Kythera, otherwise known as Cerigo, is the island of goddess Urania Aphrodite and god Eros. Located in Southern Greece, between the southern Peloponnese and Crete, it is a mountainous island with valleys leading to the sea and enchanting beaches. The island has an area of approximately 280 square kilometers. The vegetation is rich, especially in the northern and western parts of the island. The climate is Mediterranean, with enough humidity and strong winds especially in winter. In several parts of the island there are springs flowing all year round.
Kythera has a population of three thousand inhabitants, living in the many small villages that are scattered throughout the area. The island is administratively organized into a municipality and along with the community of the neighboring island of Antikythera form the Province of Kythera, which belongs to the Prefecture of Piraeus.
The people of Kythera engage in agriculture, trade and tourism. The main agricultural products are oil and the renowned quality honey. The island has expanded touristically in recent years, attracting the attention of many visitors and tourist enterprises.
Kythera has a rich cultural heritage due to the amount of diverse nations stepping on its land. The island’s monuments bear witness to history. Its architecture carries the influence of the Venetian and Cretan style, as well as that of Mani. The Historical Archive of Kythera, located in the castle of the capital, is the second most important after the one in Corfu, keeping records from the 16th century. Byzantine monuments and British buildings adorn the slopes of each peak of the island. Organized groups of archaeologists bring to light important facts and findings about the island’s glorious past. The myth of Aphrodite is still alive, among humans, the rocks and the sea.
Kythera is an ideal place with enchanting natural beauties and cultural elements that complement each other. Visitors fall in love with the island and easily feel at home. However, the island’s history has just begun!
Energetic and creative, the people of Kythera carry within them the island’s history, written by cultures and civilizations mixing of over the centuries. Wherever Kytherians go they spread their own characteristic elements and adopt others: in Izmir, Alexandria, Athens, Australia and America, in every corner of the world, they have kept their roots and continue to write their own chapter in history.
The island society is strongly characterized by the element of communication, as sailors are the messengers and each port is a lively beehive of culture and action. The local population of Kythera has been strongly influenced by the people and civilizations that passed from the island. Later on, the migration of Kytherian people and the communication of the island metropolis with urban centers opened up new horizons and enriched their culture with new ideas; it is a permanent “give & take” that continues in the new “globalized era” offering new potential to the global community of Kytherians, wherever they are. The Internet also serves this new development ideally.
The language, the expressions and the pronunciation bear the Western and Cretan influences. The strong religious and traditional element explicitly declares the relationship between the Kytherians and Byzantium. The arts, songs and dances combine a mixture of elements from Crete, the Ionian Islands and Mani with that of Kythera. Island people are open-minded; they travel around the world exchanging knowledge and experience. Kytherians are of high educational level, mainly due to the policy of the nations that passed from the island. In nowadays, Kytherians continue their cultural activities on the island, in Athens and in cities abroad. Their characteristic tendency for collective and joint action results in the operation of many clubs and organizations.
Historical facts since Venetocracy provide clear insight into the personalities of Kytherians and their excellence in the arts, politics and commerce. Due to the historical relationship between the Ionian Islands and Italy, many Kytherians studied in Italian cities. Their work and action spread throughout the Ionian Islands and the capital of Corfu but also in Italy. Iosif Kaloutsis was an intellectual who lived in Venice. He had legal knowledge, dealt with literature and had strong political activity in the Greek community of Venice. Georgios Mormoris, Antonios Fatseas and Emmanuel Stais, all of whom lived in the 19th century, belonged to the Ionian School and produced a significant literary work. Yet another example is that of Giorgio Paulini, the humanist and writer who lived in Italy. Lafcadio Hearn (Koizumi Yakumo), hailing from Kythera and Lefkada, lived in the second half of the 19th century and is Japan’s national poet. General Panos Koroneos was in action from 1843 onwards, as a Member for Kythera, Attica and Minister of War. Panagiotis Tsitsilias was an Liberal Party MP, Spiridon Stais was an MP for Harilaos Trikoupi’s party and Minister of Education, the list goes on with academic Grigorios Kassimatis and other personalities; MP Grigorios L. Kassimatis, with strong resistance activity. Giorgos Kassimatis, one of the most distinguished professors of the Law School of Athens and a writer. Painter Georgios Drizos, the engraver and lithographer Vasilios Charos, the painter and engraver Manolis Charos. Photographers Panagiotis Fatseas and Manolis Sofios, whose body of work makes a priceless cultural heritage. The poetry collection by Panos Fillis is also important-a splendid man who gave a lot to Kytherian literature. Doctors such as Ioannis Stratigos, Emmanuel Kalokairinos and Panagiotis Vardas are internationally renowned.
In nowadays a large community of academics, intellectuals and artists can boast a rich body work, with actions such as the rescue of historical data, surveys, studies, art exhibitions etc. Such a large and progressive group of people keeps history alive and has the power to move forward.
The island’s economy is based on rural life and tourism, while many locals are employed in services, trade and public organizations. Kytherians of the diaspora have distinguished themselves in new communities and their financial state is very good.
New Kytherians are renowned for their active social participation. They head into the new era, to an open and global level of creativity. A large percentage of them get academic education, while many of them have distinguished in science and business.
The Kytherians developed the arts in connection to their daily life, work, social events, tradition and customs. Cerigo has a rich tradition in music and dance. Although many elements indicate a strong relation to Cretan and the Ionian Islands’ music, there is a unique quirk in Kytherian song and dance: erotic lyrics, romantic melodies and dances that express joy, love, brotherhood. In Cerigo people dance syrtos, bourdaris, ballos, Ai Giorgis (Ionian dance) Cretan dances and European dances such as waltz, fox, tango etc. The lute and the violin are the main instruments in Kytherian music. In nowadays the younger generation tries to keep the traditional music and dance alive with the teaching provided by Kytherian organizations.
The art of painting is encountered in Byzantine churches frescoes; nowadays it is carried on by artists such as the painter Georgios Drizos, the engraver and lithographer Vasilios Charos and the painter and engraver Manolis Charos. Literature is characterized by the Ionian and Cretan School influence. Distinguished representatives of the 19th century include Iosif Kaloutsis, Georgios Mormoris, Antonios Fatseas and Emmanuel Stais, who have moved beyond the limits of Kythera and belong to the Ionian School. The main representative of modern Kytherian literature is Panos Fillis, who wrote narratives, rhymes and serenades. Last but not least, the schoolteacher Ioannis P. Kassimatis recorded historic and folklore information of the modern era and described the customs of Kythera in a narrative manner.