.Anafi’s archaeological sites. Pre-christian sites are marked in red.
























Christian era

Το νησί της Ανάφης(Namphio) σε χάρτη του 1683.Στην περιοχή του Κάλαμου σημειώνεται Fortezza Ruinata,(ερειπωμένο κάστρο) ενώ στο κέντρο (πλαίσιο) σημειώνεται ο οικισμός της Χώρας. Οι τρεις νησίδες νότια της Ανάφης αναφέρονται ως Scogli (βράχοι).

The island of Anafi (Namphio) on a map of the area of Kalamos 1683

During the Byzantine period, the area of Kastelli is still inhabited. Venetian occupation begins in 1207 and lasts until 1307, when the Byzantine rulers take over the island. However, the Venetians returned for another 262 years, until 1537 when the notorious pirate Hayrreddin Barbarossa conquered Anafi.

During the first period of the Venetian rule, another settlement was established in the area of today’s Chora, while various fortifications were created in mount Kalamos (Upper Monastery of Panagia Kalamiotissa), controlling the entire southern part of the island.
The only spot on the island that was obviously used as an observatory is the island’s highest peak, called Vigla.

The byzantine chapel of Aghios Antonios is the only monument from this particular period.

Zoodochos Pigi or Lower Monastery, built later on (17th century) on the ruins of the temple of Apollo Aiglitis, is situated at the eastern part of the island..
After the demise of the Ottoman Empire, Anafi was included in the newly-found Greek state in 1830, along with the rest of the Cyclades.












Τα Αναφιώτικα στην Πλάκα. Οι Κυκλάδες κάτω από την Ακρόπολη

Anafiotika in Plaka. The Cyclades under the Acropolis

During Otto’s reign, Athens was declared capital of the Greek state, hence the demand for experienced builders. The Anafians, along with other capable craftsmen from the Cyclades, gradually began to abandon their infertile lands and migrate to Athens.

The Anafians chose the northeastern rocky slopes of the Acropolis as their installation site, where they progressively created a Cycladic settlement, literally integrating it on the rock. Where other builders thought it was impossible to build, the Anafians established an entire settlement, making use of the area’s particular morphology and embedding their homes in the steep rock


















Between the two world wars (1914-1940) Anafi was used as an exile, mostly for political prisoners, whose “subversive” ideas had to remain in isolation. As a penalty, exile was mostly targeted for communists even though the discrimination was not very clear so it was more generally implemented against the opponents of the regime.

People in exile had to provide for their own food and accommodation in order to survive, hence they created “Cohabitation Groups” that would allocate tasks between members and care for the improvement of their living conditions. The number of people in exile in Anafi was approximately as follows: (year: people in exile)1928: 35, 1937: 750, 1938: 350, 1941: 220, 1946: 400, 1951: 27,1971: 3.


Ομάδα συμβίωσης (σύλλογος) του καλλιτεχνικού τμήματος των εξορίστων το 1938

Partnership group (association) of the artistic part of the exiles in 1938


Εξόριστοι στο λιμανάκι του νησιού, τον Άγιο Νικόλαο. Υπάρχει μια μικρή προβλήτα και λίγα χτίσματα στο βάθος του μυχού του κόλπου όπου και το ομώνυμο εκκλησάκι.

Exiles at the port of the island, Agios Nikolaos