The Ionians built three ancient cities on Mykonos, the earliest dating from 2000 BC. One was located on the isthmus south of Hora, one at Dimastos, and the third near Palaiokastro, near Panormous.
They were all destroyed during a war between the Romans and the Pontians (Greeks from the southeast end of the Black Sea), though rebuilt during Byzantine times. Like most of the Cycladic islands, Mykonos was ruled by the Venetians for a period; during the 13th to 14th century it was a dependency of the Duchy of Naxos , ruled by the Venetian duke, Marco Sanudo, and remained in Venetian hands until the early 18th century. Roman Catholicism was introduced by the Venetian rulers, who also built warehouses used by merchants from Venice and Marseilles. Later, Mykonos fell prey to the notorious pirate, Barbarossa, and became, in fact, a pirate island, where the families of pirates settled and ran a profitable trade, sending their stolen booty to merchants in Europe. The stiff winds that plagued the coasts of Mykonos made it difficult for ships to land there, but a perfect place for pirate ships to shelter in secluded inlets, the pirates including both Berbers and Christians.
During the Greek War of Independence, which began in 1821, the island's ships were given over to the cause. A local woman, Manto Mavrogenous, helped finance the revolution with her personal fortune, and wrote a letter entitled 'To the Women of Paris' to gain support for the Greek revolution. She equipped two ships at her own expense, which repulsed some 100 Algerian Berbers. A bust of this woman, rich and young at the time of the revolution she so generously supported, is seen in the main square in Hora. She died old and poor on the island of Paros.
Hora is situated on the west coast of the island on a curving bay ending in a low promontory, a backed by hills in the form of an amphitheater. It is often described as the archetypal Cycladic village, with its white washed houses, and mazes of narrow lanes, the sea front with fisherman's huts (and fishermen).
The houses are heavily whitewashed, softening their otherwise sharp lines, and have small balconies with flowers, outer stairways, inner courtyards shaded by trees. There are little alleys with arches or vaults, nice little squares, sometimes shaded by carob, pepper, or almond trees, bougainvillea and hibiscus on the high white walls where little paths meander. There are literally hundreds of chapels and shrines churches (the locals claim 400, though some are very tiny) in the main town of Mykonos. Many were built as votive offerings by sailors and many financed by the proceeds of piracy, as well as from fishing; the domes are painted a variety of colors.