The time marks and the passage of many cultures and civilizations through Kos are alive until today. From the mythological era of Hercules and King Charmilos and the Hellenistic era of Asclepius, the ancient stadium, the ancient agora and the ancient theater, until the present day with the modern infrastructures and residential development, a number of monuments and residues, evidenced in various cultures that have shaped the history and local tradition.
Dozens are the monuments that exist until today, from the Roman Empire where Kos continued its growth, mainly a number of significant statues, the Roman Odeon and the Roman House, from the Byzantine Empire, with the Christian church of St. John being the most significant, but also from the period of the Crusades and the Venetian conquerors the castles of the city of Neratzia, the castle Antimachia, the Castle of Kefalos and the castle of old Pyli. From the Ottoman monuments, the old city of Kos and the mosques throughout the city stand apart, while the modern buildings of the Italian period with the Italian architecture and the infrastructure that exist until today.
But the most striking point where visitors can see the remains of all cultures gathered in one place is at the center of Kos, at Platia Eleytherias square.
The history of Kos starts almost since the 3rd millennium BC, in the end of Neolithic period. According to historians, it is the only Dodecanese Island inhabited since then.
Kos is already present in Greek mythology. In the myth of Gigantomachy, someone finds out that the fight the broke out among the gods of Olympus and the Giants took place in the island of Kos. There, god Neptune approaches the Giant named Polybotis, picks up a part of Helona beach at throws it on Polybotis, crushing him with it.
Kos is also connected with the labors of Hercules, whom, according to the legend , was shipwrecked along with a few companions on the northern beaches of Kos , somewhere in the region of Atsas . King Eurypylus considering Hercules as a robber, chased him , causing him to flee in a mountainous place near Pyli . After his victory over the king of Kos, Heracles left for Flegra , having previously acknowledged Chalkona as the legitimate king of Kos, Nisyros , Kalymnos and some other neighboring islands. In this way, the generation of Herakleidon (a region of the island is named as such) dominated Kos, which according to tradition Hippocrates is originated. In historical times Hercules was worshiped on the island of Kos like no one else , as evidenced by the remains of magnificent temples in the city and by anecdotal details such as the name of municipality ofAntimachidon (Antimachia) taken from the name of the Son of Hercules, Antimachos.
The island was originally colonised by the Carians. The Dorians invaded it in the 11th century BC, establishing a Dorian colony with a large contingent of settlers from Epidaurus, whose Asclepius cult made their new home famous for its sanatoria. The other chief sources of the island's wealth lay in its wines and, in later days, in its silk manufacture.
Its early history–as part of the religious-political amphictyony that included Lindos, Kamiros, Ialysos, Cnidus and Halicarnassus, the Dorian Hexapolis (hexapolis means six cities in Greek). At the end of the 6th century, Kos fell under Achaemenid domination but rebelled after the Greek victory at the Battle of Mycale in 479. During the Greco-Persian Wars, before it twice expelled the Persians, it was ruled by Persian-appointed tyrants, but as a rule it seems to have been under oligarchic government. In the 5th century, it joined the Delian League, and, after the revolt of Rhodes, it served as the chief Athenian station in the south-eastern Aegean (411–407). In 366 BC, a democracy was instituted. In 366 BC, the capital was transferred from Astypalaia to the newly built town of Kos, laid out in a Hippodamian grid. After helping to weaken Athenian power, in the Social War (357-355 BC), it fell for a few years to the king Mausolus of Caria.
Proximity to the east gave the island first access to imported silk thread. Aristotle mentions silk weaving conducted by the women of the island. Silk production of garments was conducted in large factories by women slaves.
In the Hellenistic age, Kos attained the zenith of its prosperity. Its alliance was valued by the kings of Egypt, who used it as a naval outpost to oversee the Aegean. As a seat of learning, it arose as a provincial branch of the museum of Alexandria, and became a favorite resort for the education of the princes of the Ptolemaic dynasty. During the hellenistic age, there was a medical school; however, the theory that this school was founded by Hippocrates (see below) during the classical age is an unwarranted extrapolation. Among its most famous sons were the physician Hippocrates, the painter Apelles, the poets Philitas and, perhaps, Theocritus.
Diodorus Siculus (xv. 76) and Strabo (xiv. 657) describe it as a well-fortified port. Its position gave it a high importance in Aegean trade; while the island itself was rich in wines of considerable fame. Under Alexander the Great and the Egyptian Ptolemies the town developed into one of the great centers in the Aegean; Josephus quotes Strabo to the effect that Mithridates was sent to Kos to fetch the gold deposited there by the queen Cleopatra of Egypt. Herod is said to have provided an annual stipend for the benefit of prize-winners in the athletic games, and a statue was erected there to his son Herod the Tetrarch ("C. I. G." 2502 ). Paul briefly visited here according to Acts 21:1.
