Kastellorizo

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Kastellorizo is a small Greek island less than 5 km off the south coast of Turkey, about 110 km east of Rhodes. It is the eastermost point of Greece. It has gone by several different names in its history, including Castellorizo, Castelrosso, and its current official name Megisti ("Biggest"), an ironic choice since, at only 4 square miles in area, it is the smallest of the Dodecanese.

Kastellorizo has been populated since the Neolithic Age. It was colonised by the Dorians and given the name "Megisti" probably because it is the largest of the islands in the immediate area. The god Apollo was worshiped here and the ruins of his temple can still be seen. It was an ally of Athens and was occupied by the Persians. Later, it fell under the rule of neighbouring Rhodes.

Kastellorizo was part of the Byzantine Empire until it was taken, in 1306, by the Knights of St. John. It was then that Megisti acquired the name "Kastellorizo".

In the 15th century it fell victim, in succession, to the Egyptians, the Catalans, the Neapolitans, the Turks and, in 1498 again the Neapolitans. In 1523, it was taken by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. The Venetians occupied it between 1570 and 1659 at which time it was re-taken by the Turks.

During the First Balkan War, in 1913, the locals rebelled with the aid of Cretan volunteers and defeated the small Turkish garrison. However, their cries for Enosis (union) with mother Greece went unheeded. The French occupied it briefly during World War I before selling it to the Italians who had occupied the rest of the Dodecanese. During the 1930s it was a stopover for the planes of Alitalia and Air France.

When Italy capitulated to the Allies in 1943, the island was occupied by British commandos until the middle of 1944, when German forces took over. During the British departure, a fuel dump caught fire and spread to an adjacent ammo dump, whose detonation destroyed half of the homes on the island.

Kastellorizo became part of Greece in 1947 along with the rest of the Dodecanese. The population, once estimated at 15,000 in 1900, has dwindled to around 250, heavily subsidized so as to forestall territorial claims by Turkey. Much of the population emigrated to Australia, where they are known as "Kassies".

There is a single town on the island, also named Kastellorizo.

The island has been more visited in recent years, by tourists looking for an isolated Dodecanese island, also thanks to the reference in the Oscar winning movie "Mediterraneo" by Gabriele Salvatores.

Postage stamps

In 1920, the French occupation forces issued stamps of the French Offices in Turkey overprinted O.N.F. / Castellorizo, then with B.N.F. / CASTELLORIZO and then O F / CASTELLORISO oriented vertically. All of these overprints are uncommon, with prices ranging from US$10 up to over US$500 for some types.

Starting in 1922, the Italians overprinted their own stamps with CASTELROSSO. In 1923 they issued a series of five stamps depicting a map of the island and an Italian flag, then went back to more overprints on Italian stamps, with a regular issue in 1924, the Ferrucci issue in 1930, and the Garibaldi issue of 1932. A few types are readily available unused and cost under US$1, but the others, and all used copies, are in the US$5-$10 range.

The Isle of Ro

Southwest of Kastellorizo is the tiny isle of Ro known because of Despina Achladiotou the famous "Lady of Ro".


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