As it is well-known, the island of Ikaria, just as the sea which surrounds it, owe their name to the mythical hero Ikaros, son of the architect Daedalos, who, flying along with his father from Crete to Athens, fell and drowned close to the island. Prior to that, the island was known by the names Doliche, Makris, Ichthioessa and Anemoessa. Recently, Th. Katsaros, Professor of Archaeology, discovered the alleged tomb of Ikaros at Faros, an ancient excavation in this way linking mythology to historical fact.|
The Ikarian writer Eparchidis wrote the history of Ikaria but few fragments have been found. The first reference to Ikaria is that of Strabo, according to which, people of Miletus "co-settled" in Ikaria and also colonized the Black Sea and the West Mediterranean. Earlier on, the great divinity of the Ikarians was Dionysos who was connected to the cultivation of the vine (Pramnian wine is mentioned in Homer's epics).
Ikarios of Attica is also linked to the cultivation of the vine and appears in the mosaic of "Οινοπίοντες", the "wine-drinkers". The area of Kampos, as it is called today, was known as "Oine" or "Oinoe". The other divinity was Artemis in the area of Nas, which today belongs to the Municipality of Raches. Many historical pieces from Classical, Hellenistic and Byzantine times are exhibited in the Museum of Kampos. Many samples of capitals in blue granite with bas-relief goat heads have also been preserved in Ikaria; the goat being the dominant domestic animal of the island and known as "ρασκό ριφάκι" (the wild, free-grazing goat).
The Ikarians were also members of the Athenian Alliance. Ikarian seamen in the fleet of Alexander the Great persuaded him to name "Ikaria" one of the seventeen islands in the Persian Gulf.
During the Byzantine period, Ikaria was placed under the Genoese Maona of Chios. The resistance of the Ikarians is referred as: "The wealthy left the island and went to Chios, the Crimea and Africa (Egypt), whereas the poor took to the hills". Following this, Ikarians resisted Turkish servitude by throwing the first Turkish agha over a cliff in his palanquin "with its bells ringing", taking on full responsibility for their act, and saying: "We all did it, Master".
During the liberation war of 1821, the Ikarians, initiated into the Filiki Eteria, abolished Turkish rule and accepted refugees from Chios. Again in 1912, Ikarians, on their own initiative, expelled the Turkish guard and proclaimed the island's independence and Ikaria administered itself as a free state under its own constitution for five months by a Revolutionary Committee, until it joined Greece. In 1945, Ikaria, again under its own strength, freed itself from Italian domination.
The Ikarian dialect, still spoken by its residents, presents a particular linguistic, historical and anthropological interest.
The Ikarian dance, from a musical standpoint, is unique in the Greek realm. Its variations look like the "Kalamatiano" (a kind of "syrtos" dance from southern Greece) and originates from antiquity, in the ancient "χόρειο άλογο" dance. The traditional songs, such as "Ambelokoutsoura", in iambic 15-syllable metre, are what has been saved as a specimen of dactylic metre and of the music we come across in Homer. The musical instruments used by Ikarian musicians are the lyra, the violin and the tsabounofylaka (island bagpipes).
Apart from the traditional songs, there are the epics (rives), which refer to the history of Ikaria. The Riva of the Castle of Koskina (Kossikia, Mesaria) in three variations is about the taking over of the Castle by the Genoese, and the Riva of Lagada about the rebuttal of the pirates by the inhabitants.
Rives and traditional songs are sung at feasts and traditional weddings. All the residents of the village are invited to the weddings where wild goat with rice "gamopilafo" is served and "Kariotikos" is danced.