According to Greek mythology, the young Zeus was raised in a cave on Mt. Zas ("Zas" meaning "Zeus").
Homer mentions "Dia"; literally the sacred island "of the Goddess".
Karl Kerenyi explains: “This name, Dia, which means 'heavenly' or 'divine', was applied to several small craggy islands in our [Aegean] sea, all of them lying close to larger islands, such as Crete or Naxos. The name "Dia" was even transferred to the island of Naxos itself, since it was more widely supposed than any other to have been the nuptial isle of Dionysus.”
One legend has it that in the Heroic Age before the Trojan War, Theseus abandoned the princess Ariadne of Crete on this island after she helped him kill the Minotaur and escape from the Labyrinth. Dionysus (god of wine, festivities, and the primal energy of life) who was the protector of the island, met Ariadne and fell in love with her. But eventually Ariadne, unable to bear her separation from Theseus, either killed herself (according to the Athenians), or ascended to heaven (as the older versions had it).
The Naxos portion of the Ariadne myth is also told in the Richard Strauss opera "Ariadne auf Naxos".
The giant brothers Otus and Ephialtes figure in at least two Naxos myths: in one, Artemis bought the abandonment of a siege they laid against the gods, by offering to live on Naxos as Otus's lover; in another, the brothers had actually settled Naxos.
Zas Cave, inhabited during the Neolithic era, contained objects of stone from Melos and copper objects including a dagger and gold sheet. The presence of gold and other objects within the cave indicated to researchers the status of the inhabitant.
Emery was sourced during the time to other islands.
- CLASSICAL ERA AND GRECO PERSIAN WARS
During the 8th and 7th centuries BC, Naxos dominated commerce in the Cyclades.
Naxos was the first Greek city-state to attempt to leave the Delian League circa 476 BC; Athens quickly squashed the notion and forcibly removed all military naval vessels from the island's control. Athens then demanded all future payments from Naxos in the form of gold rather than military aid.
Herodotus describes Naxos circa 500 BC as the most prosperous Greek island.
In 502 BC, an unsuccessful attack on Naxos by Persian forces led several prominent men in the Greek cities of Ionia to rebel against the Persian Empire in the Ionian Revolt, and then to the Persian War between Greece and Persia.
Under the Byzantine Empire, Naxos was part of the thema of the Aegean Sea, which was established in the mid-9th century.
In the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade, with a Latin Emperor under the influence of the Venetians established at Constantinople, the Venetian Marco Sanudo conquered the island and soon captured the rest of the islands of the Cyclades.
Of all the islands, only on Naxos was some opposition to Sanudo: a group of Genoese pirates had occupied the castle between the end of Byzantine rule and Sanudo's arrival. Sanudo burnt his galleys "and bade his companions to conquer or die."
The pirates surrendered the castle after a five weeks' siege.
Naxos became the seat of Sanudo's realm, which he ruled with the title of Duke of Naxia, or Duke of the Archipelago.
Twenty-one dukes in two dynasties ruled the Archipelago, until 1566.
Venetian rule continued in scattered islands of the Aegean until 1714.
Under Venetian rule, the island was called by its Italian name, Nasso.
- OTTOMAN CONTROL (1564–1821)
The Ottoman administration remained essentially in the hands of the Venetians; the Porte's concern was satisfied by the returns of taxes. Very few Turks ever settled on Naxos, and Turkish influence on the island was slight.
Under Ottoman rule the island was known in Turkish: Nakşa.
Ottoman sovereignty lasted until 1821, when the islands revolted.
Naxos finally became a member of the Greek state in 1832.
Edited by: Yallou