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Ancient Santorini, in the Cyclades: In ancient times, the island of Santorini was called Thera. It took its present name by the Venetians in the Middle Ages (Saint Irene - Santorini). In the antiquity, the island had times of prosperity and times of decline. The site of Ancient Thera is perched on a hill called Messa Vouno above Perissa Beach, on the south-eastern coast of the island. This town originally constituted a religious centre due to its high location and the marvellous view.
The first traces of human inhabitancy in Ancient Thera reveal that there was activity in the Neolithic Period (in the mid 5th century). Scattered settlements, mainly Akrotiri, witness human activity until the middle of the 16th century BC when a strong volcanic eruption destroyed the entire Minoan settlement leaving no traces. Since then, Thera remains deserted for centuries until written sources mention Santorini in the Peloponnesian War of 431 BC and in the Roman Empire. Ancient Thera becomes prosperous and populated during the Hellenistic period, as witnessed by the cemeteries and the numerous places of worship.
Through the prosperous period, Thera develops and the Agora (meeting place) extends greatly. Numerous buildings are constructed and at the same time, places of worship are added and sanctuaries to honour the gods and kings. Houses have a rich decoration as well. After the 3rd century AC, the town of Ancient Thera declines. Several excavations in the early 20th century revealed certain parts of the town. The items discovered are today hosted in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira Santorini.