1. Natural setting - Environment

Kimolos belongs to the complex of the West Cyclades and is situated NE of Milos and SW of Sifnos. Its terrain is particularly mountainous and barren, with Palaiokastro being the island’s tallest mountain (397 m.); the only fertile stretches of land are located in its southern part, where cereals, vine trees and vegetables are grown, while one of the most famous products of the island are its dried figs, celebrated already from the Ancient times ("kimoliai ishades"). The island’s coastline is heavily partitioned, and promontories and protected inlets are formed; these contain tiny and difficult to access beaches, as well as large, open and sandy shores. Kimolos’ subsoil is volcanic, as it is located on the edge of the S. Aegean volcanic arc. It is rich in silver glance barite and bentonite, while its chalk (white mineral clay), suitable for producing soap or powder and used in medicine, was famous since antiquity. Hot springs with sulphurous water have been located at Prassa, on the island’s north-eastern part, while nowadays this area is used for the exploitation and quarrying of chalk.

Kimolos, together with the uninhabited neighbouring islets of Agios Georgios, Agios Efstathios and the island of Polyaigos comprise an interesting ecosystem, protected by the European network Natura. The island, together with Polyaigos, is one of the most important natural habitats of the endangered Mediterranean seal Monachus monachus.

2. History

2.1. Prehistory – Byzantine Period

The only evidence of the Bronze Age on Kimolos is a marble violin-shaped figurine of unknown origin, dated to the Early Cycladic period and the pottery from the Mycenaean cemetery at the Ellinika site (1200 BC), on the SW part of the island.

During Ancient times, Kimolos was essentially a satellite of Milos sharing in its changing fortunes. In 425-4 BC it participates in the Delian League. During the time of Alexander the Great, Kimolos partakes in the Commonwealth of the Islands, winning the favour of the Macedonian king. During the period of the Successors to Alexander (second half of the 3rd cent. BC) it is incorporated in the kingdom of Macedonia and then in the kingdom of the Ptolemies of Egypt, until the middle of the 2nd century BC. Then it is captured by the expanding Romans, the new rulers of the Aegean, and becomes part of the Province of the Aegean.

With the prevalence of Christianity, in the Early Christian Period the island lies in the shadow Milos casts, where a populous Early Christian community lives, as testified by the unique monument of the catacombs. Then, during the Early Byzantine Period (4th - 6th cent. AD) the island is part of the Byzantine Province of the Islands. After the 7th cent AD Kimolos is incorporated in the administrative Theme of the Aegean Sea.

2.2. Latin rule – Modern times

After the capture of Constantinople by the Franks (1204), Kimolos, like most of the Cycladic Islands, is annexed to the Duchy of the Aegean, formed by Marco Sanudo in 1207, with Naxos as its capital. The Catholic community makes its presence felt during this period. Τhe island's Venetian name, due to the colour of its rocks, is Argentiera ("silver"). In 1383 the House of the Crispi becomes the next ruler of Kimolos but in 1537 it is captured by Ottomans; the latter, however, maintain the Crispi as governors until 1566. In that same year the Ottoman Empire concedes the island, together with the rest of the Cyclades, to the Jewish admininstrator and diplomat Joseph Nasi until 1579.

Kimolos’ history during the last period of Latin rule is marked by pirate raids. One of the main reasons behind the proliferation of piratical activities on Kimolos is its proximity to Milos, which has some of the most well-protected, natural coves, suitable for mooring and protecting pirate ships.

Following J. Nasi’s death, a long period of relative prosperity and growth starts. Privileges such as the advance payment of the yearly tax and the implementation of communal institutions, allow local communities to organize their society through the appointment of elective local officials. In 1771, during the Ottoman-Russian war, Kimolos was occupied by the Russians; in 1774 it was recovered by the Ottomans. After the Greek War of Independence, the island, as the rest of the Cyclades, became part of the Greek State (1830). In the Modern Period Kimolos lied in the shadow of Milos, and as a consequence it became its grassland and fishery. During World War II it was captured by the troops of the Axis powers until 1944.

