The Pirate Island of Milos


After the occupation of Constantinople by the Francs, the Venetians took over the Aegean Islands. First came Mark Sanoudo who founded a dukedom of the Aegean Sea in 1207, centred in Naxos. This dynasty was in power until 1361. In 1268, the Miloans again showed their love of freedom when they rebelled against the Venetians, seizing Castro, in the hope that the Byzantine fleet would come to their aid. This, unfortunately, never happened and the rebellion was quashed with much spilling of blood by William I.

The Sanoudo dynasty was succeeded by the Krispon dynasty, and in 1566, Piali Pasha managed to complete Turkish control of the whole Cyclades area. The Sultan appointed a cunning Jew, Joseph Nazis, as the last Duke of the islands and he was authorised to collect a tribute of 14,000 ducats a year. His rule lasted until 1579 and he was represented by the lawyer Francisco Koronelo.

After the death of Nazis in 1580, the islands came under the direct rule of Sultan Mourat III with several political privileges. The islands were semi-autonomous with the obligation to pay «haratsi» (tax per head) to the Pasha Kapoutan, the Sultan’s delegate. It is worth mentioning that during all the years of Turkish rule, Milos was never occupied by the Turks but only visited by travellers and persons who came to inspect how the islanders lived.
Besides the Admiral, Pasha Kapoutan, a lawyer called Kadis came to settle the more serious differences between the islanders, often staying for long periods of time. The taxes were collected by the island committee and handed over to Pasha Kapoutan every two or three years.

Throughout these years of Turkish rule, there was frequent destruction and pillaging by the Venetians, the Turks and pirates. If the pirates did not rob the islanders, they stayed for long periods, to sell their booty.

A local pirate, John or George Kapsis, an experienced navigator with anti-Turkish persuasions, put himself in charge of a social rebellion and was named King by Kamili, the Catholic bishop of Milos. He reigned from 1675 to 1678 and he had such a great influence on his countrymen, that the Turks were obliged to sail to Milos and arrest him by fraudulent means. He was taken to Constantinople where he was hanged.

In the winter of 1771, Milos and the nearby islands were conquered by the Russians of Orlof. This continued until 1774 when the Turkish dominion was re-established.

During the same period, Hora, today’s Zefiria, was destroyed. The town which had grown from the Middle Ages, reached its zenith in the 16th and 17th centuries. However, in the middle of the 18th century the environment became increasingly inhospitable. Earthquakes, noxious gases escaping from the ground, floods and malaria, were the reasons that, by 1767, the towns-folk had fled and resettled in Castro and outside the castle walls in the area which is today’s Plaka. So it was that the beautiful, rich town with a population of 5,000 described in 1700 for us by the Frenchman, Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, was destroyed. In its place is today’s Zefiria, with just a handful of villagers.

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