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Prefecture: Cyclades
Province: Milos (capital)
Seat: Milos

37.738/37°44'20" N lat.
24.435/24°25'11" E long
Population: (2001)
 - Total
 - Density
 - Rank

about 32/km²

Aegean Sea
2 m (centre)
748 m
Number of towns,
villages and settlements:
Postal code: 84800; 84801
Area/distance code: +30-22870-
Municipal code: -
Car designation: EP
3-letter abbreviation: MIL (Milos)
Name of inhabitants: Milian; Melian sing.
-s pl.

Milos (also Melos, and before the Athenian genocide Malos Greek: Μήλος, not related to the Modern Greek word "μήλο" = "milo" for apple which has the same spelling except for the trailing sigma) is a volcanic island in the Aegean Sea.


Milos is the southwesternmost island in the Cyclades group, 120 km (75 miles) due east from the coast of Laconia. From east to west it measures about 23 km (14 mi), from north to south 13 km, and its area is estimated at 151 sq. km. (52 square miles). The greater portion is rugged and hilly, culminating in Mount Profitis Elias 748 m (2454 ft) in the west. Like the rest of the cluster, the island is of volcanic origin, with tuff, trachyte and obsidian among its ordinary rocks. The natural harbour, which, with a depth diminishing from 70 to 30 fathoms (130 to 55 m), strikes in from the north west so as to cut the island into two fairly equal portions, with an isthmus not more than 18 km (11 miles) broad, is the hollow of the principal crater. In one of the caves on the south coast the heat is still great, and on the eastern shore of the harbour there are hot sulphurous springs.

Antimelos or Antimilos, 13 miles (20 km) north-west of Milos, is an uninhabited mass of trachyte, often called Erimomilos (Desert Milos). Kimolos, or Argentiera, 1.6 km (1 mi) to the north-east, was famous in antiquity for its figs and fuller's earth, and contained a considerable city, the remains of which cover the cliff of St. Andrew's. Polinos, Polybos or Polivo (anc. Polyaegos) lies 2 km south-east of Kimolos. It was the subject of dispute between the Milians and Kimolians. It has long been almost uninhabited.

Natural resources

Bentonite, perlite, pozzolan and minor quantities of kaolin are mined in Milos and sold all over the world. In the past, baryte, sulfur, millstones and gypsum were also mined. In ancient times the alum of Milos was reckoned next to that of Egypt (Pliny xxxv. 15 [52]). The Melian earth was employed as a pigment by ancient artists. Milos was a source of obsidian during the neolithic ages for the Aegean and Mediterranean. Orange, olive, cypress and arbutus trees grow throughout the island, which, however, is too dry to have any profusion of vegetation. The vine, the cotton plant and barley are the main objects of cultivation.

Villages, towns and notable landmarks

The harbour town is Adamas; from this there is an ascent to the plateau above the harbour, on which are situated Plaka, the chief town, and Kastro, rising on a hill above it, and other villages. The ancient town of Melos was nearer to the entrance of the harbour than Adamas, and occupied the slope between the village of Tripiti and the landing-place at Klima. Here is a theatre of Roman date and some remains of town walls and other buildings, one with a fine mosaic excavated by the British school at Athens in 1896. Numerous fine works of art have been found on this site, notably the Venus de Milo in the Louvre, the Asclepius in the British Museum, and the Poseidon and an archaic Apollo in Athens. Other villages includes Triovasalos, Pera Triovasalos, Plakes, Pollonia and Zefyria.


The position of Milos, between Greece and Crete, and its possession of obsidian, made it an important centre of early Aegean civilization. At the well-known Bronze Age site of Phylakopi, the chief settlement, on the north-east coast. Excavations of the British school revealed a Minoan palace and a town wall. Part of the site has been washed away by the sea. The antiquities found were of three main periods, all preceding the Mycenean age of Greece. Much pottery was found, including examples of a peculiar style, with decorative designs, mostly floral, and also considerable deposits of obsidian. There are some traditions of a Phoenician occupation of Milos.

In historical times the island was occupied by Dorians from Laconia. In the 6th century BC it again produced a remarkable series of vases, of large size, with mythological subjects and orientalizing ornamentation, and also a series of terra-cotta reliefs.

Though Milos inhabitants sent a contingent to the Greek fleet at Salamis Island, it held aloof from the Delian League, and sought to remain neutral during the Peloponnesian War. But in 415 BC the Athenians, having attacked the island and compelled the Milians to surrender, slew all the men capable of bearing arms, made slaves of the women and children, and introduced 500 Athenian colonists. Lysander restored the island to its Dorian possessors, but it never recovered its former prosperity.

There were many Jewish settlers in Milos in the beginning of the Christian era, and Christianity was introduced early. During the "Frankish" period the island formed part of the duchy of Naxos, except for the few years (1341-1383) when it was a separate lordship under Marco Sanudo and his daughter.

Today's population, about 4700, is considerably less than it was in 1907 (then 4,864 in the commune, 12,774 in the province).

Historical population

Year Island population Change Density
1907 17,638 - -/km²
1981 - - -/km²
1991 4,390 - about 27/km²
2001 4,771 - 32/km²


See Leycester, "The Volcanic Group of Milo, Anti-Milo, &c.," in Jour. Roy. Geog. Soc. (1852); Tournefort, Voyage; Leake, Northern Greece, iii.; Prokesch von Osten, Denkwiirdigkeiten, &c.; Bursian, Geog. von Griechenland, ii.; Journ. Hell. Stud, xvi., xviL, xviii.; Excavations at Phylakopi; Inscr. grace, xii. iii. 197 sqq.; on coins found in 1909, see Jameson in Rev. Num. 1909; 188 sqq.

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