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Ancient Thira (archaeological site) - Santorini

Ancient Thera / Thira (Ancient Thira)

Ancient Thira (archaeological site)

Archaeological site of Ancient Thira is a very significant proof of historical colonization of Santorini. The remains of Ancient Thira are located in the eastern part of the island - east from the Profitis Ilias mountain, on the western slope of Mesa Vouno mountains.

Santorini, Ancient Thira (archaeological site) on the map Google maps

During the 9th century BC the Spartan colonists landed on Santorini and settled down on the Mesa Vouno mountain, where they began to build a new city. They chose a very strategic place for it, as the surrounding rocks could be used as natural fortification and thanks to the height above sea level they had a good view over the sea and could therefore react quite quickly if there was danger coming from there. To honour their king whose name was Theras, they named the city and the island Thera. The city grew up quickly and became soon a religion and trade centre of the island. The island had its time of prosperity and fame as well as periods of oppression by other nations. During the 4th century BC Thera was used by Egypt as naval and military base before the island was conquered by the Romans. The final decline of Ancient Thira came at the end of the 3rd century AD as the people started to move to the coast where the life was easier and more comfortable for them.

The archaeological excavations on Mesa Vouno mountain started in 1896 under the initiative of the German archaeologist Friedrich Hiller von Gaertringen. A new impulse to the excavations came during the year 1961 when the Greek archaeologists found a settlement from the Hellenistic period. There was a main paved street going through the city crossed by several smaller streets, as well as a water supply and canalization system. The public buildings were built out of limestone which was originally coming from the mountain. Cemetery, temples, theatre, spa, market (agora) and other public buildings which were discovered here bear witness, that a very sophisticated society emphasizing religion was living here that time. On the other hand, art and education were not supported here that much as the Spartans were quite conservative people. Despite that there were very interesting artefacts found in Ancient Thira, showing, that the region was maintaining business relationships also with other Cycladic islands, Greek mainland, Crete and even with North Africa and was accordingly culturally influenced by these countries. Most of the found things fall into the Hellenistic and Roman period (3rd century BC - 2nd century AD.

Thanks to the archaeological excavations a big part of Ancient Thira has been discovered and therefore the visitors can even today enjoy the atmosphere of this unique place. One of the favourite stops among the tourists are the ruins of the small Hellenistic temple of Dionysos built north of the agora. Its bearing walls and the roof were made out of marble, the rest of the building consisted of the local stones. Here you can adore various sculptures, earthen jars, pots or vases and other artefacts where some of them are also placed in the Archaeological museum of Thera in Fira and in the National archaeological museum in Athens.

The Mesa Vouno mountain where Ancient Thira is located, separates the holiday resorts of Kamari and Perissa. From Kamari there is a road going until Ancient Thira, therefore it is possible to reach it either by foot or by car. Mountain hiking fans will probably enjoy the small path that goes uphill from Perissa, as it is the only way to get from Perissa to the ancient city. Because of its height above the sea level which is 365 metres, the visitors should prepare themselves for a quite windy weather, but on the other hand they can look forward to a great view over the Aegean Sea.

If you like this kind of archaeological excavations you will surely be amazed also by the archaeological site of Akrotiri which is older and where you can see many artefacts dated back to the prehistoric colonization of Santorini.

More touristic destinations of Santorini

Most favourite sights of Santorini: Akrotiri (archeological site), Archeological Museum of Thera, Agios Anastasios Church (Imerovigli), Panagia Platsani Church (Oia), Akrotiri Lighthouse, Ruins of Byzantine castle (Oia), Ancient-Thira (archeological site)

Resorts, beaches, sights or trips - clearly listed on the map of Santorini.

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