Greece

History of Santorini

Home - Santorini - History

Long and interesting history of Santorini is primarily a fascinating story of eternal fight between human and nature. The volcanic character of the island has been and is of course still influencing the everyday life of the local inhabitants. However, they have faced the difficulties and despite strong volcanic activity, the island was inhabited by several nations, which have left visible traces in its history.

The volcanic character of Santorini is a significant factor, taking part in creating the history of the island. Alone the origin of the island of Kalliste( "the most beautiful one"),  formed, according to a legend of Argonauts and Euphemus, out of a miracle, is probably related to the eruption of a close volcano.

The first people inhabitated the island of Thera already in the Prehistoric period, around 4000 BC. However, the first civilisation that went down in history of the island were the so-called Minoans - a nation coming from the neighboring Crete. The Minoans have settled down in the south-western part of the island, in the region of Akrotiri, approximately 2000-1600 BC. Thereby, Thera became a part of the so-called Minoan Culture, which is considered as the first developed European Culture.

In 17th century BC a national disaster occured on the island. The Strongyli volcano, which has then given the name to the whole island, (Strongyli means "circular") showed its unimaginable power. The eruption destroyed the central part of the island and just the margins of the crater remained. 

The massive eruption probably caused the demise of the whole Minoan Civilisation, but even today we can admire its importance and development because the Minoan city of Akrotiri was covered by volcanic ash and dust after the eruption and thereby conserved until its discovery in 1967. Today, an archeological museum is open for the public in the place of Akrotiri, what makes the location to an interesting trip suggestion.

One of the most important sights of the Ancient Period are the ruins of the Ancient city of Thera. The city has been inhabited since 9th century BC, as the Spartan colonists arrived on the island and established a new settlement in the difficult terrain of the Mesa Vouno mountains. The city began to rise quickly and became an important culture and trade center of the island. Unfortunately, this came to en end in 726 AD when (not surprising) an volcanic eruption occured. Even the eruption was much weaker this time, it could still damage the city and forced the inhabitants to move to the coast because the life there was easier than in the mountains. The found artefacts are shown in the Archeological Museum of Thera, located in the capital city of Fira.

Later Santorini got under control of several powers. Important conquerors were the Romans, who took over the reins of the island in 13th century, what made the era of Venetian dominance to begin. Romans were one of then maritime powers and named the island Santorini, after its patron St. Irene. Many beautiful historical buildings, mostly of defense character, remained preserved from the Venetian Period. In 16th century, the Ottoman Turks became the leading power of Santorini and remained it until 19th century, when Santorini became a part of Greece again.

In modern history of the 20th century, the volcano let the world know about itself loudly once again, namely in 1956. The eruption was a disaster for the whole island - many people were killed, several cities including historical sights heavily damaged and the infrastructure of the island was in critical conditions. The life on Santorini suddenly slumped into deprivation and poverty until the island started to prosper again in the 1970s, as the local economy bet on tourism development. Today it belongs to the world´s most favourite tourist destinations.