Not many information has been saved about Ikaria in prehistoric Greece. Proof has been found that Ikaria was inhabited during the Neolithic period. In 750 BC, colonists from Miletos arrived in Ikaria and it was probably them who established the ancient town of Thermae, and later the ancient Oenoe, both of which played a part in the first Athenian Alliance and enjoyed great prosperity. We can estimate a population of about 13.000 inhabitants in the 5th century BC, and from the amount of taxes that both towns were paying to the Athenian Alliance, we can conclude that Ikaria was a wealthy island and was placed in the upper 30% of the states that they were paying tribute.
Oenoe became known because of the excellent Pramnian wine. Although we don’t know this wine’s exact qualities, it seems to have been so expensive that it enabled Oenoe to pay a substantial amount of money as a tribute to Athens.
During the Peloponnesian War, the development that Ikaria had achieved declined, and the island remained a member of the Athenian League until Alexander the Great was declared commander of Greece. When he died, Ikaria became a part of the Ptolemys in Egypt. In 133 BC, Ikaria had been included in the Roman province of Asia, until the early years of the 1st century, when pirates took control of Ikaria.
All the sea villages of Ikaria disappeared and their inhabitants moved to the safety of the interior of the island. However, in 29 BC the Romans reestablished their control of the island.
New development was experienced in Ikaria in the Byzantine era, while the island was used as a place of exile for members of the royal family who were considered as a threat to the Empire's throne. The ancient Oenoe was renamed Dolichi, became an administrative center, and flourished again. It is claimed that in this era the population reached 70.000 inhabitants.
By the end of the 3rd century, pirates appeared in the scene again, such as Muslims, Saracens, Maltesians, Genuese, Calabrians, Sicilians and Turks, who were a serious and continuous threat for Ikaria and other islands in the following centuries. According to documents from the monastery of Patmos, Ikarians at that time managed to kill or chase many of them away, but still they were suffering a lot, and for that reason they built anti-pirate villages (not visible from the sea) up in the mountains, such as Langada.
Ikaria suffered many casualties during the second World War, as it contributed to the struggle of Greece against German and Italian invaders. They also helped a lot of people to escape to Asia Minor and Egypt.
After 1946, Ikaria was used by the Greek government as a place of punishment for the second time in its history, not for the noblemen who were a threat to the throne, but for the Communists. Thousands of them were sent to Ikaria, and there was a time when the island had more than 15.000 exiles.
The development of Ikaria started again after 1960, when the government started to invest capital funds in commonwealth works until today, Ikaria develops its own touristic activity.