Amorgos was known in antiquity by the names Pancale, Psychia, Karcesia and Melania. According to the few written resources there were three cities on the island: Aegiale, Arcesine and ancient Minoa. Archaeological finds suggest that the island had been inhabited by the late 5th BC millennium, the Late Neolithic Age.
Amorgos was one of the most important centers of the Cycladic Civilization: the Cycladic figurines made of white marble found in Paros and Naxos were originally made in Amorgos. The advantage of its geographical position and the naturally big and safe harbor of Katapola, together with the other sheltered bays of the island, certainly played an important role to establishing Amorgos as a great political and cultural centre.
The island’s three cities join A Athenian League in 434 BC, under the common name of Amorgians, and they develop close relationships with other islands, such as Paros, Naxos and Samos, as well as with Athens. Around that time the Tower of Agia Triada and the fort of Arcesine are constructed. Amorgos’ involvement in B Athenian League in 357 BC has also been documented in inscriptions.
The successions on the domination of the Aegean following one after another are also documented in the numerous inscriptions found on the island: after the battle of Amorgos in 322 BC and the destruction of the Athenian fleet, control of the Aegean passes on to the Macedonians. By the end of the second BC century, sovereignty is won over by the Ptolemies, the Samians, the Rhodians and the Romans. The inscriptions also give us useful information on the economic situation, the institutions on the island and the establishment of outlanders in the three cities: of Samians in Minoa, Naxians in Arcesine and Miletians in Aegiale.
During the Roman period (1st BC - 4th AD centuries) the island falls first under the newly created Roman province of Asia, and later under the Province of the Islands, whose capital is Rhodes. However, the advantageous location of the island and the safe haven of Katapola ensure its cultural development.
In the fourth century AD the gradual population movement from the three cities to the coast and inland was completed. In 1837 the Bavarian Hellenist and first Professor of Archaeology at the University of Athens Ludwig Ross (1806- 1859) visited Amorgos and recognized the ruins as belonging to the three ancient cities. Since then, however, amateur excavations that followed and the use of stones belonging to the ancient buildings to construct newer dwellings have compromised the ruins. However, the systematic archaeological investigation conducted by Lila Marangos, Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Ioannina, revealed important new information on the evolution of Amorgos over the centuries, as reflected in an exceptional way in her publications Amorgos I - The City, the Port and the Major Region and Amorgos II - The Ancient Towers.
There is plenty of evidence, mostly material, testifying on the history of Amorgos from the 4th century AD until the modern times. The reign of Constantine the Great was a turning point regarding religion. The Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance throughout the Roman Empire, together with the emperor’s own religious beliefs and the fact the he acted as a patron of the Christian Church, established Christianity as the official religion of the state. This was followed by both the transformation of ancient religious temples into Christian churches, as exemplified by the church of Panagia Katapoliani and also the building of new Christian churches. During the early Byzantine period (7th-9th century), under the impact of Arabic and Persian invasions, and the seizure of Crete by the Saracens, the Amorgians left the coast and settled in the hinterland. It is in this period that the residential core of Chora, or the Castle, as it was until recently called, developed. The prevalent event of the Middle Byzantine period (late 9th century - 1204) was the construction of the Monastery of the Chossoviotissa.
In 1207 the island was conquered by the Venetians (1207-1269, 1296-1537) and Amorgos was subject to the Duchy of Naxos, except for the period 1269-1296 during which it fell under the Emperor of Nicaea John Ducas Vatatzes. During the Venetian domination the fortifications of Chora, the seat of the Venetian rulers, were reinforced with loopholes. The paved squares, still called "Loza" today (Latin. Loggia) were created at that time, too, and the Tower Gavras, which today houses the archaeological collection, was built.
During the Turkish domination (1537-1824), Amorgos’ economy thrived, which can be partly explained by the complete absence of Turks on the island. The Monastery of the Chossoviotissa played a very important role at the time. Its prosperity is testified by patriarchal sigillia recognizing its prerogatives, and the renovations of many churches bear witness to the flourishing of ecclesiastical architecture.
Amorgos joined the Greek Revolution of 1821 immediately and in 1822 it became the seat of an Eparcheion (a courthouse) of the New Greek State, which was still being formed. Until the official proclamation of independence in 1834, the municipal system of administration practiced during the Ottoman domination was replaced by the Council of Elders. In 1829, before the proclamation of independence, Scholarcheion, one of the first Greek schools, was founded in Chora, with expenses of the Monastery.
n the late 19th century a great emigration wave from Amorgos to Syros, Athens, Alexandria (Egypt), and the USA, which occurred again after the Second World War, engendered an important reduction of the permanent population. This fact, together with the drought that was brought about by the earthquake of 1956, when the wells dried up, as the water changed course, contributed to the decline of agriculture on the island.
Amorgos today is an island that, despite its mild tourist development has managed to keep intact its wonderful natural scenery. The resident population amounts to 1859 people according to the census of 2001. The main sources of livelihood are agriculture, fishing and tourism. Many traditional corners, neighborhoods and districts, like Katapola, Potamos, Langada, Kato Meria and Chora, have preserved their traditional character, the paved alleys, churches and chapels, municipal wells and windmills, all examples of anonymous architecture from a long history of Byzantine, Venetian, Ottoman, and modern Greek influences.