History

the myth of lost civilization

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Prehistory

According to legend, Santorini emerged from the depths of the sea- opinion justified by the timeless activity of the undersea volcano and the geological topography of the island.
The first human remains, dating back to the Stone Age, show that the island has been inhabited since the prehistoric times. There is some evidence of life in the early Bronze Age, in the mid-3rd millennium BC, during the second period of the early Cycladic civilization (2800-2100 BC). However, from the middle Bronze Age (1900-1600 BC), evidence becomes more abundant, showing great development.
In the area of Akrotiri (Promontory), there was a prehistoric settlement with a very important port. The great volcanic eruption in the late Bronze Age (ca.1600 BC) buried the settlement under 30 meters of ash.

info

  • In 1895, there were 855 inhabitants on the island; according to the 2001 census, only 268 were left, since the earthquake of 1956 forced people to leave.
  • The terrain is inclined and flat in most parts, starting from an altitude of only 5-20 m. along the sea and reaching 294 m. in the area of Profitis Elias. It consists of volcanic rocks and Theraic earth.
  • The east and south coasts are rugged and the west coasts are lower, rocky or even sandy.

Historical times

The 1600 B.C. eruption changed the form of the island. We do not know if all the residents evacuated in time before the great catastrophe, where they moved, or when they returned. Occasional findings in the area of Monolithos suggest habitation from at least the 13th century B.C.
According to Herodotus, the island named Strogili (round) due to its shape, was renamed Kallisti due to its beauty (kalos in Greek). Phoenicians settled in Kallisti. They were led by Kadmos who was travelling to search for Evropi (Europa) kidnapped by Zeus who had been transformed in a bull.
The settlers occupied the island for eight generations. Later on Spartans and their leader Theras, son of Autesionas, came along. In the 10th century the island became colony of the Dorians.

Geometric times (10th -8th century B.C)
There is not much data from the geometric times. Some researchers claim that in the end of 9th or early 8th century B.C. the residents together with together with people from Milos and Crete were the first to adopt the Phoenician alphabet. The cemeteries discovered in the SE side of Sellada and the one discovered on the edge of Mesa Vouno were built during the geometric period. Cemeteries were used systematically until 7th century B.C. and in the graves possibly placed were ancient statues of Kouros, probably imported from Naxos.

Archaic Period (7th-6th CENTURY B.C.)
During this period the residents developed relations with nearby islands such as Crete, Milos, Paros and with important centers of that time, such as Athens, Corinth, Rhodes and Ionian centers in the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea. In 630 B.C. Therans founded Kirini, a colony in the northern coast of Africa.
Data for this period exist from findings in the cemetery located NE, in Sellada, which had been used until the 4th century B.C. and from findings in the cemetery of Kamari. Therans farmed, fished and traded with their own products. In the 6th century Thera had its own currency with two dolphins as an emblem.

Classic-Hellenistic times
Relations with the important centers of that time continued and wine was one of the most exportable products. During the Peloponnesian war, Thera supported Sparta as it was a Dorian colony. During Hellenistic years it became a nautical military base of Great Alexander’s Ptolemaic successors and the island was used as a station for the southern to northern Aegean Sea routes. Important for them was the location of ancient Thera and the bays of Kamari and Perissa.

Christian-Byzantine period
Findings for this period are few and suggest that the centre during these years was in the SE side of Thera. In the 4th century there was an organized church with a Bishop. The first one is said to be Dioskouros (324-344). Christian temples were founded in the place where ancient shrines or temples used to be such as the one of Pythian Apollo in ancient Thera.
In the Byzantine period, Thera belonged to the theme of the Aegean Sea, but had no major political or military importance.
Due to Arab invasions that took place during the 9th century, the residents moved to the inland, to fortified and unseen from the sea places. This era is marked by decline and poverty.
In the second half of the 11th century when the pirates’ bases of operations were destroyed and the Arabs were weakened, the byzantine church of Episkopi Gonia was founded by Alexius I Comnenus.
In the late 12th century, the byzantine fleet lost power, so the islands of the Aegean Sea were once again hit by piracy.

Rule of the West

In 1207 Marcos Sanudos founded the Duchy of Archipelagos (or Naxo’s), so Thera and Therassia were ceded to Iakovos Barotsi and were owned by his family with short intervals until 1335. During the Venetian era the feudal system applied and Santorini became the headquarters of the Catholic Archiodese, one of four in the Duchy. In 1335 Nicolo Sanudo expelled the Barotsi family and added the island to the Duchy of Naxos.
After 1487, it was Venice that set the fate of the islands in the Duchy of the Aegean (1487). During the rule of the West, the islands suffered a great deal of pirate invasions from the Franks, the Muslims even the Greeks, which forced residents to live in fortified settlements called Kastelia.
To make matters worst the competition among the local Latin dynasties and between the Duke and the Sultan, increased. At the same time, the coexistence of the two Christian communities, Catholic and Orthodox, often caused tension instigated by the religious leaderships of both communities.
In 1537, Khayr ad-Dīn Barbarossa, the notorious ex pirate and admiral of the Turkish fleet, took over the island in the name of the Sultan. In 1566 it was ceded to Joseph Naji, a wealthy Jewish banker who governed the islands through a representative until 1579. Then Santorini and the other islands, except Tinos, were finally ceded to the Ottoman empire.

