Geographia: Islands


Aegean Islands

Northern Aegean

Other Islands

Ionian Islands


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Aegean Islands

The Aegean Sea has a large number of islands, with Crete in the south, being the largest island. The Aegean island also included several group of islands, such as the Northern Aegean, the Cyclades, the Northern Sporades and Southern Sporades (also known as Dodecanese Islands).

The Aegean Sea received its name from the Athenian king, Aegeus, the father of the hero Theseus. When a ship arrived to port with a black sail, Aegeus thought that his son had died in Crete. So in his grief, Aegeus leaped to his death and drowned in the sea.




Note that the islands of Salamis and Aegina can be classified as the Saronic Islands.

Other Aegean Islands:


Northern Aegean Islands




Euboea was a large island off the eastern coast of central Greece (Boeotia and Locris). Chalcis seemed to be the principal city of Euboea.

Euboea was inhabited by Euboean tribes, known as the Abantes, because the island was originally called Abantis. It was called Euboea, because Zeus brought Io to the island, to seduce her, but changed her into a white cow when Hera arrived. Thereafter, the island was renamed to Euboea, which means “Island of Fine Cattle” or just the “Cows”.

Elephenor, son of Chalcodon, led 40 ships to Troy. His two lieutenants were Demophon and Acamas, sons of Theseus. After the war, Demophon and his brother left Euboea and won back Athens, either because Menestheus the usurper died in Athens, or he had migrated to the island of Menestheus.

Related Information
Abantis (original)
Euboea, Εὔβοια – “Island of Fine Cattle”
Chalcodon, Elephenor.




Salamis was an island in the Saronic Gulf, which became part of Attica in classical time.

Cychreus was the first king of the island, who had named the island after his mother. Telamon was exiled by his father, from his home in Aegina. He migrated to the nearby island of Salamis. See Telamon for more stories about the Salamian hero.

His son, Ajax, led twelve ships to Troy. Telamon exiled his other son, Teucer, when he returned home from the war. Teucer migrated to the island of Cyprus, and founded the city which he named Salamis, after his home. (See the family tree of the Aeacides).

Telamon was succeeded by his grandson, Eurysaces, the son Ajax and his Phrgyian concubine, Tecmassa.

Related Information
Salamis, Σαλαμίς.
Cychreus, Telamon.




Aegina was the island located in the Saronic Gulf, east of the coast of Argolis. Aegina was originally called Oenone or Oenopia.


Aegina was named after the daughter of river-god Asopus, in Sicyonia. Zeus fell in love with Aegina, transformed himself into a flame, and abducted the maiden. Zeus brought her to the island of Oenone. Aegina became the mother of Aeacus (Aiacos). The island was then renamed to Aegina.

Asopus went searching for his daughter, but could not find her. Sisyphus, king of Corinth, had seen Zeus take Aegina to the island. Sisyphus told Asopus, where Zeus taken his daughter. Asopus tried to take his daughter back, but was driven away by Zeus’ thunderbolts.

Zeus later punished Sisyphus for informing against him. Sisyphus spend his time in Tartarus, eternally pushing a boulder up the hill, which would always rolled back down, before he can reach its peak. See also Sisyphus in the Aeolids.

Aegina became the mother of Aeacus. Aeacus became king of the island Aegina. As the son of Zeus, Aeacus was persecuted by Hera, his father’s jealous wife. Hera sent a pestilence that killed entire population. Aeacus prayed to his father (Zeus) to repopulate the island. Zeus answered his son’s prayer, by transforming the boundless ants into humans. These people became known as the Myrmidons. The Myrmidons were strong and hardy people. They were excellent workers and soldiers.

Aeacus was the mortal who helped the gods, Poseidon and Apollo, to build the wall around Troy. Aeacus had three sons. By his wife Endeïs, he had two sons: Peleus and Telamon.

Aeacus also had one son named Phocus, by his mistress Psamathe, a Nereïd and the sister of Thetis. Peleus and Telamon envied their half-brother’s athletic prowess, who had become Aeacus’ favourite son. At Endeïs’ urging, Peleus murdered his half-brother Phocus. Aeacus banished both Peleus and Telamon from Aegina. Peleus went to Phthia, Thessaly, while Telamon went to the nearby island of Salamis. Telamon tried to plead with his father, that he was innocent, but Aeacus ignored Telamon’s pleas.

