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History of Santorini

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Santorini is one of the most famous holiday destinations in Greece. Get important tourist information for your ferry trip to Santorini and read our recommendations and tips.

It is one of the most famous islands of the Cyclades as well as one of the most renowned Greek islands around the globe. Santorini presents a unique geological phenomenon, as today it is what has been left from the initial one (Stroggyli), which was submerged into the sea after the eruption of its volcano during the 16th century B.C. This was one of the most violent eruptions in the history of the Earth: the three quarters of the island were submerged, forming the Caldera (crater), while one of the most serious consequences caused by the eruption was the destruction of the Minoan palaces in Crete. The island extends over a surface of 73 km, its coastline is 69.5 km long and it has 13,670 inhabitants.
Santorini is the southernmost island of the Cyclades. Actually, it is an island complex which comprises of Thira, Thirasia, Aspronisi, Palea and Nea Kameni. It preserves to a great extent its architectural heritage, except for Fira and Oia, and the rest of the inland settlements. A great prehistoric culture was developed in Santorini, mainly during the Middle-Cycladic period, but it was destroyed by the eruption. Later the island was inhabited again, became prosperous during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, while it was under Venetian occupation for many centuries. The tourist development of the last decades was frenetic, but the island still remains attractive, full of secrets and unknown beauties and continues to have one of the most famous sunsets of the planet. It is also famous for its local production of wine as the vines have been cultivated since ancient times. The varieties Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, Mandilaria and Mavrotragano are cultivated here, while the wine is known as “Vintsato” is an exceptional one, produced by a mixture of Asirtiko and Aidani.

Santorini used to be a round island, but during an earthquake and volcano-outbreak in the 15th century BC the middle of the island sunk and gave it the shape it has today. This is one of the reasons why many believe Santorini really is where Atlantis once was. The Minoan civilization on the
island was razed after this, but apparently, most people managed to flee.
The island has changed names through history. Originally it was called Stroggyli ("round") since that was the shape of the island. When the Phoenicians came they named it Kallisti ("the very best"), and finally, it got the name Thira after its first ruler.
Theras was the son of the Theban hero Autesion who was a descendant of Cadmus. He was the vice-king of Sparta and responsible for his twin nephews Procles and Eurysthenes. When they were old enough to rule by themselves, Theras left Sparta with a company of aristocrats and settled on Santorini.
The Romans originally used the island as a place for exiles, but later helped in building up the island. The Christianization of Santorini took place between the 2nd and 5th century. The island was often ravaged and even destroyed by pirates and in 1204 it was conquered by the Venetians. It was about then the island got its current name. The islands patron saint was Agia Irini (St Eirene) and the foreign sailors called her St Irini - thus Santorini.

The island was destroyed by the Venetians in 1354, and once again in 1397, this time by the conquering Turks. In 1821 Santorini joined forces with the Greek revolutionists and the island was subsequently freed from Turkish rule. In 1956 there was a terrible earthquake which caused many buildings to be ruined. The people in Kamari are almost all from a village that was totally destroyed back then.
The underwater volcano, which is one of the rare examples of volcanoes in the world and clearly uncovered their internal structure, created from a circular island that was there before the explosion, a group of islands namely Thera, Thirassia, New and Old Kameni and Aspronisi.
The island has been reconstructed after the terrible earthquake that destroyed on 9 July 1956.

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