Ikaria owes its name to Ikaros who drowned in its deep waters. When Daedalus tried to escape from the Labyrinth, where he was imprisoned by Minos, the King of Crete, he made wax wings for himself and his son Ikaros, because the only way to save themselves was to fly away. Ikaros, entranced by the flight, flew too close to the sun. His father, in vain, was shouting at him to come back. His wax wings melted and he fell in the waters of the sea that were later named after him.
In antiquity, Ikaria was called Dolichni and Oenoe because of the abundance of its wines, and it is also believed that Dionysus was born here. Stravonas, the great geographer, expresses the view that the first inhabitants of Ikaria were the Miletians, from Ionia, who were subjected by the Persians during the Persian wars. The island was a member of the Athenian League, but from that point on there is no more historical evidence until the Byzantine period. The Byzantine buildings that have been saved prove that the island had been used as a place for exile for the members of the royal Byzantine family. The population was renewed by the inhabitants of Asia Minor, who fled there for various reasons. Continuous pirate invasions struck Ikaria and Arabian pirates were used it as the base for their operations. After the capture of Byzantium by the Franks, in 1204, Ikaria became part of the Latin state in Constantinople. It came under the Byzantine rule for a short period of time and then - until 1484 - under the rule of the Arangios family who later granted it to the knights of Rhodes. In 1521, Ikaria was conquered by the Turks. Due to the very small distance between the island and Asia Minor, the centre of the "Filiki Etairia" (a secret society just before the Greek Revolution) could not act on the island, like it did on the nearby islands, on the eve of the Revolution in 1821. 300 Ikarians participated in the expedition of Chios, and under the command of Michael Kastanas, they fought together with Lykourgos Logothetis. In the Protocol of London, in 1830, it was stated that the eastern Aegean islands should remain in the Othoman empire. In 1835, Ikaria along with Leros, Kalymnos and Patmos formed a province, which was called Tetranesos, under the rule of four elders of the community, until 1869, when Turkey put Turkish officials in command. On 17 July 1912, Ikaria rebels and the Turkish officials were obliged to leave. On October 28, the assembly of the people that gathered at Evdilos, declared the union of the island to Greece and appointed Evdilos as the capital. On 4 November 1912, Ikaria was liberated by the Greek Army.