Since Phocus’ sons – Crisus, Naubolus and Panopeus – had already migrated to Phocis, so Aeacus had no heir to succeed him.

Aeacus became an attendant of the Themis, goddess of justice, along with Minos and Rhadamanthys, the two sons of Zeus and Europa. They were three judges in the Underworld, presiding over the souls of the dead.

See Wrath of Heaven and the family tree of the Aeacides.

Related Information
Oenone, Οἰνώνη, or
Oenopia, Οἰνοπία (original);
Aegina, Αίγινα.




Bull-leaping Acrobats, Bronze Age wall painting at the Minoan palace of Knossus, CreteCrete was the largest island in the Aegean Sea, south of the Cyclades. There were many cities built at the time of Bronze Age civilisation, especially in Cnossus (Knossos), Phaestus (Phaistos), and Mallia, where great palaces. The civilisation in Crete was known as Minoan civilisation, named after the mythical ruler, Minos.

The Minoan civilisation was more advanced in technology, economy, art and culture than the society found in mainland Greece, between 3000 and 1500 BC. Crete also enjoyed foreign trades with Egypt, Phoenicians in Palestine and the Hittites in Asia Minor.



Crete was the sources of many myths, particularly about Zeus, his mistress Europa and his son Minos, as well as Daedalus, Minos’ inventor.

Before the war between the Titans and the Olympians, Zeus was brought up in Crete, to hide from his father Cronus. Rhea, Zeus’ mother, was angry that her husband was swallowing each of her children when the baby was born. Zeus was her baby, and to prevent Cronus from swallowing the infant, she hid Zeus in a cave at Mount Dicte. Rhea then presented Cronus with a stone wrapped in swaddling cloth, pretending it was her newborn son, which Cronus immediately swallowed. The infant Zeus was fed from the milk of the goat Amalthea. The Curetes were Cretan spirits or daimones, and were usually described and depicted as youths. The Curetes clashed their spears against their shields in their war dance, so that Zeus’ cries were drowned out by their noise. See the Creation.

When Zeus abducted Europa, the daughter of King Agenor of Sidon, the amorous god brought the maiden to Crete where she was seduced and she became the mother of Minos, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon. Europa married Asterius (or Asterion), the king of Crete and the son of Tectamus and the unnamed daughter of Cretheus.

Tectamus was the son of Dorus and grandson of Hellen. Tectamus had migrated from Thessaly, and became king of Crete.

However much of the myths surrounding the island, they mostly involved with Minos. Minos had married Pasiphae, daughter of the sun god Helius, and he had many children. Minos became the father of four sons, Catreus, Deucalion, Androgeus and Glaucus (Glaucos); and of four daughters, Acacallis, Xenodice, Ariadne and Phaedra.

See the House of Minos for the genealogy of Crete.

But he had also offended the sea god Poseidon, for refusing to sacrifice the bull (Cretan Bull) that the god had sent to the king. Poseidon caused Pasiphae to fall in love with the Cretan Bull, so that she became the mother of monster that had the man’s body but with the head of bull; the monster was called the Minotaur (“Minos’ Bull”). Here, the myth of Theseus of Athens becomes entwined with that of Minos. Beneath the myth of Minos, another player is involved with the ruler of Crete: Daedalus, the great inventor.

Daedalus became involved with Pasiphae copulating with the Crete Bull that produced the offspring Minotaur; he was the one who constructed the maze-like Labyrinth, which only he could escape. Daedalus earned Minos’ displeasure when the inventor disclosed the secret on how to escape the Labyrinth to Theseus through Ariadne, daughter of Minos, resulting in his confinement in the Labyrinth. Daedalus had escaped when constructed a winged device. Minos tried to capture the fugitive inventor, but in Sicily, the daughter of Daedalus’ new patron killed the king while he was taking a bath.

