1. Geographical location

Eastern Aegean island, close to the southwestern part of Samos and the eastern part of Ikaria (Agios Kirykos). It is one of the Fournoi group iof slands, comprising of 3 islands (Thymaina, Fournoi, Agios Minas) as well as smaller skerries, with Fournoi being the largest island.

2. Environment and geomorphology

Geologically speaking, the island of Fournoi belongs to the Cycladic group. It has shaly beds of rock at its lower parts and limestone beds of rock at the higher ones. Its coasts are steep and abrupt, typical of the Aegean scenery, with plenty of creeks and coves, all protected from adverse weather conditions. Three of them (Skalofono, Bali and Elidaki), as well as the port of Fournoi, were known since ancient times. Some historians say Polycrates, the tyrant of Samos, used them in winter as anchorages for his fleet. This varied geomorphology is responsible for the island’s -and the whole group’s- disproportionally long coastline vis-à-vis its size. Shallow depths and slight inclinations are typical of the sea area around the island.
Mineral wealth lies only in marbles extracted from the four quarries, which are no longer in use. Their exploitation began in ancient times. It has also been said that these quarries provided Miletus and other Ionian cities with building material. Particularly at the quarry sited at Petrokopio, architectural parts have been uncovered. Another quarry used to provide the mosque of Kiliç Ali Pasha in Constantinople with marble.

The flora and the fauna of the island, though insufficiently studied, are particularly interesting. Therefore, Fournoi has been included in the “Natura 2000” programme. A lot of aromatic plants, with thyme, savory, sage and briar dominating, are abundant on shaly ground, while the lentisk, the bearberry and the dwarf juniper are abundant on limestone ground. Of course, there are olive groves as well. Mandragora is also abundant, although it is a plant not frequently found in other parts of Greece. It is a poaceous plant, with wide leaves and fruit with anti-convulsive and hypnotic properties. There used to be some bocages of bearberries, locust trees and lentisks mostly at northern areas, but effuse timber-felling during the mid-War period, as well as intense cattle-grazing, an activity undertaken still, have resulted to intense erosion phenomena and the downgrade of these bocages.

The fauna of Fournoi is of equal importance. Mediterranean Monachus monachus seal populations, threatened by human intervention, as well as several dolphin and sea turtle species live within the sea area. Fournoi has been included among the 196 important bird areas of Greece (I.B.A.G.), since birds as the Eleonora’s Falcon (a kind of hawk), the Benelli’s Eagle and the Alectoris chukar (partridge) propagate on the island. It is also an area of vital importance to migrant species, especially herons.

3. History

In ancient times, Fournoi were called the Korasiae islands (there still is nowadays a skerry called Korasida). The Philosopher Porphyrios from Tyre (3rd century A.D.) refers to them as Korseas, a name preserved still. The Venetian geographer Benedetto Bordone (1537) refers to them as Fornelli (small kilns). The names Melanthi, Fortiole and Koursoi are also found on maps. According to assumptions, the first inhabitants of the island were Ionians from Miletus. Since the early Byzantine Period and throughout Mediaeval Times, Fournoi has been a base for pirates, and was therefore deserted. In 1770, the island was inhabited again: after leaving Patmos, the monk Niphon built the Virgin Evangelistria chapel and a cell located at Koumara, with 5 other monks. Residents from the Dodecanese created the first settlement later. After the Greek War of Independence of 1821, Fournoi was given out to a mariner from Patmos in return for his service against the Ottoman fleet. An Ottoman garrison settled on the island later, when a new Ottoman law on provincial administration was adopted (1864). On November 3rd, 1912, Fournoi was officially unified with Greece.

4. Archaeological sites and monuments

Apart from the quarries, there is also other evidence that in ancient times there was a significant settlement here. On the Agios Georgios hill, at the north of the village Fournoi, there is still a part of a cyclopean wall made of wrought stone extant. On the top of the hill, there was an acropolis and a temple. Inscriptions referring to gods of Samothrace and the founder of the acropolis have also been found, as well as a built-in stone dedicated to Hermes. From the same location and from Petrokopio as well we also have stone sarcophagi dating from Late Antiquity. One of these sarcophagi, which bears an inscription, has been placed in the square of Fournoi. Ruins of an ancient temple have been found at Kamari, while remnants of other buildings have been found at the bottom of the sea, just a few feet away from the shore. Finally, we also have foundation remnants of an ancient temple (dedicated to Poseidon, according to some).

5. The Island in the recent years

There are two large settlements on Fournoi: the village of the same name, which is the port, the capital of the island and the head office of the municipality and all authorities, and Chrysomilia. There are smaller settlements too, such as Kambi and Kamari. It is very important that nowadays, while other small islands are deserted, the population of Fournoi is irreducible from the time before World War II onwards. A high percentage of the population work as sailors, while the island’s modern fishing fleet has made it one of Greece’s largest fishing centers. Apart from fishing, stock farming is also a major economic activity, while land cultivation has practically been abandoned. Complementary to the above is apiculture, constantly expanding.

White and blue are the typical colors of the old and well-preserved houses of the island, which impress with their simplicity. Equally impressive is the amphitheater-like built settlement. Three mills at the entrance of the Kambi village are also worth mentioning.

The Greek state has marked Fournoi as an area requiring special protection.