The island took its name by the hero Kéo, son of god Apollo and the nymph Rodoéssi. His presence on the island is estimated around the 11th century BC. Earlier to that, the island was named Ydroúsa (=watery), due to its many wells, rivers and dense vegetation.
According to mythology, when its name was still Ydroúsa, the island was inhabited by nymphs and when they left (chased by a mythical lion), Sirius, the brightest star on the sky, burned all of the Cyclades and Kéa transformed to a waterless, dry land. The inhabitants prayed to god Apollo to help them and he sent his son Aristaío, who organized the island, taught the villagers the art of agriculture and livestock and brought the meltemi wind, so that the islanders would cool off in the heat of the summer.
Archaeological findings revealed signs of settlements in the peninsula of Agía Eiríni and Vourkári village, dating from the Neolithic Era. In the following centuries, the island was inhabited by Káres, Minoans from Crete and then Iones in the 11th century BC. The latter, founded the cities of Ioulís, Karthía, Korissós and Poiiéssa, brought the economic growth and made the island known to the rest of the Hellenic world, due to the excellent political system of its society, for which later the great philosopher Aristotle wrote of.
The legislator Aristeídis, known as the “righteous Aristeidis”, originated from Kéa and was renowned to all of Hellas for the strict but practical laws he wrote.
After the Classical Years, Kéa enters the Athenian Alliance and up until the end of the Roman Empire (3rd century AD), follows the general course of history of Athens.
During the Byzantine years, the island suffers from continuous piratical raids and its inhabitants gradually become sparse. In the 13th century AD, the Byzantine historian Nikítas Akominátos visited the island and writes that life is scarce, only few agricultural settlements and that there are still bears and wild boars on the island.
In 1789, Lábros Katsónis brings the Hellenic fleet inside the natural harbour of Ágios Nikólaos and fortifies the bay. After the sea battle of Ándros with the Turks, the latter blockade Lábros Katsónis inside the bay, however, together with his wife from Kéa, he escapes with a boat, crossing the narrower point of the northern peninsula by land. That narrow point is even today called “Lábros strait”.
Thirty years later, in the Hellenic Wars of Independence, Kéa took an active part and in 1830 was freed.
Ioulís (Kéa, Chóra): The capital of the island, built on the side of a hill, in the place of the ancient Ioulída. Visit the archaeological museum, with findings from the prehistoric settlements, the historic years and parts of the temple of the ancient city of Karthaía (the Koúros of Kéa is located in the National Archaeological of Athens).
There are many temples in Kéa, like the temple of Apollo Pýthios, the temple of Athena etc. Visit the castle of Agía Marína (Hellenistic Era 3rd – 1st century BC.) and the monastery of Panagía Kastrianí. Also, swim in one of the many sandy beaches of the island like Otziá, Spathí, Orkós etc.