With Minos’ death, Crete was divided between his two sons, Catreus and Deucalion. Idomeneus, son of Deucalion, was a former suitor of Helen, and he brought 80 ships to Troy. Though he was one of oldest men, he distinguished himself in the war. Idomeneus safely returned home after the war, he was banished by his wife Meda and her lover Leucus.

For more detail accounts of Europa, Minos and his descendants, I would suggest that you read the new Minoan Crete page.

Related Information
Crete, Κρετε.
Asterius (named the island after his daughter Crete).

Minos (founder of Cnossus).

Tectamus, Asterius, Minos, Catreus, Deucalion, Idomeneus, Leucus.




The Cyclades was a number of islands in the Aegean Sea, east of Attica. The name comes from the fact that the island seemed to circle around the island of Delos, the holiest of island, because it was the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis.

The Cyclades was important centres of the Bronze Ages, where archaeologists have found many stone female figurines scattered throughout the islands, paralleling the Minoan civilisation on Crete and the Bronze Age Helladic on the mainland Greece.

Related Information
Cyclades, Κυκλάδες – “Encircling”




Delos was a small island of the Cyclades, located between two larger islands, Rhenea and Myconus. It was probably called Asteria or Ortygia, after Asteria, daughter of the Titans, Coeüs and Phoebe, and sister of Leto. Asteria was changed into quail (ortyx), to escape Zeus’ amorous pursuit. Asteria was the only island to offer her pregnant sister, Leto refuge from Hera’s wrath. There, Leto bore Apollo and possibly Artemis on the island.

At some point, Ortygia was renamed to Delos, and it became one of the principal cult centers of Apollo and possibly of Artemis.

Historically, when Athens established an empire across the Aegean during the second quarter of 5th century BC, Delos was the base in which the treasury of Athens navy collected tributes from all allies, and it was known as the Delian League. But later, Athens put off all pretension, moving the treasury to Athens. Between the 2nd and 1st century BC, Delos was one of the bases for the Aegean pirates.

Related Information
Asteria or Ortygia (original),
Delos, Δήος.




Naxos was one of the larger islands of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea. It was first called Strongyle, before it was renamed to Dia. When Naxos, a Carian, became king, the island was then named after him.

Naxos was the island where the Athenian hero, Theseus, abandoned Ariadne, daughter of Minos. Some say that Ariadne died in the storm or seeing that the ship left her behind, she died in despair. The most famous version was that Ariadne was founded and rescued by Dionysus, god of wine. Dionysus fell in love with her, and married her.

Related Information
Strongyle (original);
Naxos, Νάξος.




Thera was an island of Cyclades, south of Naxos and north of Crete. Today, Thera is often called Santorin.

Thera was said to have grown from a clod of earth from Libya, a gift to the Argonaut Euphemus from the sea-god Triton.

Thera was famous historically, for the great volcanic eruption that may disrupt or destroy the Minoan civilization in Crete during the last stage of the Bronze Age (c. 1400 BC). The eruption also caused major earthquake that was felt throughout the Aegean, which also caused tidal waves. The dark clouds of ashes were so widespread that it caused major drought and famine in the Palestine and Egypt. (This probably coincided with Moses bringing the seven plagues into Egypt, trying to break bondage and slavery of the Hebrews from the Egyptian masters.)



Some modern scholars and archaeologists believed that Thera was the lost civilization of Atlantis (Ἀτλαντίς).

Most of what we know about Atlantis was recorded in Plato’s two works – the “Timaeus” and the “Critias”. According to the philosopher Plato of Athens (428-348 BC), Atlantis was the most advanced civilization at the time.

It had traditionally located west of the Pillars of Heracles (the Gibraltar), in the middle of the Altantic Ocean. Atlantis was larger than Libya and Asia (perhaps Asia Minor).

The dialogues of Critas, give us the most description of Atlantis. Atlantis was said to be the most advanced technological and economically, with an empire including Italy and Greece, their dominion extending as far Egypt and Mesopotamia. The god Poseidon created the large island, after he had seduced Cleito, the daughter of Evenor and Leucippe. Poseidon was the father of five pairs of twins. The eldest son named Atlas (not to be confused with the Titan Atlas) became the high king.

