Paros (Πάρος) is an island of Greece in the central Aegean Sea. One of the Cyclades island group, it lies to the west of Naxos, with which it is separated by a channel about wide. It lies approximately south-east of Piraeus. Today, Paros is one of the most popular European tourist hotspots. The Municipality of Paros includes numerous uninhabited offshore islets totaling 196.308 km² of land. Its nearest neighbor is the Community of Antiparos, lying to its southwest. Paros also became known for its fine white marble which gave rise to the term Parian which is used for China and fine marbles worldwide. The island has also been called Venetian: Paro.
Paros has numerous beaches including Chrissí Aktí (Golden Beach, Greece) near Drios on the east coast, at Pounda, Logaras, Piso Livadi, Naousa bay, Parikía and Agía Irini. The constant strong wind in the strait between Paros and Naxos makes it a favoured windsurfing location.
From Athens the island later received a colony of Ionians under whom it attained a high degree of prosperity. It sent out colonies to Thasos and Parium on the Hellespont. In the former colony, which was planted in the 15th or 18th Olympiad, the poet Archilochus, native of Paros, is said to have taken part. As late as 385 BC the Parians, in conjunction with Dionysius of Syracuse, founded a colony on the Illyrian island of Pharos (Hvar).
Shortly before the Persian War Paros seems to have been a dependency of Naxos. In the first Greco-Persian War (490 B.C.), Paros sided with the Persians and sent a trireme to Marathon to support them. In retaliation, the capital Paros was besieged by an Athenian fleet under Miltiades, who demanded a fine of 100 talents. But the town offered a vigorous resistance, and the Athenians were obliged to sail away after a siege of 26 days, during which they had laid the island waste. It was at a temple of Demeter Thesmophoros in Paros that Miltiades received the wound of which he afterwards died. By means of an inscription Ross was enabled to identify the site of the temple; it lies, as Herodotus suggests, on a low hill beyond the boundaries of the town.
Paros also sided with shahanshah Xerxes I of Persia against Greece in the second Greco-Persian War (480 - 479 B.C.), but after the battle of Artemisium the Parian contingent remained inactive at Kythnos watching the progress of events. For their support of the Persians, the islanders were later punished by the Athenian war leader Themistocles, who exacted a heavy fine.
Under the Delian League, the Athenian-dominated naval confederacy (477 - 404 B.C.), Paros paid the highest tribute of all the island members: 30 talents annually, according to the estimate of Olympiodorus (429 B.C.). This implies that Paros was then one of the wealthiest islands in the Aegean. Little is known of the constitution of Paros, but inscriptions seem to show that it was modeled on Athenian democracy, with a boule (senate) at the head of affairs. In 410 BC the Athenian general Theramenes found an oligarchy governing Paros; he deposed it and restored the democracy. Paros was included in the second Athenian confederacy (the Second Athenian Empire 378 - 355 B.C.). In c.357 B.C., along with Chios, it severed its connection with Athens.
From the inscription of Adule we learn that the Cyclades, presumably including Paros, were subject to the Ptolemies, the Hellenistic dynasty that ruled Egypt (305 - 30 B.C.). Paros then became part of the Roman Empire and later of its Greek-speaking successor state, the Byzantine Empire.
The capital, Parikía (Parechia), situated on a bay on the north-west side of the island, occupies the site of the ancient capital Paros. Parikía harbour is a major hub for Aegean islands ferries and catamarans, with several sailings each day for Piraeus (the port of Athens), Heraklion (the capital of Crete) and other islands such as Naxos, Ios, Santorini, and Mykonos. The harbour approaches are notoriously hazardous due to the presence of a group of isolated rocks. The most recent and deadly shipwreck off Paros was that of the car ferry MV Express Samina. It ran onto the rocks and sank in a storm on the night of 26 Sept 2000. This resulted in the drowning of 80 passengers.
In Parikía town, houses are built and decorated in the traditional Cycladic style with flat roofs, whitewash walls and blue-painted doors and window frames and shutters. Shadowed by luxuriant vines, and surrounded by gardens of oranges and pomegranates, the houses give the town a picturesque and pleasing aspect. On a rock beside the sea are the remains of a medieval castle, built almost entirely of the marble remains of an ancient temple. Similar traces of antiquity, in the shape of bas-reliefs, inscriptions, columns, & etc., are numerous. On a rock shelf to the south are remains of a precinct which was dedicated to Asclepius. In addition, close to the modern harbour, the remains of an ancient cemetery are visible, since being discovered recently during non-archaeological excavations.
In Parikía's main square is the town's principal church, the Ekatontapiliani (literally: "church of the hundred doors"). Its oldest features almost certainly predate the adoption of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire (391 AD). It is said to have been founded by the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (ruled 306–337 AD), Saint Helen, during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There are two adjoining chapels, one of very early form, and also a baptistery with a cruciform font.
On the north side of the island is the bay of Naoussa (Naussa) or Agoussa, forming a safe and spacious harbour. In ancient times it was closed by a chain or boom. Another good harbour is that of Drios on the south-east side, where the Turkish fleet used to anchor on its annual voyage through the Aegean during the period of Ottoman rule over Paros (1537 - 1832).
The three villages of Dragoulas, Mármara and Tsipidos, situated on an open plain on the eastern side of the island, and rich in remains of antiquity, probably occupy the site of an ancient town. They are known together as the "villages of Kephalos" after the steep and lofty hill of Kephalos. On this hilltop stands the abandoned monastery of Agios Antonios (St. Anthony). Around it are the ruins of a medieval castle which belonged in the late Middle Ages to the Venetian noble family of the Venieri. They gallantly but vainly defended it against the Turkish admiral Barbarossa in 1537.
Parian marble, which is white and translucent (semi-transparent), with a coarse grain and a very beautiful texture, was the chief source of wealth for the island. The celebrated marble quarries lie on the northern side of the mountain anciently known as Marathi (afterwards Capresso), a little below a former convent of St Mina. The marble, which was exported from the 6th century BC onwards, was used by Praxiteles and other great Greek sculptors. It was obtained by means of subterranean quarries driven horizontally or at a descending angle into the rock. The marble thus quarried by lamplight was given the name of Lychnites, Lychneus (from lychnos, a lamp), or Lygdos . Several of these tunnels are still to be seen. At the entrance to one of them is a bas-relief dedicated to Pan and the nymphs. Several attempts to work the marble have been made in modern times, but it has not been exported in any great quantities.
Parikía town has a small but interesting archaeological museum housing some of the many finds from sites in Paros. The best pieces, however, are in the Athens National Archaeological Museum. The Paros museum contains a fragment of the Parian Chronicle, a remarkable chronology of ancient Greece. Inscribed in marble, its entries give time elapsed between key events from the most distant past (1500 BC) down to 264 BC.
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