Folegandros lies between Milos
(15 nautical miles) and Sikinos
(five nautical miles). It is 102 nautical miles from Piraeus,
has an area of 32 sq. kilometres and a coastline 40 km long. Its population is
about 600. A mountainous, rocky island, its highest mountain is Ayios Eleftherios
(455 metres) in the south of the island, whilst the mountain of Merovigli in the
north is 312 metres high.
The historian Aratos called the island Sidira ('iron') because of
its rocky surface. Greek mythology says that the island was inhabited by shepherds
who came from western Greece in search of pasturelands. Because most of the shepherds
were men, the island was named Polyandros ('many men'). From this derives the
sailors' habit of calling the island Polykandro.
It was later settled by Cretans led by Folegandros, son of Minos,
who gave his name to the island. The next to arrive were Dorians, the last of
the island's colonists before it came under Athenian domination in the fifth century
B.C. Artemis and Apollo were worshipped on the island in ancient Greek times.
During the Roman period the island was used as a place of exile.
Under Venetian rule the islanders built a castle around the main village,
on the side facing the sea, so as to protect themselves from corsairs. During
the period of Prankish rule the island belonged to the duchy of Naxos.
In 1617 the island was captured by the Turks, ending Prankish control of the Cyclades.
Under Turkish rule Folegandros paid a tribute and in 1715 it suffered great pillaging
by Kapudan Pasha. After a short period of Russian control (1770-1774), the Revolution
of 1821 liberated the island from Ufa Turks and united it with Greece.
The largest village on Folegandros is Hora.
It is built on the edge of a great rock, 200 metres above sea level. In Hora there
is also an imposing stronghold consisting of houses, which begins in the middle
of the village and ends at the edge of the precipice above the sea.