Greek Island Giants, Dolphin Pirates and Ancient Dragons (Part 1 of 2)

Islands are formed in several ways, but no discussion about Greek islands would be complete without some reference to myth and legend. In ancient Greece stories about gods, heroes, monsters and villains were critical to everyday life. Not only did they explain and justify everything, from religion and birth to the weather and war, they also gave meaning to the world in which the ancients lived. In fact, legend has it that the Northern Sporades islands were created not by nature but by giants.

Why the islands are “scattered”

Skiathos Island lies just off the east coast of the Greek mainland. On a map, you will notice that it forms a relatively close-knit trio of three islands with Skopelos in the centre, Skiathos to the west and Alonissos to the east. 

There are some 24 islands in the Northern Sporades but only four are permanently inhabited. These include the aforementioned trio and one other further east called Skyros. The name “Sporades” from which we get the word “sporadic” means scattered, and as taken from popular legend passed down through the ages, there’s good reason for this.

A rocky clash of titans

According to mythology the creation of Skiathos and other islands in the Northern Sporades were the result of an argument between two giants from the Greek mainland. Little is known about how the argument began but it culminated in a competition of strength and some angry rock throwing. Some of these gargantuan boulders landed in the sea, in a scattered formation, and became the Northern Sporades islands as we know them today.

Targeted by conquerors

Athenians, Cretans, Franks, Macedonians, Persians, Romans, Turks and Venetians have conquered the Northern Sporades islands. Most recently, they were invaded by Germans in the second World War. Still they rise up defiantly from the Aegean sea targeted nowadays by visitors rather than invaders, particularly Skiathos with its 64 incredibly beautiful and diverse beaches.

Daring pirate escape

Not even savage attacks by pirates could conquer the spirit of the people of Skiathos Island. Tired of pirate attacks, Skiathos townfolk at one point packed up all the worldly belongings their backs and donkey’s could carry and started a new life for themselves. They hiked to the highest hilltop on the island and built the medieval fort of Kastro, the remnants of which can still be visited today. According to myth some of the dolphins in the surrounding island oceans were themselves once human pirates but that’s a continuation of our story in part 2 of 2.

Greek Island Giants, Dolphin Pirates and Ancient Dragons (Part 2 of 2)