When Theseus, son of the King of Athens, came to Crete, Ariadne, having fallen
in love with him, offered to help him to disclose the way out of
the Labyrinth if he would agree to take her to Athens and made her
his wife. Theseus agreed and swore to do so, but after leaving
Crete he deserted her in Naxos. There she was found by the god
Dionysus, who fell in love with her.
Ariadne was a daughter of King Minos
Ariadne provided Theseus with a sword to kill the Minotaur and a ball of thread to follow back out of the
Labyrinth. After slaughtering
the beast, which devoured seven youths and seven maidens supplied by Athens every year
in a tribute exacted by Minos, Theseus escaped Crete with Ariadne.
But he later abandoned her on the island of Naxos.
Fortunately for Ariadne, Naxos happened to be the favorite island
of Dionysus, son of Zeus and god of wine, who soon appeared, fell
in love with her, and made her his wife.
Island of Ariadne
According to tradition Naxos took its name from the King of
the Carians who were its first inhabitans, and they were succeeded
by the Cretans and Ionians. Its early
development, unlike the rest of the Cyclades, was not particularly
involved with the sea owing to its being richly endowed with
In ancient records it bore other names, such as Tragia, Dia,
Strogili, Dionyssas, Mikra Skilia and Herakila. But it was perhaps
best known as the island where Theseus callously abandoned the
sleeping Ariadne on his way home from Crete, where she had helped
him to kill the Minotaur.
Although the later marriage of Ariadne to Dionysus has become
well-known, another sequel also remains in the minds of some people.
In this rather sad tale, Ariadne threw herself to her death from
the cliffs of the Palatia in the throes of inconsolable grief for
the loss of Theseus.
The capital of the island has always been in roughly the same
place, although it was originally known as Kaliopolis.
From the seventh century B.C. onwards the island became known
for the high quality of the sculptures produced in its marble
workshops including such masterpieces as the famous Lions of
Delos and the huge statues of youths generally known as Kouros.
The Door of Nexas:|
A marble door that stands at the seaside entrance to Naxos Chora.
Lygdamis began construction of an edifice called the “hundred-foot”
temple around 530 B.C., but only this door was completed.
In the sixth century B.C. Naxos reached the peak of its glory,
under the leadership of the tyrant Lygdamis, whose eventual
downfall, however, led to the abandoning of several ambitious
building projects, such as the never completed Portara temple.
After the Persian war in the fifth century B.C. Naxos came
unter Athenian rule and later passed to the Macedonian Empire
in the fourth century B.C. Later the island came into the
hands of the Egyptian Ptolemies, and yet afterward received its
orders from Rhodes as part of the Roman empire.
Cristianity came to the island early, brought by the apostle
John from Patmos in the first century B.C. while the Romans
still remained in power. Their successors, the Byzantines, lost
control of the island to the Venetians during the Fourth Crusade.
In 1204 Marco Sanudo took over Naxos and organized most of the
archipelago into a Duchy of Naxos with himself as the
first Duke. He and his successors continued in power until the
Turkish take-over in 1566,
when the infamous Barbarossa conquered and plundered the island.
Turkish rule was brirfly interrupted by the Russians in 1770-1774
and was finally enden by 1821 war of Independence in which Naxians
played a formidable part. In 1828 the island was finally united with
the rest of Greece.