Syros History

Syros island lies in the center of Cyclades and according to the archaeological evidence, it was first inhabited in the prehistoric times (4000 BC) and later in the Cycladic period (3000 BC). In the areas of Kastri and Chalandriani, graves and cultivated settlements have been found. The first reference to Syros was made by Homer under the ancient name "Syrie". The first settlers in the history of Syros were the Phoenicians who moved around the Cyclades. Traces of ancient settlements from the 7th century BC were found in the hill of Agia Pakous, in Galissas and west of Ermoupolis. During the 6th century, Syros was inhabited by the Samians, one of whom was the great philosopher Ferekidis, who later became the teacher of Pythagoras.

Ancient Ermoupolis was built by the Ionians and was later settled by the Persians, Romans, Franks, and Turks, who left their cultural traces. During the Roman years, the relics of the old capital, built on the site of the present Ermoupolis and the bronze coins of Syros, witness a great economic development. However, the Venetians played a major role in the cultural development of the island making Syros an important trade center of the Eastern Mediterranean. The constant pirate invasions though forced the inhabitants of Syros to move the capital on top of the hill, where today lies the medieval settlement of Ano Syros, with the church of Saint Georgio.

When the French conquered the island, in the 17th century, Syros was inhabited by a great number of Catholics, the known capuchins who founded a small monastery that remains active to this day. The island flourished greatly following the Greek revolution in 1821, when a massive wave of emigrants from Psara, Chios, Crete, and Minor Asia settled in Syros using the island as the center of their trading and maritime activities. This was a huge economic boost for Syros and at the same time, the wealthy families of Syros took the initiative to build numerous buildings, like schools and theatres. The prosperous period lasted until the early 20th century with the arrival of the German troops to Syros. Thousands of people died from famine and diseases that period and the local economy was left destroyed.

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