Astypalaia took its name after the daughter of Phoenix and Perimidis, who was also Europe’s sister. From the coupling of Astypalaia with Poseidon, the Argonaut Agaeos and the King of Kos, Eurypylus, were born. The first inhabitants of Astypalaia were the Kares who initially named the island Pyrra (Fire) because of the red colour of its rocks. The island kept the same name for centuries. There are only a few references of the island as Astoupaliá, Astynéa and Stypalía. However, the locals use to call the island Astropaliá up to the recent days.
The island was conquered by the Cretans during the Minoan Era. It was later on Hellenized by Greek settlers who came from Megara. During the Hellenistic Era the island was an important marine station especially for the Ptolemies, while during the Roman Era the island significantly flourished due to the abundance of natural ports which served as the base for military operations against the pirates. During the Byzantine Ages the increase of pirate activity led to the alteration of the town-planning and the architectural structure and location of the houses on the islands, resulting to a gradual decline of the coastal settlements and the transfer of the population inland. At the same time the focus of the rulers was turned to the construction of more castles for the achievement of further protection. This was when the Castle of Ayios Ioannis was constructed at the south-western coast of Astypalaia, the remains of which can still exist in situ in the present days.
However, the most intense period for Astypalaia was when the island was under Venetian rule. After the abolition of the Byzantine Empire by the Franks in 1204 and the establishment of the Ducat of Naxos, its Venetian founder, Markos Sanoudas, conceded Astypalaia to the nobleman John Querini, who was also of Venetian descent. The latter was the founder and first owner of a lodging which constituted the core of the present settlement. The Venetians kept the island under their possession from 1207 to 1269, the year when the Byzantines overthrown the Venetians and took Astypalaia under their control.
In 1310, John Querini II, governor of Tinos and Mykonos and descendant of John Querini I, re-conquered Astypalaia with the help of Marco Grimani. The Querini family kept the island under their control for about 300 years.
The Venetians lost Astypalaia in 1537, when the notorious pirate Chairentin Barbarossa arrived conquering the islands the one after the other.
Under Ottoman rule the island ensured certain privileges and kept being self-governed. It took part in the Greek Revolution in 1821, but – like the rest of the islands of the Dodecanese – it remained under Turkish control. The Italian occupation followed the Ottoman yoke. The island was finally liberated and reunited with Greece on the 7th of March, 1948.
Astypalea (or Astropaliá and Astypalia) is an Aegean island with 1.334 inhabitants. Astypalea belongs administratively to the Dodecanese, but geographically and culturally it is located on the border between the Dodecanese and the Cyclades.
It has an area of 97 km2, a coastline of 110 km and is 117n.m. away from Piraeus, 23 from Kos and 96n.m. from Rhodes.
The coasts of Astypalea are rocky, with coves and beaches. Its highest peak is Agios Ilias (506 m.).
A small strip of land about 100 meters, the Steno, divides the island into two parts the inner and outer island. In the southeast there are several small islands, such as Agia Kyriaki, Chondros, Kounoupi and Koutsomytis.
To the west are the islets of Ofidousa, Chtenia, Pontikousa and others. The capital and main port of the island is Astropalia, or Chora.
The eastern part of the island, the surrounding islands, Ofidousa and their maritime zone are protected habitats of Natura 2000, code GR4210009, with a total area of 70.32 km2.
Astypalea is the only island in Greece where there are no snakes at all because it is a passage for storks that exterminate them.
The climate in Astypalea, as in all the Dodecanese, is mild, with cool summers and mild winters.
The inhabitants of the island work οn agriculture, tourism, farming and beekeeping.