Santorini History

Ancient Thira

Ancient Thera is located in the southern part of Santorini. It is between Kamari and Perissa in altimeter of 396 meters. Ancient Thera was named by the leader of the Dorian colony called Theras in the 9th century B.C. The ancient city was full of life until the early Byzantine period. However, the main area of the graveyard was excavated by German archaeologists between 1895 and 1902.

Among the tombs the most significant are:

The Agora

It almost covers the center of the city. In the north side, which was created in the Roman period, there are memorials and temple-like buildings in honour of eminent persons.

Temple of Dionysus

It is laid north of the Agora. Even if it is a small temple it is constructed in an artificial terrace. Both marble and local rocks were used to build this temple.

The Sanctuary of Artemidoros

It is a very remarkable sanctuary because it is utterly hewn in the rock. In the rocks epigrams and inscriptions are carved along with the symbols of the gods worshipped such as a dolphin for Poseidon.

Cemeteries of Ancient Thera

They are located on the slopes of Sellada, a place between Kamari and Perissa. The uncovered graves span the long period between the Geometric and Roman times.

The Royal Arcade

Along the axis of the building there is a Doric colonnade. In honour of Caesar statuses of his family are placed.

Gymnasium of the youths

The remaining of the original monument it is hewn cave. It is dedicated in Mercury and Hercules.

Sanctuaries at the SE edge of the city

In the square the inhabitants used to celebrate for Apollo of Karneios. A number of inscriptions are carved in the rocks which refer to deities and youths.

The Sanctuary of Apollo Karneios

What is remarkable about this monument is that it is both built in the rock and on an artificial terrace.

The Theatre

It was constructed in the Ptolemaic period (3rd century B.C.) and in its original form had a circular orchestra. During alterations in the 1st century A.D., the stage was extended and took over part of the original orchestra.


“Queen of the heartbeats, and wings of the Aegean, With words that convert the infinite With fire, lava, smoke, you discovered the great lines of your destiny.” Odysseas Elytis Ode to Santorini

Santorini or Thera distinguishes from the islands of Cyclades due to its geological morphology. The cause of its existence is the explosion of the volcano thousands years ago. Various names have been given to this island. At the Ancient Period the island was called “Strongili”, that means round, because of its shape. The present form of the island was formed by the first volcanic explosion. The name given in that period was “Kallisti”, that means the fairest one, because of its beauty. Then, the island was named Thera when Dorian colonists lived in the seven villages of the island in honour of their chief, Thera, at about 800 B.C. Later, Italian semen, crusaders and pilgrims named the island Santorini from the port of Santa Irene in which they anchored during their travels.

At the first big explosion roughly 16th century B.C., tidal waves devastated the coasts of Crete so that they desolated the Minoans, according to the archaeologist Mr. Spyros Marinatos. The consequence of this explosion was the emersion of the volcano from the depths of the earth. It was a huge portion of the island that was sunk and thus the known caldera, perhaps the biggest marine caldera in the world with area 83 square kilometers roughly, was created. Moreover, a huge destruction was caused by a big mass of pumice or “kissira”. Its height reached up to 40 meters resulting in the annihilation of every kind of life and culture.Various seismic vibrations created smaller islets, called “Kammenes”. One of them is New Kammeni, in which the recent crater of volcano is located.

In 1967, Mr. Marinatos started researches in the area of Akrotiri in order to confirm his theory. The result of excavations was the appearance of an entire autonomous city. In the surface came out a network of water supply and sewerage and paved roads at the length of which two-floor and three-floor houses exist. The influence of Minoan culture was obvious since in a number of houses there were unique frescos of Minoan style. However, human skeletons or anything other which declares the presence of life in the island at the explosion were not found. Thus, it is concluded that earthquakes of small volume warned the residents for the consequent volcanic explosion and they vacated the city.

The new residents after the big destruction had to face a barren environment in their effort to survive. They accomplished however to survive and the produced products among other are the following: wine, arid plum tomatoes, caper, fava, white eggplants, white watermelons, pea, fresh beans and potatoes. In addition, honey, cucumbers or “katounia” in the folk speech were available.

The most common wines of Santorini are Nixteri, white dry and aromatic wine, Asirtiko, and Vinsanto. The local lend this name in Nixteri since all the preparation takes place in the night because of the low temperatures. On the contrary, Vinsanto is a sweet wine, red or white. It is produced by sun-cured grapes. The Orthodox Church used this wine in the “sacrament” for a number of centuries.

In conclusion, we invite you in our beautiful and infrequent island, Santorini, to enjoy its dainty morsel as well as to become witnesses to this glorious civilization.