In ancient times, 'Melos' prospered because of its great mineral wealth. It has been inhabited since the Neolithic age (7000 B.C.) and developed more rapidly than the neighbouring islands because of the black glass-like volcanic rock called obsidian which was used by the 'Melians' to make tools and weapons. Since obsidian from Melos has also been located in the Peloponnese, Crete, Cyprus and even in Egypt, it is believed that there was a flourishing export trade too.
From the beginning of the bronze age, (2800 – 1100 B.C.), the island played an extremely important part in the Cycladic world, centred at the ancient city of Philakopi, which in fact gave its name to an entire archaeological period.
With the coming of the hellenic peoples, the Dorians settled in Melos around 1000 B.C. During the same period, a new settlement was being built in the area of modern Klima. This new town developed rapidly particularly in the field of art and craft. The so called 'Melian Vases' of that period are greatly renowned.
Very little is known of Melos before the 5th century B.C. It is known however, that the Melians refused to surrender to the Persians and fought with the rest of the Greeks at the battles of Salamis and Plataea. In their attempt to remain neutral during the Peloponnesian war, they were punished by the Athenians who, in 415 B.C. put all the old people to death and sold the young men, women and children into slavery.
The history of the island, throughout the following centuries, was similar to that of the rest of the Cyclades Islands. Until 311 B.C., Melos was ruled by Macedonia and then by Egypt. The powerful fleet of the Ptolemaids ensured the freedom and safety of the seas. As a result, the island of Melos saw a phase of renewed economic growth which was also reflected culturally. Examples of this creative era are the famous statue of Venus, (at the Louvre Museum in Paris), and the imposing 2.50 metre tall statue of Poseidon (displayed in the National Museum in Athens).
During the Roman Conquest, a number of new buildings were constructed (Ancient Theatre), and Christianity made its appearance, probably during the 1st century. The Catacombs of the island, the most extensive in Greece and among the most significant in the whole Roman Empire, are undeniable proof of this.
The most important event in the Byzantine era was the destruction of the Ancient City at Klima (5th – 6th century), possibly as a result of an earthquake.
Finally, during the Venetian and Turkish rule and during the german occupation, the inhabitants fought relentlessly for their freedom.