Hotels

Oia

Imerovigli

Fira

Firostefani

Villages

The history of Santorini is closely linked to the geophysical characteristics of the island. The form and progress of the island throughout the centuries is the outcome of its intense volcanic activity, especially of the massive prehistoric eruption that left the island deserted for some centuries. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, the first people to reach the island again were the Phoenicians in the 13th century BC, who gave it the name Kallisti (=the most beautiful) as they were mesmerized by its extraordinary beauty.

About one century later, Dorians from Sparta settled in the island and they name it Thera after their king, Theras. During the 9th century BC, Santorini was a Dorian colony and the settlement of Ancient Thera in Mesa Vouno Mountain was its center. Santorini along with the southeast shores of the Aegean Sea, Crete, Milos and Cyprus, was an important crossroad between the West and the East. Although Santorini was a closed community it was slightly influenced by the neighboring islands and followed the developments. As a result, Santorini adopted the Phoenician alphabet for written Greek and later the residents started to make contacts with other Greek regions. In 630 BC the Santorinians made their first and only colony in Africa, the Ancient City of Cyrene, and after that a long period of drought, presumably seven years, hit the island.

In the 6th century BC they coined their own money but during the Persian Wars they were subjugated to Persians and the mint closed down. In the Peloponnesian War they were at Sparta’s side but in 426/425 BC they were part of the Athenian Empire. Later, Santorini became part of the Roman Empire.

During the Byzantine years the island was embodied in the Byzantine Empire but it did not play a significant political or military role. Christianity first appeared on Santorini during the 3rd or 4th century AC when the first church was constructed, Episkopi of Thera that had its own bishop.

After the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders of the 4th Crusade in 1204, Santorini and the rest of the islands of the Aegean Sea were under the rule of Marco Sanudo, who created the Duchy of Naxos. He later granted Santorini and Therasia to Giacomo Barozzi, whose descendants ruled the island until 1480. The name Santorini was given from the Crusaders, after a chapel of Saint Irene (Santa Irini). The fate of the Duchy was its annexation to Venice in 1487.

During the Frankish rule the islands suffered from incessant pirate raids and from the rivalry of the local rulers, facts that led to the creation of five fortified settlements (kastelia) in Santorini, whose ruins are left on the island till today and constitute glorious landmarks. These are the castles of Skaros in Imerovigli, Pyrgos, Emporio, Akrotiri and Agios Nikolaos in Oia.

From 1579 to 1821 the island was under the Turkish rule and the Turks named it Dermetzik, which means small mill, probably because of the numerous windmills on the island. Santorinians were given a fair amount of autonomy but they had to pay a tax. During the Ottoman rule the piracy ceased and as a result the merchant navy developed when the island acquired its own fleet. The general prosperity of Santorini was evident from the impressive manor houses that still exist today. In the Greek War of Independence the fleet of Santorini was very powerful. Santorini was finally annexed to Greece in 1912.

Until the end of the 19th century Santorini had a flourishing shipping trade and the export of goods included cotton, textiles, agricultural products and, of course, its famed wine. This prosperity reached to an end in 1956, after a catalytic earthquake and a volcanic eruption that followed, which caused incalculable damage. Decline and desertion pervaded the island until 1970 with the introduction of the tourism industry, when the reconstruction of the island started and more and more people visited it. Nowadays, all these incidents belong to the past and Santorini is one of the most sought-after destinations worldwide.

The long history of Santorini remains alive through the two prominent archaeological sites, the prehistoric city of Akrotiri and the Ancient Thera on Mesa Vouno Mountain and is also evident in the Venetian ruins and lovely churches. The impressive caldera and the volcano remind us how the island’s progress is inextricably linked to the forces of nature and this is the key to its success and popularity. The result of all these is a spectacular natural beauty, outstanding landmarks, dramatic landscapes, exquisite views and a magical aura that fill the millions of visitors with rapture and awe.