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Island’s history

According to legend, Santorini emerged from the depths of the sea- opinion justified by the timeless activity of the undersea volcano and the geological topography of the island. There is some evidence of life in the early Bronze Age. However, from the middle Bronze Age (1900-1600 BC), evidence becomes more abundant, showing great development.

The excavations by Professor Marinatos held In the area of Akrotiri (Promontory), revealed that there was a prehistoric settlement with a very important port. The great volcanic eruption in the late Bronze Age (ca.1600 BC) buried the settlement under 30 metres of ash.

The 1600 B.C. eruption changed the form of the island. We do not know if all the residents evacuated in time before the great catastrophe, where they moved, or when they returned. Findings indicate habitation from at least the 13th BC century. Phoenicians settled in the island and later on the Spartans, and their leader Theras settled in Mesa Vouno (Inner Mountain), Ancient Thira.

The archaelogical Findings from the Geometric Period (10th-8th century BC) and the Archaic Period (7th-6th century BC) show that the residents developed relations with nearby islands and the coast of Anatolia. In 630 B.C. Therans founded Kirini, a colony in the northern coast of Africa.

In the 6th century Thera had its own currency with two dolphins as an emblem.

Therans farmed, fished and traded with their own products.

During the Peloponnesian war, Thera supported Sparta as it was a Dorian colony. During Hellenistic years it became a nautical military base of Great Alexander’s Ptolemaic successors and the island was used as a station for the southern to northern Aegean Sea routes.

In the Byzantine period, Thera belonged to the theme of the Aegean Sea. Due to Arab invasions that took place during the 9th century, the residents moved to the inland, to fortified and unseen from the sea places. This era is marked by decline and poverty.

During the Venetian era the feudal system applied and Santorini became the headquarters of the Catholic Archiodese, one of four in the Duchy.

During the rule of the West, the islands suffered a great deal of pirate invasions from the Franks, the Muslims even the Greeks, which forced residents to live in fortified settlements called Kastelia.

In 1537, Khayr ad-Dīn Barbarossa, the notorious ex pirate and admiral of the Turkish fleet, took over the island in the name of the Sultan. In 1566 it was ceded to Joseph Naji, a wealthy Jewish banker who governed the islands through a representative until 1579.

In the late 17th century the privileged status of Santorini and other islands, together with changes in the community’s organization, allowed financial growth and development. By the 18th cenruty, the island population reached the 9,000 people.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, industry also started developing in Santorini. The earthquake of 1956 accelerated the island’s economic decline.

The impressive recovery began in the 1970′s, with the amazingly rapid growth of tourism.

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