Kimolos’ distance from the central islands of the Cyclades, and of course from Piraeus, has kept at bay the ‘clamorous’ modern cosmopolitan tourist development, making the island ideal for those who prefer alternative and peaceful destinations.

3. Archaeological sites

Up to the 1960s archaeological research on Kimolos was virtually non-existent, and the island’s history remained relatively obscure. Today, tourists can visit part of the island’s ancient city: this is situated on the SW coast, at the site Ellinika, which lies at a distance of 5.5 km from the capital and is the end the isle’s central road network which covers its southern coast. A naturally protected bay is formed in this area, suitable for habitation. The remains of the ancient city extend to the neighbouring islet of Agios Andreas, as testified by the discovery of architectural remains on the seabed which divides it from the shore; in antiquity the islet was connected to the main landmass and was the centre of the extensive ancient settlement. Nowadays the necropolis is visible, in continuous use from the Mycenaean until the Hellenistic times. The golden age of the settlement was in the Geometric Period, as can be gathered from the abundant finds, among most impressive which is one of the earliest grave steles bearing a female figure in bass-relief (700 BC), and a group of approximately 200 cinerary urns dating to the 9th-8th century BC. Roman and Byzantine ruins have also been identified on the islet of Agios Andreas. Finally, at the centre of the island and NW of its capital, at the site of Palaiokastro, accessible via a dirt road, there survive remnants of a circular tower and defensive wall; pottery from the Geometric and Archaic periods suggests that the island’s hinterland was also chosen as a habitation area.

4. Settlements

The main settlement and capital of the island is Kimolos or Chorio, situated on its SE part, which together with the island’s harbour, Psathi, constitute Kimolos’ main population nucleus. Chorio encompasses an older, preservable settlement (Palio Chorio, i.e. ‘Old Village’) and a more recent one (Kainourio Chorio), which developed around the surviving and accessible section of the Medieval castle dating to the 13th -14th centuries. This is an amphitheatrically built settlement with characteristic Cycladic white-washed houses. Narrow, sinuous paved lanes connect the various quarters and, together with the small squares, constitute the hub of the island’s social life; of exceptional value are also the listed and uninhabited residences in the settlement's centre.

5. Museums

The Kimolos Archaeological Museum features finds unearthed mainly during the excavations of the ancient city at Ellinika, while the Folklore and Nautical Museum of Kimolos, the work of Ioannis Christoulakis, displays exhibits concerning the traditional occupations of the inhabitants and the traditional house equipment of Kimolos.

Worth visiting are the island’s many churches dating to the 16th -17th centuries, which contain icons from the same period. The churches of Jesus Christ inside the castle (16th century) and Panagia (Virgin Mary) Evangelistria (1608) stand out, the latter boasting a beautiful wood-carved chancel screen and frescoes. At the cathedral of Panagia (Virgin Mary) Odigitria together with icons of the 17th century there survives a portable icon from the 15th century depicting the Crucifixion, a rare and remarkable example of Italian-Cretan post-Byzantine art. It probably wound up on Kimolos during its transportation to an unspecifiable destination.

At the port of Psathi one can see the traditional "syrmata": these are sea-level caves dug into the volcanic rock and barred by doors painted in many colours; they are used as boathouses by the island's fishermen. The picture of Kimolos is completed by the windmills at Xaplovouni, and by the inaccessible caves of Konsolina and Vromolimni, notable natural monuments at the northern part of the island.

6. Occupations

Most of the inhabitants are fishermen and farmers, while a part of the population is employed in the chalk mines and quarries, while lately some have turned to the transport of people and goods to and from neighbouring Milos, as well as in the sector of tourist services. Kimolos an ideal destination for calm and alternative holidays, away from the tourist tide of the Central Cyclades.