History of Leros
The island of Leros is approximately 53 square kilometres. The land is hilly with small plains. It is surrounded on the north and on the east by many uninhabited small islands. The biggest of these is Archangellos. Leros is an irregular shape which is divided into three areas by two straits and seven bays. From the north going south are the towns of Partheni, Plefoutis, Alinta, Panteli, Xirokampos, Lakki and Gourna. The island consists of one municipality which has its administrative headquarters in Platanos.
Leros has a place in the history of Greece. It is the native place of the historian Ferekidis and the philosopher Dimodokos. The first inhabitants were the Phoenicians, the Leleges and the Kares. Leros took part in the Trojan War. Due to the fact that it neighboured Miletus close economic, cultural and political relations were developed and it received strong Ionian influence. In 494 B.C., along with Miletus, it was seized by the Persians. During the Peloponnesian War, Leros supported the democratic Athenians. Its safe bays were often shelters for those at war. In the end it came under the sovereignty of the Spartans. It then followed the fate of the rest of the Dodecanese islands during the years of Alexander the Great and his successors, the Roman years and the Byzantine period
In 1309 it was seized by the knights of St. John of Jerusalem who occupied it until 1521 when it was seized by the Turks.
During the Greek revolution of 1821 Ioannis Simbekis and many Lerians helped in this struggle. The island became an important base for the re-supplying of the Greek Navy. After the struggle for revolution the island became a part of the free parts of Greece and it came under the jurisdiction of the Temporary Committee of the Eastern Sporades.
However, with the Treaty of Constantinople in 1832, the Dodecanese remained outside the borders of the newly established Greek state and Leros belonged to Satzaki which had Hios as its capital. As it belonged to the privileged islands it enjoyed some degree of autonomy.
The education system in Leros has flourished since the end of the 19th Century. In 1822 the Greek school was built and later in 1886 the Astiki Sholi. In 1912 the girls school Nikolaideion and the kindergarten Malahieio were founded, both through donations by individuals and the Cairo Brotherhood of Lerians. Great local and national benefactors, were from Leros: Vasilios Nikolaides, Nikolaos Tsigadas, Panagiotis Trakas, Theologos Markopoulos, Nikitas Rousos, Theodoros Malahias, Parisis Mpelenis, Paris Rousos and others. Other great men of Leros were: Emmanouil Karayanopoulos, Giannis Pizanis, Emmanouil Gedeon, Giorgos Rousos and Theologos Nikoloudis.
In 1912 the island was seized by the Italian battleship San Giorgio during the war between Italy and Turkey. Because of the natural harbours which it has, the Italians armed the island and made it into a fortified naval base and air-naval base. From the end of the 1920s many fortification works took place and during the 1930s a whole town was built, Lakki.
In 1932 with the Treaty of Lausanne the islands remained definitively Italian. The Italian policy aimed at italianizing the islands and forbade Greek education and the Orthodox priests were persecuted.
In 1940 as Italy was on the side of Germany, Leros suffered attacks and bombing by the British Air force. On the 8th September 1943 as Italy could not continue the war on the German side, it signed an armistice and came over to the allied camp. After the Italian armistice, British reinforcements arrived on Leros and the island suffered continuous German bombing.
On the 26th September the renowned Greek destroyer Vasilissa Olga and the British destroyer Intrepid were sunk by German planes.
On the 18th November the island was seized by the Germans after fierce battles and the Germans remained there until the 8th May when Germany surrendered. Then continued the British occupation which lasted until 31st May 1947. On 7th March it was officially reunited with Greece along with the other Dodecanese islands.
According to Homer, Leros took part in the Trojan war (from 1193 - 1184 B.C.) under the leaders Antifos and Feidotos, grandchildren of Hercules. Thoukididis stressed the special importance of the bays and the harbours of Leros during the period of the Peleponnese War (431 - 404 B.C.). After the end of the war Leros came under the command of the Spartans. According to excavation findings the old town of Leros was located near the harbour of Agia Marina. On the south side of the bay of Agia Marina the Brouzi, most probably a roman fort, dominates. There, mosaics were found of lovely coloured designs.
In the year 1309 the Knights of St John of Rhodes seized and fortified Leros. Proof of the Knights occupation is the coat of arms found on the wall of the north side of the castle. In 1505 the ottoman admiral Kemal Reis along with three galleys and other seventeen war sailing vessels besieged the castle but could not seize it. The operation was repeated in 1508 with more ships but again nothing was achieved. In the end on the 24th December 1522 a treaty was signed between the Sultan Suleiman and the Grand Magister of the Knights Adam Villers de Ille, and Leros was passed into Ottoman hands. In 1648 during the war between the Turks and the Venetians the Venetian Leonardo Foskolos bombed and destroyed the north western side of the castle, from the harbour of Agia Marina.
During the Ottoman occupation Leros, along with the other islands, enjoyed a regime of privilege with partial autonomy and self - government. Resistance to the Turks broke out with the start of the Greek Revolution of 1821 with leaders the Hatzimanolis brothers, Tourkomanolos and Krasouzis. From 1821 to 1830 Leros formed part of the free Greek state and the mayor Markos Reipsis hoisted the Greek flag. On the 29th August in 1824 the sea battle of Gerontas took place east of Leros.
Nevertheless, with the Treaty of London on the 3rd February 1830 which determined the borders of the newly - established Greek state, the Dodecannese were given over to Turkey again. In the Diary of the Prefecture of the Archipelagos of 1886, Leros along with the islands of Patmos, Leipsous and Fournoi belonged to the Turks. The governor was Reouf - beis and the administrative council was made up of both Greeks and Turks. On the 13th May 1912 the Italians seized Leros and with the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 the Dodecannese were relinquished exclusively to Italy.
The Italian Period
From 1911 to 1912 the Italians occupied all of the Dodecannese islands. They arrived in Leros in May 1912. Despite their initial declarations, the Italians tried to italianize the islands and the inhabitants responded by declaring the autonomy of the islands under the title The Aegean State, with the aim of reunification with Greece. Something which happened 35 years later in 1948.
During the 35 years that the Italians remained in Leros, the Italians set up a great plan to build and fortify the island, as a result of considering both its strategic position and its physical form with its big natural harbours. The fortification of Leros and the creation of a naval base, ensured that the Italians had control over an area of vital interest to the Allies ( the Aegean, Dardanelia strait and the Near East). This effort became even bigger after Mussolini came to reign in Italy in 1922 and the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne, which officially conceded the Dodecannese to Italy.
On the 7th march 1948, Leros as with all the Dodecannese, was reunited with the rest of Greece. After approximately 400 years the Dodecannese became officially Greek once more. During the post-war years the Greek governments used many buildings in Leros for various reasons. In 1951 Queen Frederici founded the Royal Technical School in Leros, where many children learnt various skills. In 1959 the mental hospital of Leros was founded, whose original primitive conditions have been improved to such an extent that today it is considered a model for the reformation of psychiatric care in the whole of Greece.