Telos was the son of Helios and Halia, the sister of the Telchines. He came to the island in search of herbs to heal his ill mother, and later returned to found a temple to Apollo and Neptune. However, Telos (Telo or Tilo) does not appear in Greek mythology.
Pottery and stone tools discovered in Kharkhadió indicate human activity on Tilos in the early Neolithic period 8000 BC - 7000 BC, along with the large assembly of dwarf (1.20-1.60 m tall) elephant bones, carbon dated at 4000 - 7000 BC (some now in the museum). Masseti (2001) suggests coexistence of these animals with humans, possibly into the historic period.
AEGEAN BRONZE AGE
Excavation has identified Pelasgian masonry, as well as suggesting Tilos was successively dominated by Minoans, Mycenaeans and Dorians.
The island flourished during the classical era, minting its own coinage and being famed for clothing and perfumes.
Telos claims that poet Erinna (said to be Sappho's equal) was born on the island around 350 BC. Charles Anthon (1853) describes her thus: "Erinna (Ήριννα) friend & contemporary of Sappho (about 612 BC) died at 19, left behind her poems which were thought worthy to rank with those of Homer. Her poems were of the epic class; the chief of them was entitled Ήλακάτη, " The Distaff" it consisted of three hundred lines, of which only four are extant. It was written in a dialect which was a mixture of the Doric and Aeolic, and which was spoken at Rhodes, where, or in the adjacent island of Telos, Erinna was born. She is also called a Lesbian and a Mytilenean, on account of her residence in Lesbos with Sappho. There are several epigrams upon Erinna, in which her praise is celebrated, and her untimely death is lamented. Three epigrams in the Greek Anthology are ascribed to her, of which the first has the genuine air of antiquity, but the other two, addressed to Baucis, seem to be a later fabrication."
In the 7th century BC, colonists from Tilos and Lindos settled in Sicily and founded the city of Gelas.
Herodotus (484 BC – c. 425 BC) described the centuries preceding him as the golden age of Tilos.
In the 5th century BC, Tilos was a member of the First Delian League and kept its independence until the end of the Peloponnesian War.
From the turn of the 4th century BC, for the next 200 years, Tilos was subject to the Seleucid Empire, Caria and then Ptolemaic Egypt under the influence of Rhodes, until in 200 BC, the island was incorporated into the Rhodian confederacy.
The island was conquered by the Romans in 42 BC. Archaeological finds from Roman and early-Christian times demonstrate the prosperity of the island until the great earthquake of 551 AD.
Tilos followed Rhodes into the Byzantine Empire following the death of Theodosius I and was a member of the naval Theme of Samos between the 9th and 14th century.
The Knights of Saint John took control of Tilos from 1309, restoring the Byzantine castles, and building new ones in order to defend against pirate raids. It was evacuated in 1470 as the Ottomans began the Siege of Rhodes and control passed to Suleiman I in 1522 when Rhodes fell.
In 1523, Tilos was occupied by the Ottoman Empire and the island was put under the privileged administrative and tax system known as "maktou." Christian pirates, under the pretext of revenge against the Turks, pillaged the island constantly.
Ottoman rule lasted until May 12, 1912, when Italian sailors landed in the bay of Eristos during the Italo-Turkish War. Tilos then became part the Italian possession of the Isole Italiane dell'Egeo. After the Italian Armistice of September 8, 1943, Tilos was occupied by German troops, and in 1948 it joined Greece together with all the Dodecanese islands. Since 1948, the population of the island has declined rapidly, as many Tilians migrated to the United States or Australia.In June 2008, Anastassios Aliferis, the Socialist mayor of the island performed the first same-sex marriages in Greece, citing a legal loophole and defying claims of illegality by a Greek prosecutor.