The first inhabitants of Naxos are thought to have been Thracians, who came to the island un≠der their leader Boutes. son of Boreas, along with Iphimedia and Koronida, two of the Bacchae, whom Boutes pursued to Thessaly and carried off for his companions. The Thracians were followed by the Carians, led by Naxos, who gave his name to the island. Evidence attesting to the existence of an ad≠vanced settlement on the island goes back to the 4th millennium BC and the late Neolithic period.
The Cycladic civilization flourished during the 3rd millennium BC. Settlement remains brought to light by archaeological excavations attest to a very advanced social organization on the island at this period, and masterpieces of art and technology have been discovered in the cemeteries of Naxos, the most characteristic of them being the famous marble Cycladic figurines.
In the 2nd millennium BC. the Cycladic civilization was confronted first with the power of the Minoan empire and later - after 1400 BC and the de≠cline of Minoan power - by the steady expansion of the Mycenaean centers. Naxos was converted into a staging post serving the Mycenaean expansion to the Middle East, and the population was moved to the north-west part of the island, opposite mainland Greece, from the area in the east of Naxos that it had occupied during the previous millennium.
In the 7th century there were two distinct social classes, the "fat men" - that is the wealthy nobles who lived on the site of the modern Kastro in Chora and at other centers on the island, and the ordinary people. At this period. Naxos enjoyed friendly relations with Santorini, and colonized Arkesine (and possibly also Aigiale) on Amorgos. At the same time, the Naxians supported similar expansionist ambitions of other city-states, including Chalkis, which accepted the aid of a fleet from Naxos in 734 BC for a colonizing mission to the West; in return, the colony was given the name Naxos (in Sicily).
This period is also characterized by disputes between the Naxians and the people of Erythrai, Miletos. and Paros. Naxos also had direct connections with the religious centre on Delos. This centre was exploited almost exclusively by the Naxians, who enjoyed a special relationship with the god Apollo. Outstanding sculptures were dedicated by them in his honour at Delphi and all the sanctuaries of the god. The manifest economic prosperity of the island at this period, too, contributed to the development of the arts. Sculpture was particularly advanced, since the island was a source of marble, in which artists and simple marble-engravers carved masterpieces; emery, which was used to smooth the surfaces of the sculptures after they were finished, is also found on the island.
It would be no exaggeration to describe Naxos at this period as a large art studio, in which were produced works like the statue of Artemis in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the Naxian kouroi on Santorini in the late 7th century BC, the majestic lions and the House of the Nax-ians on Delos, the marble temple at Palatia on Naxos, etc.
As excavation on the island proceeds, it re≠veals interesting monuments such as the temple of Demeter at Gyroula, an important example of Ionian architecture, and the temple at Iria, of note because of the transition from granite to marble.
In 540 BC, a tyranny was installed on the island at the instigation of Lygdamis, a Naxian noble, and Peisistratos. In 524 BC, this regime was overthrown by the Spartans, and in 506 BC, Naxos success≠fully withstood a four months' siege by Aristagoras of Miletos. The Persians attacked Naxos in 490 BC: the Naxians, for some unknown reason, did not of≠fer any strong resistance, and the island suffered enormous damage and destruction.
After the Persian Wars, the Naxians sided with the Athenians, and when Athenian hegemony be≠gan to wane, the island passed under the control of the Spartans. Later it came under the influence of the Ptolemies of Egypt, the Macedonians and the Rhodians. Relations between Naxos and Rhodes stemmed to some extent from the fact that Rhodes was the headquarters of the Roman province of which Naxos became part after the Romans con≠quered the island (41 BC).
In the Early Christian period, too, Naxos was as≠signed to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Rhodes. The Byzantine period was responsible for the erec≠tion on the island of a large number of beautiful churches, and the plain of Sangri is regarded as a little Mystras. This is one of the two main centers of Byzantine civilization on the island, the other being in the area of Tragaia - Apano Kastro.
Naxos was promoted in 1083 from headquarters of a bishopric to that of a metropolitan see, an indication of the importance of the island in the Byzantine period.
In 1207, the Franks came to the island under Marco Sanudo, who conquered the Cyclades and founded the Duchy of the Aegean, of which Naxos was made headquarters. Remains of this period are Sanudo's castle at Chora, built on the site of the ancient acropolis, and also the imposing towers at various points of the island, which were occupied by Prankish officials at this period. The Duchy of Naxos continued to be a power of incalculable strength until 1564.
The Frankish period was succeeded by the period of Turkish rule, though this took an unusual form in the case of Naxos. Here, the Franks continued to exercise effective rule, because Turkish policy was interested only in collecting taxes, while fear of the pirates who were the scourge of the Cyclades, and who preyed mainly on the Turkish population, discouraged Turks from settling permanently on the island. The foundation of many churches and schools on Naxos at this period may well have been the result of this Turkish policy. Among the schools created were the Ursuline School and the Commercial School at Kastro, at which the great Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis was a pupil.
There were frequent uprisings on Naxos, against feudalism and against the Turks. The revolutionary activity against the Turks was coordinated by the Politis family based on the Tower of Markos Politis at Akadimoi in the nTragaia basin, where he fought against the Franks from 1770 to 1802, in which year the uprising was suppressed on the orders of the captain-pasha of Mytlini, Kunzuhi Husein, after persecution and defamation by the Franks. Insurrectionary activity was resumed by Michalakis Markopolitis, a member of the Philiki Etaira, who proclaimed the Greek Uprising on 6 May 1821. Naxos, like the rest of the Cyclades, was incorporated into the Greek state as soon as it was founded, in accordance with a protocol signed on 3 February 1830.