Spetses (Modern Greek: Σπέτσες, Katharevousa: Σπέτσαι, Spetsai, Ancient: Πιτυούσσα, "Pityoussa") is an island and a municipality in the Islands regional unit, Attica, Greece.
It is sometimes included as one of the Saronic Islands. Until 1948, it was part of the old prefecture of Argolidocorinthia, which is now split into Argolis and Corinthia. In ancient times, it was known as Pityoussa, and later as Petses.
The island is now an independent municipality (pop. 4,027), with no internal boundaries within the municipality. The town of Spetses (pop. 4,001 in 2011) is the only large settlement on the island. The other settlements on the island are Moní Agíon Pánton , Ligonéri, Ágioi Anárgyroi , Kouzoúnos .
Also part of the Municipality of Spetses are the islands of Spetsopoula, Falkonera, and Velopoula (all uninhabited).
An unusual aspect of Spetses is the absence of private automobiles in the town limits.
The most common modes of transport are walking, horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, mopeds, and motorcycles. Only taxis and delivery vehicles are allowed in the downtown area. Ferries and high-speed hydrofoils arrive regularly from Piraeus.
Trails encircle the island and total about 25 to 30 km. Beaches closest to the town of Spetses include: Agios Mamas in the center of town; and Kaíki (previously College) beach 1 km to the northwest and Agia Marina 2 km to the south, both of which offer water-sports. Public buses serve beaches further outside of town, including Zogeria, Agioi Anargiroi, and Agia Paraskevi.
The island of Spetses, located in the Mediterranean Sea, was first occupied during the Mesolithic Age, in around 8000 BC.
During that period the island was connected through an isthmus to the island of Argolida, now named Costa.
Pieces of flint from that time were found near the part of the island named Zogeria, containing a water source probably available since that time. Other archaeological finds were located in the area of Saint Marina, which contained the first Hellenistic settlement to be found on the island and dates to the 3rd millennium BC. At least three natural harbours of Spetses (Saint Marina, Saint Paraskevi and Zogeria) served as a refuge for ships carrying goods to and from the Argolis Gulf during the peak of the State of Lerna (about 2300 BC).
After the collapse of the State of Lerna, Spetses experienced a period of decline. Artefacts in the areas of Saint Marina and Saint Anargyroi show the existing settlements belonging the late Mycenaean period ; the 12th to 13th century BC. At the time of the Peloponnesian War, stone observatories were built at the sites of Prophet Elias and Zogeria.
Mention of the island of Spetses was made both by Strabo in the 1st century BC and Pausanias in the 2nd century AD, referring to the island as Pitiousa. The raid by the Goths in the Eastern Roman empire caused a wave of refugees to flee to Spetses, resulting in the re-settlement of the island, focusing on the Old Port, making it one of the three largest cities of Argolis (including Argos and Hermione).
In the 15th Century, the Venetians named the island Spezia ("Spice") for its position on a major traderoute; over time the name was Hellenised to "Spetsai"
During the 18th century, during the conquest of the Peloponnese from the Turks and the Venetian expulsion, many Christian Albanians took refuge in Spetses in order to escape Turkish persecution. These refugees created the old village of Spetses, in the area of Kastelli, which is fortified by a wall that reinforces the natural protection provided by the terrain. Over the years the island developed a significant naval power. The Greek Coalition[clarification needed] in cooperation with the Russians in the Russian-Turkish war in 1768–1774 turned the powerful merchant fleet of Spetses to a significant power against the Turks during the so-called Orlofika. In response to these events the Turks destroyed the only village on the island in 1770. For some years after the destruction of the island it remained deserted, but was re-occupied in 1774 by new settlers from the opposite coast of Peloponnese after the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca that allowed the Russian free movement of ships in the Mediterranean and the recreation of the powerful commercial fleet by using the Russian flag to establish trade routes with neighbouring countries. Merchant seafaring was the only source of livelihood for many rocky, non-arable Greek islands, and the brisk Mediterranean and Black Sea trade of the 18th and 19th centuries allowed them to prosper – especially and spectacularly so during the trade embargoes of the Napoleonic Wars, which found Greek merchantmen and crews willing and able work with, or against, both belligerent sides at tremendous profit.
After the re-occupation of Spetses the settlement began to expand beyond the Kastelli region and brought about further growth in the maritime economic activities of the island.
From 1821, the island played an important role in the Greek War of Independence and was the home of celebrated war heroine Bouboulina. Spetses was the first of the Greek islands that raised the flag of Revolution the morning of 3 April (O.S.) 1821. Its fleet, consisting of merchant ships, played a key role in the struggle, both by participating in raids against the Turkish coast and the exclusion of fortresses in the Peloponnese. Particularly important is the involvement of the Spetsiote fleet in sieges of the fortresses of Nafplion and Monemvasia and naval battles of Samos (1824) and Kafireas (1825). Along with their counterparts in nearby Hydra Island, Spetsiote captains were so wealthy they had been hoarding their gold in wells, a wealth that they tapped to fund the war of liberation.
Several ships have been named after the island, including modern Hydra class frigate F 453 Spetsai, the World War 2 era destroyer Greek destroyer Spetsai (D 98) and the historic Greek battleship Spetsai.
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