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History of Leros island

Leros was inhabited in prehistoric times by the Karians a tribe of Asia Minor and also on a small scale by the Phoenicians and the Minoans. Leros took part in the Trojan War and was – after the conquest by the Dorians around the year 1000 BC – definitively part of the Greek world.

Due to its proximity to the major cities Ephesus and Miletus on the mainland of Asia Minor, Leros fell under Ionian influence. This influence was expressed, among other things, with the cult of Artemis on the island. The Lerian Artemis was a variant of the Artemis of Ephesus. Remains of what may have been the most important shrine of Artemis can be found in the north of the island at Partheni.

Despite the Doric character of the island, Leros became a member of the Delean Federation and thus aided Athens.

After the classical era, Leros followed the flow of events and subsequently came under Macedonian, Roman and Byzantine rule. In 1309 Leros was simultaneously occupied by several islands by the Knights of St John who fortified the Castle of Leros.

In 1522 the knights were defeated by the Ottoman Turks and it was given considerable autonomy in trade and economy. From that point on, Leros was officially part of the Ottoman Empire. However, the island enjoyed a large degree of autonomy and had no Turkish settlements.

Relative freedom provided some form of prosperity based on trade and agriculture abroad. After the disappearance of the threat of piracy in the early 19th century, the commercial economy of Leros flourished. Shipowners and captains built mansions throughout the villages as a sign of their greater prosperity.

Italian conquest

The wealth of Leros ended abruptly in 1911 after the conquest of the island and the remaining islands of the Dodecanese by the Italians during the Turkish-Italian War.

The Italians adopted a policy of deliberate Italianization and facilitated the settlement of many Italian families. However, the island became particularly important as a naval base for the Italian fleet. Lakki Bay, one of the largest and deepest natural harbors in the Mediterranean, combined with its strategic position on the route to the Dardanelles, made the island ideal for this new task.

In the bay of Lakki the Italians built a new city, Portolago (Today’s Lakki), in a very characteristic modernist style. A cinema, hotel, market and houses for navy personnel were built. The Italian buildings have recently been restored. The fact serves to illustrate the importance that the Italians attributed to Leros was that Mussolini him self built a summer residence on the island, which he has never visited.
After the end of  the second World war, Leros reunited with Greece in 1947.In the 1990s, a more tourism-oriented economy developed in Leros.