1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Patmos

PATMOS, an island in the east of the Aegean Sea, one of the group of the Sporades, about 28 m. S.S.W. of Samos, in 37° 20′ N. lat. and 26° 35′ E. long. Its greatest length from N. to S. is about 10 m., its greatest breadth 6 m., its circumference, owing to the winding nature of the coast, about 37 m. The island, which is volcanic, is bare and rocky throughout; the hills, of which the highest rises to about 800 ft., command magnificent views of the neighbouring sea and islands. The skill of thenatives as seamen is proverbial in the archipelago. The deeply indented coast, here falling in huge cliffs sheer into the sea, there retiring to form a beach and a harbour, is favourable to commerce, as in former times it was to piracy. Of the numerous bays and harbours the chief is that of Scala, which, running far into the land on the eastern side, divides the island into two nearly equal portions — a northern and a southern. A narrow isthmus separates Scala from the bay of Merika on the west coast. On the belt of land between the two bays, at the junction between the northern and southern half of the island, stood the ancient town. On the hill above are still to be seen the massive remains of the citadel, built partly in polygonal style. The modern town stands on a hill top in the southern half of the island. A steep paved road leads to it in about twenty minutes from the port of Scala. The town clusters at the foot of the monastery of St John, which, crowning the hill with its towers and battlements, resembles a fortress rather than a monastery. Of the 600 MSS, once possessed by the library of the monastery only 240 are left. The houses of the town are better built than those of the neighbouring islands, but the streets are narrow and winding. The population is about 4000. The port of Scala contains about 140 houses, besides some old well-built magazines and some potteries. Scattered over the island are about 300 chapels.

Patmos is mentioned first by Thucydides (iii. 33) and afterwards by Strabo and Pliny. From an inscription it has been inferred that the name was originally Patnos. Another ancient inscription seems to show that the Ionians settled there at an early date. The chief, indeed the only, title of the island to fame is that it was the place of banishment of St John the Evangelist, who according to Jerome (De scr. ill. c. 9) and others, was exiled thither under Domitian in A.D. 95, and released about eighteen months afterwards under Nerva. Here he is said to have written the Apocalypse; to the left of the road from Scala to the town, about half-way up the hill, a grotto is still shown (100Tri7Xatoj'Tijs'A7roKaXw/'«os) in which the apostle is said to have received the heavenly vision. It is reached through a small chapel dedicated to St Anne. The Acts of St John, attributed to Prochorus, narrates the miracles wrought by the apostle during his stay on the island, but, strangely enough, while describing how the Gospel was revealed to him in Patmos, it does not so much as mention the Apocalypse. During the dark ages Patmos seems to have been entirely deserted, probably on account of the pirates. In 1088 the emperor Alexis Comnenus, by a golden bull, which is still preserved, granted the island to St Christodulus for the purpose of founding a monastery. This was the origin of the monastery of St John, which now owns the greater part of the southern half of Patmos, as well as farms in Crete, Samos and other neighbouring islands. The embalmed body of the saintly founder is to be seen to this day in a side chapel of the church. The number of the monks, which amounted to over a hundred at the beginning of the 18th century, is now much reduced. The abbot (riyovnevos) has the rank of a bishop, and is subject only to the patriarch of Constantinople. There is a school in connexion with the monastery which formerly enjoyed a high reputation in the Levant. The modern town was recruited by refugees from Constantinople in 1453, and from Crete in 1669, when these places fell into the hands of the Turks. The island is subject to Turkey; the governor is the pasha of Rhodes. The population is Greek. The women are chiefly engaged in knitting cotton stockings, which, along with some pottery, form the chief exports of the island.

See Tournefort, Relation d'un voyage du Levant (Lyons, 1717); Walpole, Memoirs (relating to Turkey) (London, 1820); Ross, Reisen auf den griechischen Inseln (Stuttgart and Halle, 1840-1852); Guerin, Description de Vile de Patmos (Paris, 1856); H. F. Tozer, Islands of the Aegean, pp. 178-195.