Symi is part of the Dodecanese island chain, located about 41 kilometres (25 miles) north-northwest of Rhodes. In Greek mythology, Symi is reputed to be the birthplace of the Charites and to take its name from the nymph Syme (in antiquity the island was known as Aigli and Metapontis), though Pliny the Elder and some later writers claimed that the name was derived from scimmia "a monkey". In Homer's Iliad the island is mentioned as the domain of King Nireus, who fought in the Trojan War on the side of the Greeks. Thucydides writes that during the Peloponnesian War there was a Battle of Syme near the island in January, 411 BC, in which an unspecified number of Spartan ships defeated a squadron of Athenian vessels. Little was known about the island until the 14th century, but archaeological evidence indicates that it was continuously inhabited, and ruins of citadels suggest that it was an important location. It was first part of the Roman Empire and then the Byzantine Empire, until its conquest by the Knights of St. John in 1309.
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