* Source: “Santorini: And the sea brought forth the earth”/ Topio Publications/ From the text of archeologist Kiki Birtacha.

Turkish rule – 20th century

In 1580, sultan Murad III granted substantial privileges to the Cycladic islands, boosting trade and favoring local governments.
Living conditions changed. Christians were free to build or repair their churches (Francois Richard reports 700 in total at that period, most of which were Orthodox). The faith of locals to Virgin Mary was very strong: they vowed to Ηer before each travel and they left their property to Ηer after their death.
According to Richard, residents ate barley bread and salted quail caught in their nets, drunk rain water from cisterns, cultivated vines, barley, beans, fava, millet, squash, cucumbers and melons. The wine was exported to Chios, Smyrni, Chandakas (Heraklion of Crete) and Constantinople. He also described the 1650 eruptions. In the end of 16th and 17th century the Kasteli of Pyrgos, the churches of the Transformation of Jesus, St. Theodosia, the church of the Virgin Mary, St. Catherine, Taxiarchis and many more, were built.
Franks had presence on the island even during the Ottoman Rule, while in 1642 Jesuit monks settled and got permission to build their first church. Since the Kasteli of Skaros was abandoned, they used building material from there.
In the late 17th century the privileged status of Santorini and other islands, together with changes in the community’s organization, allowed financial growth- something more apparent in the 18th century. Merchants established close relations to famous ports in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea (Alexandria, Constantinople, Odessa), where they also founded important colonies.
Agricultural and marine activities continued to grow in Santorini; by the 18th century, the island had 9,000 people. In the 19th and the early 20th centuries, commercial sailing flourished and numerous ships from Santorini sailed the Aegean, transporting goods. On the eve of the 1821 revolution the Santorinian sail boats were several dozens, since the island had the third largest fleet in the Aegean Sea after the ones of Hydra and Psara. In 1856 it numbered 269 boats and the growth continued until the prevalence of steamboats in the late 19th century. Great example was Oia, the so called “village of the captains”.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, industry also started developing in Santorini. The earthquake of 1956 accelerated the island’s economic decline. The impressive recovery began in the 1970’s, with the amazingly rapid growth of tourism.

Turkish rule – 20th century

In 1580, sultan Murad III granted substantial privileges to the Cycladic islands, boosting trade and favoring local governments.
Living conditions changed. Christians were free to build or repair their churches (Francois Richard reports 700 in total at that period, most of which were Orthodox). The faith of locals to Virgin Mary was very strong: they vowed to Ηer before each travel and they left their property to Ηer after their death.
According to Richard, residents ate barley bread and salted quail caught in their nets, drunk rain water from cisterns, cultivated vines, barley, beans, fava, millet, squash, cucumbers and melons. The wine was exported to Chios, Smyrni, Chandakas (Heraklion of Crete) and Constantinople. He also described the 1650 eruptions. In the end of 16th and 17th century the Kasteli of Pyrgos, the churches of the Transformation of Jesus, St. Theodosia, the church of the Virgin Mary, St. Catherine, Taxiarchis and many more, were built.
Franks had presence on the island even during the Ottoman Rule, while in 1642 Jesuit monks settled and got permission to build their first church. Since the Kasteli of Skaros was abandoned, they used building material from there.
In the late 17th century the privileged status of Santorini and other islands, together with changes in the community’s organization, allowed financial growth- something more apparent in the 18th century. Merchants established close relations to famous ports in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea (Alexandria, Constantinople, Odessa), where they also founded important colonies.
Agricultural and marine activities continued to grow in Santorini; by the 18th century, the island had 9,000 people. In the 19th and the early 20th centuries, commercial sailing flourished and numerous ships from Santorini sailed the Aegean, transporting goods. On the eve of the 1821 revolution the Santorinian sail boats were several dozens, since the island had the third largest fleet in the Aegean Sea after the ones of Hydra and Psara. In 1856 it numbered 269 boats and the growth continued until the prevalence of steamboats in the late 19th century. Great example was Oia, the so called “village of the captains”.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, industry also started developing in Santorini. The earthquake of 1956 accelerated the island’s economic decline. The impressive recovery began in the 1970’s, with the amazingly rapid growth of tourism.