The dialogues of Timaeus involved the discourse between Socrates, Timaeus, Critas and Hermocrates, where Critas informed the others how Solon (fl. 6th century BC) was in Egypt, talking to a high priest. Solon discovered that Atlantis have conquered much of Europe and Africa, east of Greece and Egypt. Athens was the only kingdom stronger enough to resist the mighty Atlantinian forces, which the Athenians defeated in battle.

In the beginning they were very pious and peaceful people, but their large empire brought them great wealth and luxury, so that they lost their self-control and allowed themselves to be intoxicated by their greed and arrogance.

The cataclysmic earthquake occurred because the gods were punishing them for being arrogant tyrants. Plato says that the catastrophe happened in 9600 BC. This date was much earlier than the eruption in Thera. Flooding reach as far as Athens and the Mesopotamia.

Historically, much of Europe and Asia had entered the final Stone Age, commonly known as Neolithic period (“New Stone Age”). The Neolithic was when the climate became warmer after tens of thousand of years of Ice Age. As the glaciers retreat from the south, it would naturally cause flooding due to the melting ices.

The Stone Age man adjusted to warmer climate, where they began to farm the land and domesticated animals. Man began to live in settlements, where they learned new technology, such as weaving and pottery.

There are lots of theories about Atlantis. Among them was that when the cataclysmic earthquake sank Atlantis, it caused massive tidal waves and global flooding. Some archaeologists say that this caused the Biblical Flood, but the flood of the Atlantis was said to be earlier than Noah’s Flood.

Whatever the cases, scholars and archaeologists should not rely seriously upon the dating of Plato. Obviously, this was propaganda, meant to bolster the greatness of Athens, which was meant to have defeated the might of Atlantis.

Related Information
Thera, Θήρα;
Santorin or Thíra (modern).




The Sporades was a group of islands near the western coast of Asia Minor. The Sporades was divided into two groups, Northern Sporades (Βόρειες Σπράδες). While Southern Sporades, also known as Dodecanese Islands (Δωδεκάνησα), includes the island of Rhodes.

Southern Sporades (Dodecanese)

Other islands: Patmos, Karpathos, Kasos, Nisyros and others.

Northern Sporades

Other islands: Alonnisos, Skiathos, Skopelos and other smaller islands.

Related Information
Sporades, Σπράδες.
Dodecanese Islands, Δωδεκάνησα (southern Sporades)




Rhodes was the large island of the Dodecanese, southwest of Caria, Asia Minor. It was named after Rhode, daughter of Poseidon and Amphitrite. Rhodes was sacred to the sun god Helius, whom Rhode had bore him seven sons, of which three were named after three principal cities in Rhodes: Cameirus, Ialysus and Lindus.

Tlepolemus was the son of Heracles and Astydameia, daughter of Amyntor. Some believed that it was Tlepolemus who found those three cities. Tlepolemus brought nine ships to Troy, and he was killed by the Lycian captain, Sarpedon.

Althaemenes, son of Catreus and grandson of Minos, had fled from Crete, when he heard the oracle that one of Catreus’ children would kill the Catreus. Althaemenes took his sister Apemosyne with him to the island. However, the god Hermes raped his sister who fell pregnant. Althaemenes did believe his sister’s claim about the rape, and he kicked Apemosyne to death.

Eventually, Catreus decided to fetch his son back, since he was old and Althaemenes was his only heir. Catreus’ party was attacked when they landed on the shore of Rhodes. The Rhodians had mistaken them for pirates. In the fighting, Althaemenes killed his father. Upon recognising his father’s body, either the earth swallowed him or Althaemenes died from grief.

Related Information
Rhodes, Ρόδος.




Cos was one of the Dodecanese islands, west of the Carian city of Cnidus, Asia Minor. The people of Cos (Coans) were originally called the Merops, after their king Meropes.

Heracles’ ships were driven by storm from Hera, to the island of Cos. The Coan king, Eurypylus, son of Pos and Astypalaea, thought they were pirates, attacked Heracles and his men. During the fighting, Heracles managed to kill Eurypylus, but was gravely wounded by Chalcodon. Zeus saved his son’s life, by spiriting Heracles away.

