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History of Santorini

Santorini or Thera is an island with great history According to the researchers the human presence on the island seems to have existed since the Neolithic Period. Around 3.200 BC Santorini was inhabited by the Cretans who had a great impact on the island’s life.

Santorini became an important and wealthy port. The Minoan influence is obvious especially at the excavations on Akrotiri, where a whole village is found, with houses decorated similar to those found in the Minoan palace in Crete. At that time the island was called Stronghyle, or Strongili, which in Greek means round, because of its shape.

But in 1500 B.C. happened something that completely changed the story of the ancient world It was the explosion of the volcano which was in the center of the island and the greater part sunk forming today\'s caldera, the largest of its kind. All that left in the surface were segments of its perimeter which today consist Santorini , Thirasia , and Aspronisi.

The excavations in Akrotiri which started in 1956 by the archaeologist Spyros Marinatos brought to light an ancient city very well preserved, which was entirely buried under the ash from the volcanic explosion. The tidal wave was so huge that it reached as far as Crete, 70 nautical miles away and many consider that it was the main cause of destruction of the Minoan civilization. This disaster caused much speculation as to whether Santorini was in fact the mythological lost city of Atlantis. The eruption vanish the human presence in the island which inhabited once again from the end of the 13th century BC by the Phoenicians that stayed for five generations.

Then the Dorians arrived, founded a colony and named the island Thera after their King’s name. In the following years Thera built commercial and trade relations with most of the islands and greek cities and was one of the first places in Greece that used the Phoenician alphabet. The island did not follow the cultural development of the other Cycladic islands.

As the historian Herodotus confirms Therans founded one Theran colony in the north coast of Africa under the name Kyrene. During the Peloponnesian War, Santorini took the side of Sparta although finally it felt under the Athenian control. Because of its strategic position in Aegean the island became an important trade centre in the Hellenistic period (300-146 B.C.), and it was used by the Ptolemies of Egypt as their naval base. In 146 BC it conquered by the Romans and lost its significance. Christianity reached at Thera around the 3rd century. An important monument from this period is the elegant little church of the Panagia Episkopi at Gonia, built by Alexius I Comnenus. At 1204 it felt under the Venetian occupation and became part of the Duchy of Naxos. At this period the Crusaders change the name of the island to Santorini after a small chapel of Agia Irini (Santa Irene).

The 18th century was a great affluence and commercial shipping enjoyed a period of great expansion, Industry too began to grow in the form of tomato processing, wine making and textiles. Throughout the next few hundred years Santorini had a peaceful period of self-determination, although this was disrupted by the German occupation during World War II. In the meanwhile parallel with the human life of the island the volcano continued to erupt over the years. On the whole 14 eruptions recorded between 198 B.C. and 1950.

The Palea and Nea Kameni islands near Santorini were created by these eruptions. Thera also suffered a terrible earthquake in 1956, which led to a huge decrease of the population ending in an economic catastrophe. However the island finally managed to gain its strength again and from the late 1970’s tourism was developed in high levels

Nowadays Santorini is an international resort, undoubtedly one of the major tourist destinations, attracting people worldwide who come to experience its magic atmosphere and the unique and famous sunset. In 1832, Santorini and the other Cyclades Islands were united to the new Greek State.




Naming Santorini

The island is referred to, in general, as Thira, but it is also known by other names in the sources. The very ancient name Stronghyle (the Round One), has its parallel in the Italian volcanic island of Stromboli, which was also called Stronghyle by ancient Greeks. Another name, again mentioned authors, was Kalliste (the Most Beautiful), no doubt referring to the matural beauties of the island.

The name Thira itself derives from Thiras, son of Autesion, who colonizes the island together with the Venetians who ruled the Cyclades during the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries ADToday, Thira, is more known as Santorini, which was apparently taken from a chapel dedicated to St. Irene in one of the bays where the Venetians moored their ships.

There is a believes that the name came from the chapel in Perissa or from others, that came from the chapel in Rivas of Thirassia. Calliste or Kallisti - According to tradition, the Island was first called Kalliste, meaning "the most beautiful". (Kalliste is the female for the best, while kallistos is the male. Greeks usually give female names to islands). By that time the island was inhabited by Phoenicians.

Kadmos the son of Agenor, stopped at Kalliste during one of his wanderings in search of Europe. He left behind a group of Phoenicians who were accompanying him and among them was his kinsman Membliaros. These Phoenicians occupied the island until the arrival of Theras. Thira (or Thera) - In antiquity the island's name was Thera. According to tradition, the island was named after Theras, son of Autesion, who was the descendant of Polyneikes.

