Saturday, September 19, 2009

Brief history of Santorini

The human presence on the island seems to be existed since the midle of the 3rd millennium B.C. The excavations at Akrotiri has confirmed ma's activity on the island continues until the eruption of the volcano in around 1500 B.C. which entirely burried the island beneath very thick layers of pozzuolona. All traces of human activity vanished from the island untill the end of 13th century B.C.

According to Herodotus, the island was initially called Strongyle (the Round One). Later, because of it's beauty, it's called Kallisti (the Fairest One). To Kalliste, came Phoenicians and there they settled. After the Phoenicians, the Lacedaemonians arrived and gave the island the name of their leader, Theras. In the 9th century B.C. Thera became an important point on the communication route between the East and the West of that era and adopted the Phoenician alphabet for writing the greek language. In about 630 B.C. Therans reached the north coast of the African continent where they founded Cyrene, the only Theran colony. During the Classical period in Greece (5th and 4th century B.C.) Thera did not play an important role in Hellenistic events. During the Peloponesian War Thera sided with Sparta, as expected. In Hellenistic times the island's strategic position made Thera a precious base from which the warring campaigns of the successors of Alexander the Great were launched in the Aegean.

Within the Roman Empire Thera was nothing more than an insignificant small island. However, Christianity reached early the island and an organised church was already existing by 4th century A.D. The island was of neither political nor military significance in Byzantine times although Alexius I Comnenus (1081 - 1118) founded the church of Panagia Episkopi at Gonia.

After the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade (1204) the Duchy of Naxos was founded and Thera became the seat of one of the four Catholic Bishops of the Duchy. The name Santorini was given at that time by the Crusaders after the church Agia Irini (Santa Irene) which some say was at Perissa and others say was at Riva on Thirassia. In the years of Frankish rule (1207 - 1579) although Santorini experienced the development of cotton cultivation and viticulture, the island suffered as much from piratical raids as from the rivalries between the local Latin rulers or between the Duke and the Sultan.

The Turkish dominion (1579 - 1821) resulted in the abolition of piracy and the development of international trade. The Santorinians created close contacts with the great harbours of the Eastern Meditteranean (Alexandria, Constantinople, Odessa) where they founded important communities. In 1821, Santorini with it's shipping strenght, took part in the fight for indipendence from the Turks and in 1830 became part of the independent Greek state. Up untill the beginning of the 20th Century shipping, textiles, tomato production and viticulture were all flourishing. The change from sail to steam - driven shipa and also the transportation of the island's factories to mainland Greece had a great effect on the island's economy. After the 1956 earthquake there was a huge decrease in the population and an economic catastrophe. Towards the end of the 70's tourism began to develop, bringing economic relief to the island.


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