Pheidippus and Antiphus brought 30 ships from the islands of Cos and Nisyrus, to fight in the war in Troy.

Related Information
Merops, Μερόπς (original);
Cos, Κως
Meropes, Eurypylus.




Scyrus (Skyrus) was an Aegean island northeast of Euboea.

Scyrus was famous because its king, Lycomedes was host the aging hero, Theseus. Theseus either accidentally fell to his death, or Lycomedes murdered the hero by pushing him off the cliff. It is possible that Lycomedes and Menestheus, the usurper of Athens, had plotted Theseus’ murder.

Thetis, the sea goddess, hid her son Achilles among the maidens in Lycomedes’ court. Thetis had Achilles dressed like a girl, because she knew that her son would die if he joined the Greeks to fight in a war at Troy. The Greeks knew that Troy would not fall to them without Achilles’ aid in the war, so they send Odysseus as part of the embassy.

When Odysseus penetrated Achilles’ disguise, the young hero went willingly with Greek army to Troy. See Conscriptions in the Trojan War page.

During Achilles’ stay in Scyrus, he had slept with Deidameia. Deidameia was the daughter of King Lycomedes. They had a son name Pyrrhos (Pyrrhus), who would later be known as Neoptolemus.

Related Information
Scyrus, Skyrus, Σκύρος.


Northern Aegean

The Northern Aegean islands are north and notheast of the Aegean, comprising of number of large islands, west of Asia Minor and south of Thrace.




Samothrace was one of the islands in the Thracian Sea (northern Aegean), north of Lemnos and Imbros. The island was inhabited by the Thracians and Samian colonists.

The Pleiad Electra gave birth to Dardanus and Iasion. Zeus killed his own son Iasion with a thunderbolt, for sleeping with the goddess Demeter. Dardanus left Samothrace, because he was too griefstricken over his brother’s death.

Samothrace was a centre of the Samothracian mystery cult. The cultists worshipped some obscure deities or spirits, known as daimones, and were known collectively as Cabeiri. The Cabeiri were possibly fertility deities or guardian spirits for protection. Apollonius Rhodius says that Orpheus insisted that the Argonauts stopped by Samothrace, to be initiated into the Samothracian mystery, to gain protection from the Cabeiri.

Related Information
Samothrace, Σαμοθράκη.




Lemnos was a large island in the Thracian Sea (northern Aegean).

The island was famous in Greek myth, because the Lemnian women ruled the island. At the time, Thoas ruled it. Thoas was the son of the wine-god Dionysus and Ariadne, daughter of Minos. The Lemnian women were punished by Aphrodite, for not worshipping her. She made it so the Lemnian women gave off strong odour, that their husbands sought woman companionship from Thrace. When the Lemnian women discovered their husbands’ infidelity, they murder the entire male population of Lemnos and the Thracian women. Only Thoas had somehow escaped with his daughter’s help.

When the Argonauts arrived in Lemnos, at first the women were fearful that the heroes were Thracians, who came to punish them for the murders. When the Lemnian women realised the Argonauts were not from Thrace, the women invited them to their homes, where the women entertained the heroes. Each woman became pregnant with a child or two, to one of the heroes. Hypsipyle, queen of Lemnos, became mother by Jason of Euneüs and Nebrophonus.

Lemnos is also the island that the Greek leaders had abandoned Philoctetes, because he was bitten by water-snake, and because the venom made his injury smell so bad. According to Apollodorus, Philoctetes was bitten in Tenedos, while sacrificing to Apollo, but they left Philoctetes in Lemnos afterward. Philoctetes was the owner of the bow of Heracles. When the Greek leaders heard that one of the prophecies that Troy couldn’t be taken without the Bow of Heracles. So Odysseus with Neoptolemus had to entice Philoctetes to rejoin the Greek army.

Related Information
Lemnos, Λήμνος.
Thoas, Hypsipyle, Euneüs.




The island was formerly named Leucophrys, and was renamed to Tenedos, by Tenes.