Except for occasional incursions by corsairs and some severe earthquakes, the island has rarely had its peace disturbed. Following the lead of its larger neighbour, Rhodes, Kos generally displayed a friendly attitude toward the Romans; in 53 AD it was made a free city. Lucian (125–180) mentions their manufacture of semi-transparent light dresses, a fashion success. The island of Kos also featured a provincial library during the Roman period. The island first became a center for learning during the Ptolemaic dynasty, and Hippocrates, Apelles, Philitas and possibly Theocritus came from the area. An inscription lists people who made contributions to build the library in the 1st century AD. One of the people responsible for the library's construction was the Kos doctor Gaiou Stertinou Xenofontos, who lived in Rome and was the personal physician of the Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero.
The bishopric of Cos was a suffragan of the metropolitan see of Rhodes. Its bishop Meliphron attended the First Council of Nicaea in 325. Eddesius was one of the minority Eastern bishops who withdrew from the Council of Sardica in about 344 and set up a rival council at Philippopolis. Iulianus went to the synod held in Constantinople in 448 in preparation for the Council of Chalcedon of 451, in which he participated as a legate of Pope Leo I, and he was a signatory of the joint letter that the bishops of the Roman province of Insulae sent in 458 to Byzantine Emperor Leo I the Thracian with regard to the killing of Proterius of Alexandria. Dorotheus took part in a synod in 518. Georgius was a participant of the Third Council of Constantinople in 680–681. Constantinus went to the Photian Council of Constantinople (879). Under Byzantine rule, apart from the participation of its bishops in councils, the island's history remains obscure. It was governed by a droungarios in the 8th/9th centuries, and seems to have acquired some importance in the 11th and 12th centuries: Nikephoros Melissenos began his uprising here, and in the middle of the 12th century, it was governed by a scion of the ruling Komnenos dynasty, Nikephoros Komnenos.
Today the metropolis of Kos remains under the direct authority of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, rather than the Church of Greece, and is also listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.
Following the Fourth Crusade, Kos passed under Genoese control, although it was retaken in ca. 1224 and kept for a while by the Empire of Nicaea. In the 1320s, Kos nominally formed part of the realm of Martino Zaccaria, but was most likely in the hands of Turkish corsairs until ca. 1337, when the Knights Hospitaller took over the island. The last Hospitaller governor of the island was Piero de Ponte.
The Ottoman Empire captured the island in early 1523. The Ottomans ruled Kos for 400 years, neglecting the island, until it was transferred to Italy in 1912 after the Italo-Turkish War. The Italians developed the infrastructures of the island, after the ruinous earthquake of 23 April 1933, which destroyed a great part of the old city and damaged many new buildings. Architect Rodolfo Petracco drew up the new city plan, transforming the old quarters into an archaeological park, and dividing the new city into a residential, an administrative, and a commercial area. In World War II, the island, as Italian possession, was part of the Axis. It was controlled by Italian troops until the Italian surrender in 1943. On that occasion, 100 Italian officers who had refused to join the Germans were executed. British and German forces then clashed for control of the island in the Battle of Kos as part of the Dodecanese Campaign, in which the Germans were victorious. German troops occupied the island until 1945, when it became a protectorate of the United Kingdom, which ceded it to Greece in 1947.
In the late 1920s about 3,700 Turks lived in Kos, slightly less than 50% of the population, settled mainly in the west part of the city.
The architecture of Kos is unique having absorbed and incorporated differing cultural influences. During the Ottoman period the town bore all the trappings of the well famed market cities. Its life was contained within the commercial road along the lines of which lived the Muslims and within the bazaar situated on the center of the Platanos square.
The town is littered with mosques and Ottoman springs. During the Italian occupation the tow was influenced by Venetian Architecture. Furthermore Kos is a specific case study of its own, having been thoroughly rebuilt according to a new Italian plan, after the earthquake of 1933.Comprised of three building belts of class buildings. The north zone, the central zone and the eastern zone. The northern wing was filled with small lodgings for the simple townspeople (case popolari). The central part of the town was composed of 2 story buildings with ground floor shops where the members of the bourgeois made their homes (palazzine).Finally the eastern zone was reserved for the Italian settlers and was characterized by small manors and gardens (villini).Further characteristics of the incursion of Italian aesthetics is the presence of extended green belts of tropical trees, and the unique public buildings designed by Italian architects.
Post earthquake architecture can be easily distinguished from pre earthquake, the former being the product of eclecticism(city hall, General Hospital Governor's Office etc) while the later being born of rationalism and the architecture of fascism ( Casa del Fascio, Public Market Casa Balilla etc).
A new architectural landscape was formed when the Dodecanese were incorporated to the Greek state of 1948.Great Hotel units were erected to accommodate the growth of tourism that caused them. The islands traditional architecture did not whether the passage of time and was replaced by modern building. Its foremost representatives are the villages of the island where the low wide faced parallel houses with their simple masonry and flat roofs, painted in bright colors, can still be seen. The interior runs along the lines habitual to the Dodecanese being frugal, clean and most of all suiting the needs of the rural family. Of note is the long wall where dishes portraits and the home's mirror were hanged. Characteristic are the island's windmills, the exarch being that of Antimachia.