Archaeological research has documented human settlement on the island of Milos as early as the Mesolithic period (second half of the 8th millennium BC). During the Neolithic period was mining and export of the famous obsidian of Milos. It is a hard volcanic rock with sharp edges used in Neolithic times for making tools and weapons.
The findings in Halakas, in Pilo and in Phylakopi are from the early Bronze Age (3300-2000 BC). The latter is regarded by archaeologists as one of the most important prehistoric settlements of the Aegean. It probably began to be organized around 2,200 BC; later it acquired walls and was built in blocks with streets and a sewer net. It must have been rebuilt around 1550 BC to be destroyed in 1400 BC and to be permanently abandoned round 1100 BC. The archaeologists distinguish strong Minoan influence in the third residential period, while in the fourth Mycenaean influences dominate.
The inhabitants of Milos opposed resistance to the Persians with their participation in the naval battle of Salamis (480 BC). The Peloponnesian War, however, caused the total destruction of the island, which though keeping neutral position, was well disposed towards the Spartans because of Dorian origin. The Athenians wanted to force residents to join their side. After a first unsuccessful attempt, the Athenian fleet in 416 BC with 30 ships and 3020 men besieged the island. Thucydides has preserved the proud response of the population of the island to calls of the Athenians for negotiation: “The city has been free for 700 years and we can not deprive it of the freedom”. Despite the heroic resistance of the inhabitants, the city of Milos was conquered and the Athenians massacred all the male population. Women and children were sold as slaves and 500 Athenians settled on the island. Some of the residents returned to the island with the help of Lysander, after the defeat of the Athenians at Aegospotami (405 BC). Since ancient times a famous saying has survived: “limo Milio” referring to the famine suffered by population of the island during the siege by the Athenians.
Milos followed the historical fate of the rest of the Cyclades. After the Macedonians, it was the turn of the Romans who annexed it in their empire in 27 BC.
The Roman physicist, philosopher and historian Pliny refers to the useful to medicine minerals of the island. He reports the alum of Milos, liquid and solid, considered among the best medicines. High quality sulphur and a kind of white colour by the name “Milinon” manufactured on the island. Pliny praises and therapeutic properties of the thermal waters of the island which had a sweet taste.
The early presence of Christianity on the island is attested by the early Christian catacombs of the island, which, according to the archaeologists are the only catacombs in the Greek area. The entrance to the catacombs is located in the village Tripiti, close to the area where there was the ancient market of the town of Milos.
During the Byzantine period itwas part of the «Province of the Islands» (395-565) and later of the Theme of the Aegean Sea, which had Samos as its capital. In 1207 it was under the dominance of Marco Sanudo, as part of the Duchy of the Aegean Sea which had Naxos as a capital. John Sanudo, 6th Duke of the Aegean Sea, ceded the island to his brother Mark, who afterwards gave it as dowry to his daughter Fiorentza who married Francesco Crispo. The latter, having murdered the Duke Nicholas dale Carceri, was proclaimed duke of the Archipelago and annexed Milos. In the local history of the island of that time the raid of the Turkish pirate Karadondis who looted the island, destroyed the castle and took 160 prisoners is recorded. The Ottoman fleet with Hayreddin Barbarossa in 1537 occupied Milos and made the house of Crispopay tribute to the Sultan. From 1566 to 1579 the island had been ceded by the Ottomans to the Jew Joseph Nasi.
An interesting historical fact is the occupation of the island in 1677 from the Greek pirate John Kapsis, who proclaimed himself its ruler. However, three years later, the Turks managed to capture him using dishonest means; they took him to the Constantinople and hanged him. Throughout this period the island was associated with piracy, since in the safe harbour mainly French pirates found refuge. Interesting descriptions of their life and times have been rescued and as a result Milos is considered the commercial centre of pirate loot.
It is characteristic that the Latins who lived here had their own bishop. When there was a need to build the church of the Capuchin monks the King of France and the multinational pirates contributed with 1000 scudi.
Milos participated in the Struggle of 1821 and in 1830 it became together with the rest of Cyclades a province of the newly formed Greek Kingdom.
The island is related to the famous statue of Aphrodite of Milo exposed in the Louvre Museum. It is a statue of the second century BC, attributed to a sculptor from Asia Minor, and it embodies the ideal of classical beauty in the late Hellenistic period. It has a height of 2.11 meters and it weighs 900 kg. The statue represents a half-naked female figure and it was found on April 8th 1820 by a resident of the island. The captain of a French warship anchored in the island, in consultation with the consul of France on the island and through the actions of the French ambassador to the Sublime Porte, bought the statue and offered it to King Louis XVIII.