Prehistory

Prehistory

According to legend, Santorini emerged from the depths of the sea- opinion justified by the timeless activity of the undersea volcano and the geological topography of the island.
The first human remains, dating back to the Stone Age, show that the island has been inhabited since the prehistoric times. There is some evidence of life in the early Bronze Age, in the mid-3rd millennium BC, during the second period of the early Cycladic civilization (2800-2100 BC). However, from the middle Bronze Age (1900-1600 BC), evidence becomes more abundant, showing great development.
In the area of Akrotiri (Promontory), there was a prehistoric settlement with a very important port. The great volcanic eruption in the late Bronze Age (ca.1600 BC) buried the settlement under 30 meters of ash.

info

  • In 1895, there were 855 inhabitants on the island; according to the 2001 census, only 268 were left, since the earthquake of 1956 forced people to leave.
  • The terrain is inclined and flat in most parts, starting from an altitude of only 5-20 m. along the sea and reaching 294 m. in the area of Profitis Elias. It consists of volcanic rocks and Theraic earth.
  • The east and south coasts are rugged and the west coasts are lower, rocky or even sandy.
Historical times

Historical times

The 1600 B.C. eruption changed the form of the island. We do not know if all the residents evacuated in time before the great catastrophe, where they moved, or when they returned. Occasional findings in the area of Monolithos suggest habitation from at least the 13th century B.C.
According to Herodotus, the island named Strogili (round) due to its shape, was renamed Kallisti due to its beauty (kalos in Greek). Phoenicians settled in Kallisti. They were led by Kadmos who was travelling to search for Evropi (Europa) kidnapped by Zeus who had been transformed in a bull.
The settlers occupied the island for eight generations. Later on Spartans and their leader Theras, son of Autesionas, came along. In the 10th century the island became colony of the Dorians.

Geometric times (10th -8th century B.C)
There is not much data from the geometric times. Some researchers claim that in the end of 9th or early 8th century B.C. the residents together with together with people from Milos and Crete were the first to adopt the Phoenician alphabet. The cemeteries discovered in the SE side of Sellada and the one discovered on the edge of Mesa Vouno were built during the geometric period. Cemeteries were used systematically until 7th century B.C. and in the graves possibly placed were ancient statues of Kouros, probably imported from Naxos.

Archaic Period (7th-6th CENTURY B.C.)
During this period the residents developed relations with nearby islands such as Crete, Milos, Paros and with important centers of that time, such as Athens, Corinth, Rhodes and Ionian centers in the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea. In 630 B.C. Therans founded Kirini, a colony in the northern coast of Africa.
Data for this period exist from findings in the cemetery located NE, in Sellada, which had been used until the 4th century B.C. and from findings in the cemetery of Kamari. Therans farmed, fished and traded with their own products. In the 6th century Thera had its own currency with two dolphins as an emblem.

Classic-Hellenistic times
Relations with the important centers of that time continued and wine was one of the most exportable products. During the Peloponnesian war, Thera supported Sparta as it was a Dorian colony. During Hellenistic years it became a nautical military base of Great Alexander’s Ptolemaic successors and the island was used as a station for the southern to northern Aegean Sea routes. Important for them was the location of ancient Thera and the bays of Kamari and Perissa.

Christian-Byzantine period
Findings for this period are few and suggest that the centre during these years was in the SE side of Thera. In the 4th century there was an organized church with a Bishop. The first one is said to be Dioskouros (324-344). Christian temples were founded in the place where ancient shrines or temples used to be such as the one of Pythian Apollo in ancient Thera.
In the Byzantine period, Thera belonged to the theme of the Aegean Sea, but had no major political or military importance.
Due to Arab invasions that took place during the 9th century, the residents moved to the inland, to fortified and unseen from the sea places. This era is marked by decline and poverty.
In the second half of the 11th century when the pirates’ bases of operations were destroyed and the Arabs were weakened, the byzantine church of Episkopi Gonia was founded by Alexius I Comnenus.
In the late 12th century, the byzantine fleet lost power, so the islands of the Aegean Sea were once again hit by piracy.

Rule of the West

Rule of the West

In 1207 Marcos Sanudos founded the Duchy of Archipelagos (or Naxo’s), so Thera and Therassia were ceded to Iakovos Barotsi and were owned by his family with short intervals until 1335. During the Venetian era the feudal system applied and Santorini became the headquarters of the Catholic Archiodese, one of four in the Duchy. In 1335 Nicolo Sanudo expelled the Barotsi family and added the island to the Duchy of Naxos.
After 1487, it was Venice that set the fate of the islands in the Duchy of the Aegean (1487). During the rule of the West, the islands suffered a great deal of pirate invasions from the Franks, the Muslims even the Greeks, which forced residents to live in fortified settlements called Kastelia.
To make matters worst the competition among the local Latin dynasties and between the Duke and the Sultan, increased. At the same time, the coexistence of the two Christian communities, Catholic and Orthodox, often caused tension instigated by the religious leaderships of both communities.
In 1537, Khayr ad-Dīn Barbarossa, the notorious ex pirate and admiral of the Turkish fleet, took over the island in the name of the Sultan. In 1566 it was ceded to Joseph Naji, a wealthy Jewish banker who governed the islands through a representative until 1579. Then Santorini and the other islands, except Tinos, were finally ceded to the Ottoman empire.

