Spetses shows evidence of continuous habitation through all of antiquity. From the 16th century BC, settlers came over from the mainland and, as on Hydra, they soon began to look to the sea, building their own boats. They became master sailors, successful merchants, and fearsome pirates, and later, during the Napoleonic Wars, they were skilled blockade runners, earning fortunes that they poured into building larger boats and grander houses. With the outbreak of the War of Independence in 1821, the Spetsiots dedicated their best ships and brave men (and women) to the cause.
In the years leading up to the revolution, Hydra’s great rival and ally was the island of Spetses. Lying at the entrance to the Argolic Gulf, off the mainland, Spetses was known even in antiquity for its hospitable soil and verdant pine tree–covered slopes. The pines on the island today, however, were planted by a Spetsiot philanthropist dedicated to restoring the beauty stripped by the shipbuilding industry in the 18th and 19th centuries. There are far fewer trees than there were in antiquity, but the island is still well watered, and prosperous Athenians who have made Spetses their second home compete to have the prettiest gardens and terraces. Today’s visitor can enjoy spotting this verdant beauty all over the island.