Astypalaia (Greek: Αστυπάλαια). Astypalaia is part of the Kalymnos regional unit.
In Greek mythology, Astypalaia was a woman abducted by Poseidon in the form of a winged fish-tailed leopard. The island was colonized by Megara or possibly Epidaurus, and its governing system and buildings are known from numerous inscriptions. Pliny the Elder records that Rome accorded Astypalaia the status of a free state.
During the Middle Ages it belonged to the Byzantines until 1207, when – in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade – it became a fee of the Querini, a noble Venetian family, until 1522. The Querini built a castle that is still in place and added the name of the island to their family name, which became Querini Stampalia. Astypalea was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1522, and remained under Ottoman control until 1912, with two interruptions: from 1648 until 1668, during the War of Crete, it was occupied by Venice, and from 1821 to 1828 during the Greek War of Independence.
The religious and political center of the classical city-state of Astypalaia was the hill crowned by the Querini castle. The modern town of Chora occupies the same site, and worked stones from ancient monuments are reused in older houses as well as the castle. A one-room museum at Pera Gialos, on the shore near the old port, displays inscriptions, grave monuments, and other artifacts from the island (open May–September, free entry, no photographs permitted). The earliest material on display is fragments of neolithic pottery. One case contains intact pottery, bronze weapons, and stone tools from a pair of richly furnished Mycenaean chamber tombs excavated at Armenochori (approximately 0.5 km (0.3 mi) west of the chapel of Agios Panteleimonas).
At Kylindra, on the west flank of the castle hill, a unique graveyard has been excavated by the Greek archaeological service. At least 2700 newborns and small children were buried in ceramic pots between approximately 750 B.C. and Roman times. Since 2000, a team from University College London has undertaken systematic study of these remains and those of a contemporary cemetery for adults and older children excavated at Katsalos nearby.
The well-preserved mosaic floor of an early Christian basilica, decorated with geometric designs, lies underneath the chapel of Agia Varvara about 700 meters north of the small port of Analipsi (Maltezana). Its monolithic columns and marble column bases were evidently reused from a Hellenistic or Roman-period religious building nearby. A few meters east of the harbor of Analipsi, at a site known as Tallaras, are the remains of a late Roman-era bath. Its mosaic floors, including a Helios surrounded by the signs of the Zodiac, have been reburied by the Greek Archaeological Service (as of 9/2013), but photographs are on display at the museum. Mosaic floor fragments remain in situ at the ruined early Christian basilicas of Karekli (Schoinountas) and Agios Vasilios (south of Livadi).
Road signs lead to the inconspicuous, inaccessible remains of a pre-Venetian fortification on Mt. Patelos opposite the monastery of Agios Ioannis at the western extreme of Astypalaia.
Treaty with Rome
Astypalaia’s treaty with Rome, made in 105 B.C., has survived in an inscription found on the island. A noteworthy feature of this treaty is its formal assumption of sovereign equality between Rome and Astypalaia: The Astypalaians would not aid the enemies of the Romans or allow such enemies passage through their territory, and likewise the Romans would not aid the enemies of the Astypalaians or allow such enemies passage through their territory; in case of an attack on Astypalaia the Romans would come to its aid, in case of an attack on Rome the Astypalaians would come to its aid; etc. Rome at the end of the second century BCE still maintained the forms – if not the substance – of reciprocity in its dealings with Greek cities.
Astypalaea became a Christian bishopric and is mentioned as such in a 10th-century Notitia Episcopatuum. As a diocese that is no longer residential, it is listed in the Annuario Pontificio among titular sees.