* Source: “Santorini: And the sea brought forth the earth”/ Topio Publications/ From the text of archeologist Kiki Birtacha.

Medieval Settlements

Turkish rule – 20th century

In 1580, sultan Murad III granted substantial privileges to the Cycladic islands, boosting trade and favoring local governments.
Living conditions changed. Christians were free to build or repair their churches (Francois Richard reports 700 in total at that period, most of which were Orthodox). The faith of locals to Virgin Mary was very strong: they vowed to Ηer before each travel and they left their property to Ηer after their death.
According to Richard, residents ate barley bread and salted quail caught in their nets, drunk rain water from cisterns, cultivated vines, barley, beans, fava, millet, squash, cucumbers and melons. The wine was exported to Chios, Smyrni, Chandakas (Heraklion of Crete) and Constantinople. He also described the 1650 eruptions. In the end of 16th and 17th century the Kasteli of Pyrgos, the churches of the Transformation of Jesus, St. Theodosia, the church of the Virgin Mary, St. Catherine, Taxiarchis and many more, were built.
Franks had presence on the island even during the Ottoman Rule, while in 1642 Jesuit monks settled and got permission to build their first church. Since the Kasteli of Skaros was abandoned, they used building material from there.
In the late 17th century the privileged status of Santorini and other islands, together with changes in the community’s organization, allowed financial growth- something more apparent in the 18th century. Merchants established close relations to famous ports in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea (Alexandria, Constantinople, Odessa), where they also founded important colonies.
Agricultural and marine activities continued to grow in Santorini; by the 18th century, the island had 9,000 people. In the 19th and the early 20th centuries, commercial sailing flourished and numerous ships from Santorini sailed the Aegean, transporting goods. On the eve of the 1821 revolution the Santorinian sail boats were several dozens, since the island had the third largest fleet in the Aegean Sea after the ones of Hydra and Psara. In 1856 it numbered 269 boats and the growth continued until the prevalence of steamboats in the late 19th century. Great example was Oia, the so called “village of the captains”.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, industry also started developing in Santorini. The earthquake of 1956 accelerated the island’s economic decline. The impressive recovery began in the 1970’s, with the amazingly rapid growth of tourism.

Turkish rule - 20th century

Turkish rule – 20th century

In 1580, sultan Murad III granted substantial privileges to the Cycladic islands, boosting trade and favoring local governments.
Living conditions changed. Christians were free to build or repair their churches (Francois Richard reports 700 in total at that period, most of which were Orthodox). The faith of locals to Virgin Mary was very strong: they vowed to Ηer before each travel and they left their property to Ηer after their death.
According to Richard, residents ate barley bread and salted quail caught in their nets, drunk rain water from cisterns, cultivated vines, barley, beans, fava, millet, squash, cucumbers and melons. The wine was exported to Chios, Smyrni, Chandakas (Heraklion of Crete) and Constantinople. He also described the 1650 eruptions. In the end of 16th and 17th century the Kasteli of Pyrgos, the churches of the Transformation of Jesus, St. Theodosia, the church of the Virgin Mary, St. Catherine, Taxiarchis and many more, were built.
Franks had presence on the island even during the Ottoman Rule, while in 1642 Jesuit monks settled and got permission to build their first church. Since the Kasteli of Skaros was abandoned, they used building material from there.
In the late 17th century the privileged status of Santorini and other islands, together with changes in the community’s organization, allowed financial growth- something more apparent in the 18th century. Merchants established close relations to famous ports in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea (Alexandria, Constantinople, Odessa), where they also founded important colonies.
Agricultural and marine activities continued to grow in Santorini; by the 18th century, the island had 9,000 people. In the 19th and the early 20th centuries, commercial sailing flourished and numerous ships from Santorini sailed the Aegean, transporting goods. On the eve of the 1821 revolution the Santorinian sail boats were several dozens, since the island had the third largest fleet in the Aegean Sea after the ones of Hydra and Psara. In 1856 it numbered 269 boats and the growth continued until the prevalence of steamboats in the late 19th century. Great example was Oia, the so called “village of the captains”.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, industry also started developing in Santorini. The earthquake of 1956 accelerated the island’s economic decline. The impressive recovery began in the 1970’s, with the amazingly rapid growth of tourism.