Santorini History

After Jason and the Argonauts left Crete to return home, they reached an island called Anaphe and decided to spend the night there. During the night, Euphemus, one of the Argonauts, dreamed that he was making love to one of Triton's daughters and impregnated her - note that Triton, the god of the sea, had previously given Euphemus a clod of earth when the Argonauts were at Lake Tritonis. In his dream, the nymph told the man to throw the clod into the sea and that it would grow into an island. When Euphemus woke up, he shared his weird dream with Jason, who advised him to throw the clod into the sea. He followed his friend's advice and the clod grew into an island, which he named Calliste; that is how Santorini was created according to mythology.

According to excavations on Santorini and archaeologists, the first human presence on the island dates back to the Neolithic Period. Santorini hosted a notable civilization around 3600 BC. Discoveries made in a city near Akrotiri and the famous Red Beach revealed the existence of an ancient Minoan colony. The settlement was similar to those found on the island of Crete (like Knossos), with many wall ornaments and pottery depicting naturalistic landscapes of animals and humans of the same ancient Minoan style.

In ancient times, Santorini Island was known as Strongili, which means round in Greek. Strongili was the victim of an enormous volcano eruption around 1600 BC. The eruption was so potent, that many consider it the prime cause of the destruction of the great Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, situated 70 nautical miles away.

The specialists believe that the explosion was so strong that it created gigantic waves which reached the shores of the surrounding islands and Crete. After the eruption, the central landmass of Santorini sank, and the subsequent earthquakes destroyed a large part of the rest of the island. Extensive evidence and research about the volcano of Santorini are available nowadays. In addition, a series of documentaries on the topic has been made by National Geographic.

In some ancient myths, the catastrophe of Santorini is associated with the legend of Atlantis. According to history, Phoenicians settled on ancient Thera around 1300 BC and stayed for five generations. Then, around 1100 BC, the island was occupied by the Lacedaemonians. Around 825 BC, the inhabitants of the island, then named Thera, were using the Phoenician alphabet. During the 7th and 6th centuries BC, Thera had commercial and trade relations with most of the islands and cities of Greece. In the Hellenistic Period, Thera, because of its central position in the Aegean, became an important trade center and naval base, due to its strategically-perfect position.

Between 1200 AD and 1579 AD, the island was under Byzantine rule and the church of Episkopi Gonia is founded. In 1204 AD the island surrendered to the Venetian Marco Sanudo and became a member of the Duchy of the Archipelago. The current name of the island was given by the Venetians after Santa Irini, a Catholic church. During that time, intense battles between Venetians and pirates occurred. Throughout Turkish rule (1579-1821), the island succeeded in trading development with ports of the Eastern Mediterranean. The period that follows was quite prosperous for Santorini.

Due to the wars of the 20th century, Santorini's economy declined and the inhabitants abandoned the island after a catastrophic earthquake in 1956. The tourist development in Santorini began in the 1970s; today, the island constitutes one of the top tourist destinations worldwide. Over the years, Santorini has also become a favorite place for weddings and honeymoons. Except for that, many international meetings and conferences take place there in summer, at the Nomikos Conference Center or in luxurious hotels.