During antiquity, the name of the island was Ydréa (in ancient Greek, ýdor was the word for water) which leads to the belief that there were many waters on the island (wells, lakes etc.). Up until the beginning of the 20th century, indeed there have been numerous reports on the several wells used by the locals, however today the watering of the island is done via a water tanker ship.
Excavations have revealed life on Ýdra since the prehistoric years. In the Classical Era (9th – 6th century BC.), the island was colonized by Samians in exile which however left soon after and went to Crete, where they founded the city of Kydonía. In the later years, at times, Ýdra was colonized by people from Troizína or other Peloponnesians, but in essence the island is one of the very few examples in Hellenic history whose peak was not reached in the ancient times but at the time of the Turkish rule!
Around the middle of the 15th century AD, the green (full of pine trees) island was colonized by Albanians, within the larger initiative of the Byzantine Empire to increase the population of Peloponnese. When the Turks conquered Peloponnese, they did not bother themselves with the small island so its inhabitants were free to occupy in agriculture, fishing and sea commerce (and keep all the profits, whereas their cousins on the mainland lived on fumes). Soon, they became quite good, especially in shipping: in the 17th century the island had a fully equipped fleet of 120 commercial ships! At that time, they started building their own ships and made a deal with the Turks (who smelled money) to give an annual payment, plus a few lads for the Turkish galleons, in order to be left alone and roam as they please. Ýdra island was amounting wealth as the years passed by, but it was the Napoleon Wars that made Ýdra filthy rich. The Greek captains would break the embargo of the British Navy and sell to the warring zones of Europe (for the right price!).
In the beginning of the 19th century, immediately before the start of the Hellenic Wars of Independence, Ýdra numbered 40000 inhabitants (20 times more than today’s population), a high standard of living and a good fat fortune. In other words, the island had absolutely no reason to raise arms against the Turks and indeed, the leading families of Kountourióti and Miaoúli initially refused to join the Hellenic rebels. However, thanks to a simple captain by the name of Antónis Oikonómou, who believed in the cause and managed to rouse the people of Ýdra, the leaders of the island found themselves in front of the inevitable and so, on the 14th April 1821 (approximately 20 days after the national declaration of independence) the island of Ýdra joined the fight for freedom.
Unfortunately, the contribution of the Kountourióti and Miaoúli in the Hellenic revolution was a two sided coin. During the war, they gave their fleet, their money and even themselves to the cause. Their initiatives proved a definitive factor that led to the freedom of our lands. On the other hand, when the war was won, Peloponnese was free and the first government of the new Hellenic state was taking its first steps, the Ydraian families had irrational financial demands as payback for their participation in the revolution, a quarrel that led the country to a civil war and almost back under the Turkish rule. It is a shame that today, we all can walk by and see the grand houses of all those prominent Ydraian families, but nobody knows where is the house of Antónis Oikonómou (he was murdered soon after his involvement in raising arms, on the 16th December 1821, by the prominent families who wanted to take back the control of the island).
Due to the grand nautical tradition of Ýdra but also the many restored mansions, the island has been characterized “preservable”. The procedures for building – renovating – restoring properties are extremely strict and the use of all wheeled vehicles (with the exception of few owned by the municipality) is forbidden.