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Aphrodite of Milos  

Chora or Milos

(13th century - 18th century AD)

Chora (capital) - Milos - Old Chora – Zefyria. These are the names that were intermittently given to the spacious plain, on the eastern part of the gulf of Milos, in roughly 3 km from the port of Kanava.

Since the 13th century, after their establishment at Kastro, the Venetians created a small settlement at Chora where they initially installed those in charge of the production and the collection of taxes.
Chora is surrounded by one of the most extensive and fertile plain of the island where they cultivated grain (wheat, barley), cotton, vegetables, fruits and vines. In the neighbouring hills they shepherded herds of sheep and goats and found abundant hunting. In a small distance were the mines that gave pumice, sulphur, mining salt, alunite as well as the salt marshes.

The plains at Zefyria

The plains at Zefyria

In the environs were the harbour (Kanava) and various smaller coves (Paliochori, Ag. Kyriaki, Provatas) suitable for fishing and trade.

The population was increasing fast; they built a fortification wall with towers and a garrison gate, churches, monasteries and drainage system.
By the end of the 13th century Sanoudos Markoulinos had eliminated custom duties, which resulted to an increase on product demand and supply, on the number of boats attracted to the harbour and commercial activity in general, and eventually on an overall increase in the population.

Because of the increasing needs, the city fast expanded outside the fortification wall. The city became the capital of the island and it was now named Milos, where Orthodox and Catholics coincided. Piracy was rising again on the Aegean; the pirates came here to sell their loots, buy food, make repairs and to spend the winter when stormy seas became unfriendly and inaccessible.

By the 16th and 17th c. with the Venetian-Turkish wars and the struggle of the European forces over the Eastern Mediterranean, there is a new blossom in commercial activities; a lot of European countries establish consulates in Milos and the “Koursaroi” (buccaneers) are added to the pirates.

Kanava, The port of the old Chora

The “Koursaroi” acted with the approval and under the flag of a European country, installed their naval base in Milos and contributed in vivid commercial activity. However, as it also happens today in harbours, with the piracy and kourso befell relaxation of morals and corruptness; dissolute life and venereal diseases infected the population.

Chora reached her bigger acme on the 17th c with 5000 residents, beautiful two-storied houses, 17 parish churches, a lot of chapels and monasteries both Orthodox and Catholic.

The initial feudal society that had been organised by the Francs had been gradually transformed to an urban-commercial society with high standards of living.

With the end of the Venetian-Turkish wars (1699) that left the Turks predominant, the koursaroi were withdrawn and Muslim pirate (Saracen) raids began. They did not make trade, but slaughtered, raped, destroyed and seized the crops, and took captives for the galleys and slave trade.

After the explosion of the volcano of Santorini in 1650, sulphur gases began to influence the climate. With new volcanic explosions (1707-1712) the situation was deteriorating and got even worse during the powerful earthquakes that socked Milos in 1738. They caused big destructions and the population was terrorised.

Portaitisa, The main church of Zefyria

A lot of reports and testimonies of that period - of mainly foreign travellers - portray the gloomy picture that prevailed, with creepy details. Marshes, filth, damaging gases, vapours, polluted waters, unhealthy air, unsanitary conditions, destroyed buildings. In 1703 plague that came from Turkey affected the population, which had already been devastated by typhoid fever and malaria.

At the end of the 18th c Chora was abandoned and the population that had survived was relocated at Kastro (the Castle). Then they built the villages surrounding Kastro where they were installed and still live today.

The French consul together with the Catholics that still remained after the end of Venetian-Turkish war, resettled to Kimolos.

The residents themselves destroyed a lot of the buildings of Chora in order to acquire materials for new structures. The churches were stripped of icons and holy utensils, which they used to decorate new ones, and –thanks to the relocation- most of these relics have been saved until today.

Chora was never entirely abandoned; The Peloponnesians who worked in the mines continued to inhabit the city.

After the B’ World war the population increased again and the church of the Virgin  (the Portaitisa-guardian of the gate of the old castle) was renovated. It is celebrated on the 15th of August, when after the evening mass a local festival (“panigiri”) is held.

The old chapel of Saint Haralambos who was the guardian protector against the plague is situated on the side of the big church.


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