Symi consists of three main islands: Nimos, Sesklia, Symi. . The most famous version as far as the naming of the island is related to Poseidon and his nymph who gave birth to Chthonios, the leader of the fist inhabitants of Symi. In Omiro’s masterpiece, Iliada, the poet is reffered to the king of Symi, Nireus as the most handsome between the warriors , who fought in the Trojan War on the side of the Greeks.
First inhabitants of Symi were called Pelasgoi and then the Dorian came . Symi belonged to the Dorian exapolis. The 5th century the Persians ask Symi for the support from their navy. While Symi denied to the Persians lost the battle in Salamina and Symi taking advantage of their loss joined the Athenian coalition. In 1309 Symi was conquered from Knights of St. John. The island was conquered from the Knights by the Ottoman Empire in 1522 (along with nearby Rhodes) but it was allowed to retain many of its privileges, so its prosperity continued virtually uninterrupted. Under the Ottomans the island was called Sömbeki. Symi was noted for its sponges which provided much of its wealth. It attained the height of its prosperity in the mid 19th century, and many of the peculiarly colorful neoclassical mansions covering the slopes near the main city date from that period. Although Symiots took part in the Greek War of Independence of 1821–1829, it was left out of the new Greek state when its borders were drawn up and so remained under Ottoman rule. The island, along with the rest of the Dodecanese, changed hands several times in the 20th century: in 1912 the Dodecanese declared independence from the Ottomans as the Federation of the Dodecanese Islands, though they were almost immediately occupied by Italy. The island was formally ceded to Italy in 1923, and on 12 October 1943 it was occupied by the Nazis..At the end of World War II, the surrender of German forces in the region took place on Symi and the island was subject to several years of occupation by the British. Symi was finally rejoined with Greece in 1948.
Symi’s local customs
Archangel Michael Panormiti’s day(8/11) : the holy orthodox guardian of Symi whose monastery worth’s visiting. Hundreds of worshippers visit the monastery during that day to attend the ceremony and the traditional celebration which follows.
The best tradicional festivals in Symi: Santa Marina’s day (17/7) Saint Elias day (20/7/) Saint Sotiris day(6/8) Virgin’s Mary day: (15/8, 24/8) Archangel Michael Panormiti’s day: (8/11)
Α traditional customs: Young men and women dance and sing while drinking a water which takes their voice away. The lady who offers her house where the act takes place, offers a piece of pie to every young woman. The man who was going to dream of every woman was the man who was going to marry.
Burning of Judas in the Easter.
The graphic and traditional architecture of past times is revealed in every path of the town. With examples that range from the 14th century to the 19th century Neoclassical architecture.
The two-storey, well-preserved neoclassic buildings of 19th century with the pediments and pebble stone yards, beautiful specimen of folkloric art, prove – apart from financial robustness – the good taste and culture of these people. The island’s Naval Museum is located in Gialos and exhibits miniatures of ships, implements, naval tools and all the necessities of traditional sponge diving.
From Skala square and following “Kali Strata” with the 500 stairs, you can reach the settlement of Ano Symi. This route might be a little tiring but it will pay you back with unforgettable pictures and unique photos. Walking in the paths of Ano Symi visitors come across beautiful neoclassic residences of traditional architecture with dome-shaped doors, balconies and fireplaces in the yards, that means outdoor kitchens. Most of these houses are painted in ochre and are roofed with tiles. Their interior is decorated with carven, since this art has a long tradition in the island.. Public buildings which drag the attention are: the clock tower of 1880, the Lireno´s stair, the building of the police and of the customs as well as the post office.