The Isle of Kos

Kos is a small island in the south western corner of the Aegean Sea off the coast of Asia Minor. Kos is part of the nation of Greece and has a rich Greek heritage. At the end of the 11th century BCE Dorians landed on the island and organized the various tribes living in scattered demoi across the island under a central government in the polis of Astypalaia. The historian Herodotus tells hus in his Histories that in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE, Kos participated in a federated alliance known as the Doric Hexapolis along with Knidos, Halikarnassos, Ialysos, Kameiros and Lindos.

Kos was soon subjugated by Persia during the Persian Wars from 500-478 BCE. Kos was freed from Persian rule after the Greek victory at the battle of Mykale in 479 BCE. Kos thereby joined the Athenian Confederation, and prospered with the rest of Greece in Golden Age of Pericles. In 412 BCE the capital of Kos was moved from Astypalaia to the city of Kos-He-Merops, which was then renamed "Kos." This occured probably due to an earthquake at Astypalaia, (though this is somewhat speculative)

It was in 460 BCE that the most famous Koan, (a Koan in this case is an inhabitant of Kos, not a Zen riddle), was born. He was Hippokrates, a descendent of Asklepius. Asklepius, who was originally regarded only as a hero possessing healing powers, was by the 5th century BCE seen as the Greek god of medicine and healing. The Asklepiads (descendents of Asklepius) had a rich history on Kos, and Hippokrates followed the family profession. The Hippokratic Writings which are attributed to Hippokrates (but he only wrote a few works of them) represent the birth of medicine as a "science." Hippokrates founded a school of medicine on the island, that instructed students in medicine long after his death in 377 BCE.

Another famous Koan, Ptolomey II Philadelphus saw to it that his homeland was protected for many years following the death of Alexander the Great. The Ptolomaeic Dynasty controlled the Egyptian portion of Alexander's former empire, and thus possessed the resources to see to this. In 130 BCE Kos along with the rest of Greece fell under Roman control. In the 1st century CE, St. Paul writes abut visiting the Kos. Acts 21:1 described conversions he made on the island.

In 1204, Venice annexed the island, and renamed it Lango. 100 years later in 1304, the Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, Foulques de Villaret took control of the island. Kos remained under control of the Knights until 1523, after a series of raids by Turkish pirates following the fall of Byzantium in 1453. The island remained in Turkish hands until 1912, when Italy took control of it. After World War II, Kos along with the rest of Greece was granted independence.

Sources: (1). Course with professor Gary Reger, "Magic and Medicine in Ancient Greece," taught at Trinity College, CT (2). Website ""

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