The earliest traces of settlements
have been dated back to the middle of 3rd millennium BC. Evidence
found at the Akrotiri
excavations indicate that these settlements lasted until
the volcanic eruption that occurred at the height of the Minoan
Civilization (Bronze Age). The exact date of the eruption
is unknown. Recent findings indicate that the eruption occurred
between about 1650 and 1600 BC. These dates however conflict
with the usual date range from archaeological evidence, which
is between about 1550 BC and 1500 BC
By the end of the 13th century BC all traces of human presence
had vanished on the island.
The next settlers were the Phoenicians, a civilization that
had an enterprising maritime trading culture spreading across
the Mediterranean during the period of 1200 BC to 900 BC.
In the 9th century BC, Lacedaemonians (Dorian Period) came
to the island and founded the city of Ancient
Thira on Mesa Vouno. They named the city and the island
after their Spartan commander and leader, Theras. The island
of Thera became an important crossroad between the east and
west, while Therans journeyed further afar to the coast of
North Africa, where they colonized and founded the Ancient
City of Cyrene (in modern day Libya). At this time the Phoenician
alphabet was adopted for written Greek. (The Greek alphabet
in turn gave rise to the Gothic, Glagolitic, Cyrillic, and
Coptic, as well as the Latin alphabet).
During the reign of the Holy Roman Empire and the early Byzantine
years Thira did not play a significant political or military
role. Christianity first appeared on the island during the
4th century AC, and the Church
of Panagia Episkopi was built in the late 11th Century
by Byzantine Emperor Alexios A’ Kominos.
After the fall of Constantinople
to the Crusaders of the 4th Crusade in 1204, Marco Sanudo
conquered the Archipelago and founded the Duchy of Naxos (also
known as the Duchy of the Aegean). Marco Sanudo ruled from
1207–1227. He made the headquarters on island of Naxos,
and Thera was made the seat of one of the four Catholic Bishops
of the Duchy. During this period Santorini expanded economically
with cotton and grape cultivation. It also had considerable
problems with pirate raids, internal problems with quarreling
rival rulers and political problems that arose from differences
between the Duke of Naxos and Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent
(Born: November 6th 1494 - Died: September 5th/6th 1566).
Marco Sanudo gave Thira and the island of Thirassia as a
fief to Giacomo Barozzi, whose descendants ruled the island
(excepting a few short intervals) until 1480. Barozzi built
the original Castle
of Skaros 'La Roka'. In 1480 the Duke of Naxos was Giacomo
Crispo. He decided to give Thira as a dowry on the event of
his daughter Fiorenza's marriage to Domenico Pizani, son of
the Duke of Crete. Shortly after the death of Giacomo Crispo,
the island was taken over by his brother Gianni and reinstated
to the Duchy of Naxos.
Around the year of 1537, Thira
followed the fate of other islands in the Aegean - it was
repeatedly raided by the Turkish privateer and later admiral
of the Ottoman fleet, Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa (also known
as Hizir Hayreddin Pasa), who had dominated the Aegean for
decades. Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa was born on the island of
Midilli in 1478 (Lesbos in modern day Greece) and died in
1546 in Istanbul.
Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa snatched the islands of Kea (Tzia),
Mykonos and Thira from Venetian rule and forced the local
ruling parties to recognize the sovereignty of the Sultan.
Thira was finally relinquished to the Turks in 1566. Turkish
Dominion resulted in the abolition of piracy and the development
of international trade.
The Ottomans ruled Greece until
the early 19th century. In 1821 the Greeks rebelled, and Santorini,
with its large fleet of ships took part in the revolution.
Evaggelos Matzarakis, a sea captain raised the Flag of Independence
in Santorini on the 5th May of the same year.
Greece declared independence, but did not succeed in ratifying
it until the Treaty of Constantinople in July 1832. Santorini
was annexed to Greece in 1912. Until the beginning of the
20th century Santorini had a thriving shipping trade, with
major wine, tomato and textile exports. However with the introduction
of steamships, island factories moved to the mainland, causing
a serious blight on the local economy.
|On the 18th October 1944 Santorini
was occupied by German and Italian forces. The villages of Pyrgos
and Karterados have memorial plaques to commemorate those who
died in the Second World War.
|The earthquake of 1956 and the volcanic
eruption that followed was an economical and social catastrophe
for Santorini. 85% of the island structures were destroyed,
there was a large decrease in local population and Santorini
did not start to revive itself until the end of the 1970's with
the introduction of the tourist industry. Today Santorini is
one of the most popular holiday destinations worldwide.
|16th century contemporary painting,
Louvre Museum, Paris.
|Portrait : National Historical Museum,