Theras, having brought with him a band of Mycaenians from Sparta, made the island a colony of the Lacedaemonians. Before Theras, the island was occupied by Phoenicians and it was called "Kalliste". (Although the island was named after Theras, the name Thera -- without the final "s" -- is a female name which is usual for most of the Hellenic islands.) Strogili - Another ancient name referring to Santorini was Strogili. Strogili means the "rounded".

This name was given because of the round shape of the group of islands which form Santorini. Santorini - The name Santorini is much more recent and is the name that Hellenes (Greeks) use nowadays for this group of islands. Nevertheless, the name "Thera" is also used. The name Santorini, which has a Latin root, was given by the Venetians who, after the Fourth Crusade (1204), had dominion over the islands. The origin of the name was the Chapel of Aghia Irini (Santa Irini - Santorini) which was built on Therasia. The Chapel was situated on a small bay where the Venetians moored their boats.

The Creation & Evolution of Santorini Volcanic Fields

(Created by: Ν. Androulakakis, G. Vougioukalakis - I.G.M.E)
3 million years before present Pre-Volcanic Santorini 700.000 years before present Hristiana and Akrotiri Volcanoes 300.000 years before present Peristeria Volcan 200.000 years before present Lower Pumice caldera 30.000 years before present Skaros Volcano 3.700 years before present “Strongili” island SANTORINI TODAY (Created by: Ν. Androulakakis, G. Vougioukalakis - I.G.M.E) Volcanic craters at Santorini today.



The devastating volcanic eruption of Thera has become the most famous single event in the Aegean before the fall of Troy.

The eruption would have been likely to have caused a significant climate upset for the eastern Mediterranean region; this may have been one of the biggest volcanic eruptions on Earth in the last few thousand years. The violent eruption was centered on a small island just north of the existing island of Nea Kameni in the centre of the caldera; the caldera itself was formed several hundred thousand years ago by collapse of the centre of a circular island caused by the emptying of the magma chamber during an eruption. It has been filled several times by ignimbrite since then, and the process repeated itself, most recently 21,000 years ago.

The northern part of the caldera was refilled by the volcano and then collapsed again during the Minoan eruption. Before the Minoan eruption, the caldera formed a nearly continuous ring with the only entrance between the tiny island of Aspronisi and Thera; the eruption destroyed the sections of the ring between Aspronisi and Therasia, and between Therasia and Thera, creating two new channels. On Santorini, there is to be found a deposit of white tephra thrown from the eruption, lying up to 60 metres thick overlying the soil marking the ground level before the eruption and, forming a layer divided into three fairly distinct bands indicating different phases of the eruption.

An international team of scientists has found that the second largest volcanic eruption in human history, the massive Bronze Age eruption of Thira in Greece, was much larger and more widespread than previously believed. During research expeditions in April and June, the scientists from the University of Rhode Island and the Hellenic Center for Marine Research found deposits of volcanic pumice and ash 10 to 80 meters thick extending out 20 to 30 kilometers in all directions from the Greek island of Santorini...



Caldera: the Spanish word for cauldron, a basin-shaped volcanic depression; by definition, at least a mile in diameter. Up to about two million years ago, Santorini was a small non-volcanic island. Remains of this can still be seen at Mount Profitis Ilias in the southeast of the present island, which is made from non-volcanic limestone.

About two million years ago, volcanoes under the sea to the west of the island started producing magma, resulting in a number of small islands. Eventually (around 500,000 years ago) there were two giant 'shield volcanoes'. These are mountains in the shape of flat cones. These mountains united with the non-volcanic island to make one big island. Although neither of these mountains exist any longer, geologists have given them names. The northern mountain is called Mount Peristeria while the southern one is called Mount Thera.

About 200,000 years ago, things started hotting up. Mount Thera started to produce vast amounts of magma and ash, eventually completely emptying the magma chamber under the mountain. The structure of the mountain was not able to support itself and it went crashing downwards into the empty magma chamber, leaving a caldera - a wide, deep hole in the ground. This process was repeated in a whole series of eruptions over the next 200,000 years, with both mountains producing magma, collapsing, regrowing and collapsing again, each time deepening the caldera and eventually leaving the island in the shape it is today.

Caldera is nowadays covering approximately 32 square miles and the water's depth varies from 300 to 600 meters. At the western end of the caldera, we find the island of Therasia and an inhabitant island, Aspronissi. By taking a good look at those three islands we can easily distinguish a virtual borderline of what used to be there before the caldera was formed. The height of the Santorini caldera is 150 to 350 meters (similar is the depth of the water in the caldera).

The length of the island from cape Exomitis to cape Mavropetra is 18 kilometres. Her width varies from 2 to 6 kilometres. The shape of the present-day caldera has been changed many times during the centuries, because of the uninterrupted volcanic activity.

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