Kos History Facts and Timeline

(Kos, Dodecanese, Greece)

Kos history is enviable and largely peaceful, despite playing host to the bickering powers of the day through its long life.

Both Hippocrates and Ptolemy II of Egypt were born on Kos, while the Greeks and the Romans imparted their ancient architectural savvy to leave some remarkable structures, many sadly succumbing to strong Greek earthquakes.

Early Settlers and Hippocrates

Excavations near Kefalos suggest that people had been in living on the island of Kos since the Bronze Age, specifically during the Helladic period around 4,500 years ago. They were drawn by the fertile soil and the area became established enough for ships to be built for the Trojan War. The island was part of the Dorian League in the 7th century BC, suffered a devastating earthquake in 477 BC, was conquered by the Persians and then liberated by Alexander the Great, before flourishing with the Athenian League.

Kos history is also remembered for the birth of the father of medicine, Hippocrates (460 BC). He lived a long life on the island and the Sanctuary of Asclepius at Asklipieion was built in his honour. People came from far and wide to be taught and treated here. Despite damage from an earthquake in the 6th century AD, the ruins are well preserved here, with tourists also being able to check out the remains of both the Temple to Apollo and the Roman baths. The ancient Hippocrates tree at the harbour in Kos Town is another big landmark.

Ptolemy II and the Romans

Along with Hippocrates, another famous son in Kos history was the Egyptian pharaoh Ptolemy II. His rise saw the island prosper, while the Romans took charge a century later, administered by all-powerful Rhodes. The Romans' time here was fairly harmonious and they left many reminders, of which the House of Europe has some remarkable mosaics. The nearby restored Odeon Theatre is a further Roman archaeological site of some significance.

Another important remnant that harks back to the early history of Kos is the Ancient Agora marketplace, not far from the castle. The market was said to be the biggest in the world when it was extended in the 2nd century BC. It features the Great Hall, the Temple of Hercules, a basilica and the Shrine of Aphrodite, while shops were on the side of the market. The Agora site was partially flattened during the earthquake of 469 AD.

Knights Castle and the Middle Ages

The Venetians conquered Kos in the Middle Ages and went on to sell the island to the Knights of St. John in the early part of the 1300s. The stunning Knights Castle hails from around this period, featuring huge outer walls and a moat. Visitors will find that the castle's old gate and inner walls, along with its great views, are a big highlight of Kos Town.

The Knights eventually lost the island to the Ottoman Empire in the year of 1523, with the Turks ruling the island for the next four centuries. One of the most impressive landmarks left over by the Turks is the Synagogue, which was restored after an earthquake in 1933. The Axis powers took control in WWII and the Battle of Kos pitted the British against the Germans. Though the Germans held control, the end of the war saw the island under the rule of the UK, before being passed to Greece in 1947.

The Island Today

The long history of Kos is sadly overlooked by many visitors today, who mainly come for the beaches and nightlife of Kos Town. However, it is not hard for even the non-inclined to deviate from the restaurants and bars to take in the sights of Old Kos Town, with its narrow alleys and many ancient relics.