Tenes was a son of Cycnus and Procleia, but it was said that the real father was Apollo. He was a brother of Hemithea. Cycnus was a king of Colonae, near Troy. Procleia was a daughter of Laomedon, which would make her sister of Priam. Cycnus later married Philonome, daughter of Tragasos, but she was in love with Tenes. Philonome unsuccessfully tried to seduce her stepson, so she accused Tenos of trying to seduce her. This was successful, because she produce a false witness, Eumulous, a flute player, so Cycnus bundled Tenes and his daughter into a chest and threw it into the sea. Later, Cycnus would discovered his wife’s accusation were false, so he had buried alive, while he had Eumulous stoned.

The chest arrived on the beach of an island, where Tenes would changed it to Tenedos. He ruled until the Greek fleet approached his island. Tenes managed to drive the fleet away, by pelting the ships with stones, but Tenes was killed by Achilles. Achilles had been warned by his mother, the sea goddess Thetis, not to kill Tenes, because he was a son of Apollo; Apollo would later be responsible for Achilles’ death. (See Sacrifice at Aulis and the Death of Achilles.)

When the Greeks sacrificed to Apollo, in order to appease the god, a water snake bit Philoctetes, owner of the bow of Heracles. The Greeks would later abandoned Philoctetes on the island of Lemnos, because the stench from his snake bite was terribly unpleasant.

Related Information
Tenedos, Τένεδος.




Lesbos was a large island in the Aegean Sea, off the western coast of Mysia, Asia Minor. The only mythological tale I could find that associated with Lesbos was that of Myrina, the Amazon queen of Libya, had seized the island with her warriors (Amazons). Myrina founded the city of Mitylene, which was named after her sister.

Historically it was home of several great lyric poets during the Archaic period: Terpander and Arion as well as Alcaeus and Sappho.

Related Information
Lesbos, Λέσβος.
Myrina (of Mitylene)




Chios is a large island, located west of Ionia, Asia Minor. In the Homeric Hymn to the Delian Apollo, Chios was described as being a rocky island.

Oenopion was ruler of Chios, when the giant hunter, Orion, became his daughter’s suitor. His daughter, was named Merope. When Orion drunkenly boasted that he would take Merope with or without the king’s permission, Oenopion blinded Orion while he slept. When Orion regained his sight and sought revenge, Oenopion hid in a cave, until Orion left his island.

Homer, author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, was traditionally said to be born in Chios. Leading citizens of Arogs would come to the island, and offered sacrifices to the blind poet of Chios, every 5 years. (Contest of Homer and Hesiod).

Historically, Chios was part of the Athenian Empire, during the 5th century BC, and for most of Peloponnesian War, until the Chians revolted.

Related Information
Chios, Χίος.




Samos was island off the western coast of Asia Minor, between Ephesus and Miletus. It was named after Samia, daughter of the river-god Maeander. Samia had married one of the Argonauts named Ancaeüs, a Lelegian king of Samos.

Ancaeüs became Argo’s second helmsman, after Tiphys drowned one night. It was prophesied that he would be killed by a wild boar, before he could taste a single drop of his wine. After returning home from his adventure with the Argonauts, as his lips touched his cup of wine, he heard a wild boar had entered his vineyard. He left his wine, untouched, took up his spear to confront the boar. Ancaeüs was killed and prophecy was fulfilled.

Related Information
Samos, Σάμος.




Icaria is island in the Aegean Sea, west of Samos. Icaria is mostly known for the being the island named after Icarius, son of Daedalus.

Daedalus was inventor for Minos, king of Crete. When Theseus escaped from the Labyrinth and killed the monster Minotaur, he imprisoned Daedalus in the Labyrinth, knowing that Daedaelus was involved in some way in helping Theseus escaped. Daedaelus created 2 sets of wings made out of wax, and he and his son, Icarius flew out. Icarius had ignored his father’s warning, and flew to high. The wax melted, and Icarius plunged to his death in the sea. The sea was named after him, as Icarian Sea.

Heracles found Icarius’ body washed ashore of an island, and the hero named the island after Icarius as Icaria.

Related Information
Icaria, Ικαρία.

Aegean Islands  |  Other Islands

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