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Recent pottery finds at Akrotiri from the 5th millennium bc have resulted in a pushing back of the date for the first settlement of the island in neolithic times. Although there were other smaller settlements around the island by the mid-3rd millennium, Akrotiri appears to have been the principal centre, laying the foundations for what was to become a great and cosmopolitan port in the Middle Bronze Age looking across the water to Crete. It was well-placed to profit from the copper-trading route from Cyprus, via rhodes and Thera, to Crete and mainland Greece. The city was damaged by earth quakes and rebuilt several times before it was finally destroyed by a volcanic eruption generally held to have occurred in the late 16th century bc (though scientific opinion on this date is far from agreed and some would date the eruption almost a century earlier), which buried all human settlement and radically changed the shape of the island through the collapse of part of it under the sea. This has given rise to suggestions that it was Metropolis, the destroyed capital of the lost ‘continent’ of Atlantis. The island was subsequently uninhabited for several centuries.
Herodotus says that the island was originally called Strongyle (‘round’); later it was referred to as Kalliste (‘most beautiful’). In tradition it was colonised by the Phoenicians, led by Cadmus. In the 9th or 8th century bc, Ancient Thera, a Dorian colony from Laconia was established on an isolated mountain site in the southeast corner of the island. It was, in true Dorian fashion, conservative in culture and in its external relations; but it was one of the first Aegean centres to adopt the Phoenician alphabet for writing the Greek language. Around 630 bc, it was forced by a protracted drought to found its own colony, Cyrene, on the north coast of Africa. In the late 6th century bc it minted its own coins, bearing the motif of two dolphins.
Together with Melos, Thera avoided alliance with Athens in the 5th century bc, and at the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War in 431/430 bc, managed to escape the unpleasant fate of Melos at the hands of the Athenians; but it was later assessed to pay a tribute of three talents to the First Athenian League. After the Athenian defeat in 404 bc, the island returned to the sphere of Spartan influence. After 375 bc, however, it was absorbed with the other Cycladic islands into the Second Athe nian League. In Hellenistic times, the island’s strategic position was particularly valued by the Ptolemies, who built Thera and its ports up into an important, garrisoned naval base of considerable prosperity; they maintained it until the death of Ptolemy VI ‘Philometor’ in 145 bc. Many of the ruins visible today at Ancient Thera date from this period.
We hear of a Christian bishop of Thera, Dioscorus, in the mid-4th century, whose seat was probably the Basilica of St Irene at Perissa, after which the island was later named. In the early 12th century, Emperor Alexius I Comnenus founded the church of the Panaghia Episkopi in the centre of the island. After Marco Sanudo, nephew of Doge Dandolo who had led the 4th Crusade, took the Cyclades in 1207, he ceded Santorini and Therasia to one of his followers, Giacomo Barozzi, whose descendants ruled the island from a capital at Skaros (near Imerovigli) until the Sanudo family, under Niccolo I Sanudo, desired to take it back again. He expelled the Barozzi in 1335, assuming the lordship of the island and giving the fortress of Akrotiri, in the south of the island, to the Gozzadini family. The Sanudo possessions passed to the Crispi family in 1397, and Santorini was ceded as a marriage dowry to Domenico Pisani, Duke of Crete in 1480. The island was attacked by Khaireddin Barbarossa in 1537, but came under Turkish dominion only later in 1566. In 1821 Santorini’s fleet contributed considerably to the Greek War of Independence; in 1832 the island officially became part of the Greek State. A strong earthquake in July 1956 damaged or destroyed well over half the structures on the island. In recent years, several curious occurrences of negligence have brought Santorini into the news: in September 2005 a part of the newly constructed protective roof over the archaeological site at Akrotiri collapsed killing a British tourist and injuring others: the site—one of the most visited in the Aegean—closed as a result for more than six years. on 5th April 2007 the Cypriot-owned cruise-vessel, Sea Diamond, with 1,200 passengers aboard, ran aground east of nea Kameni and sank 15 hours later just north of the main port of Athinios, with the loss of two lives.
Santorini Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.
By air: Santorini is wellconnected with four daily flights to Athens with both Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines, and three to Thessaloniki with Aegean. Aegean also operates a once-weekly direct flight to and from Milan and Rome, from July to September. The airport takes large aircraft, and is four and a half kilometres from Chora.
By boat: At Santorini the (new) ferry port (Athiniós) is seven and a half kilometres from Chora. There are generally two or three daily boat connections to Piraeus, taking nine hours by car-ferry and five hours by high-speed vessel; most stop at Paros and/or Naxos en route.
There are links to Anaphi, Folegandros, Sikinos and Ios , and with Crete, five or six times weekly (these drop to twice-weekly in the winter).
There are direct links to Milos twice-weekly throughout the year.
Boats for Therasia leave from the port of Oia at Amoudi (12 km from Chora), daily at 8 am and midday, to Riva. A connecting local bus to Potamos and Manolas (Chora) – 10 mins. Sometimes the boat route includes Korfos harbour, directly below Manolas, in addition to Riva
Santorini Travel Guide
Between the twin traps of the expensively pretentious and the indifferently touristic, there are still a few good places to eat on Santorini.
Ta Delphinia the water’s edge in the Bay of Akrotiri is a family run fish-taverna, which largely serves its own catch of fish accompanied by its own local wine (from March to August), and an array of traditional mezés, which include a delicious Santorinian fava and tomatokeftedes. The taverna Aktaion (often known as ‘Roussos’) at the very beginning of Firostefáni (as you arrive by foot from Chora), though small, serves local food, including a good prassopitta – a pie made with mixed greens and leeks.
50m north of it, is the best and most genuine Italian eatery in the Aegean (run by Italians), called Il Cantuccio. For a more highly-wrought cuisine, still based on Greek ingredients, Selene at the southern extremity of Chora offers peace and a beautiful view in addition to some interesting dishes.
Franco’s Bar in Chora merits mention as a historic institution: one of the first bars of the 1970’s on Santorini, it still serves (expensive, but wellprepared) cocktails to the accompaniment of classical music, in front of one of the most dramatic sunsets in Europe.
On Therasia, Taverna Panorama in Manolas, at the top of the steps from the harbour of Korfos, has an excellent view, passable food, but wayward prices.
Santorini Travel Guide
Ferdinand Fouqué, whose book Santorini et Ses Eruptions was first published in French in 1879, and reissued in an English translation by Alexander McBirney in 1999 by Johns Hopkins university Press, is the first comprehensive study of the island’s geology and volcanic history. J.V. Luce, The End of Atlantis (first published by Thames & Hudson, London, 1969; reprinted by Efstathiadis & Sons, Athens, 1982) is indebted to Fouqué, but follows the theme of Plato’s legend of Atlantis and its relation to Santorini. Nanno Marinatos, in Art & Religion in Thera: Reconstructing a Bronze Age Society (Athens, 1984) lays out a clear and cogent explanation of the paintings from Akrotiri. The Wall Paintings of Thera (Athens, 1992) by Christos Doumas,the current head of excavations at Akrotiri, is also authoritative and clear on the subject – as are all his many excellent articles and writings on Theran matters. For the lat est debate on the dating of the eruption of Thera, see: Acts of the Minoan Eruption Chronology Workshop in Sandjberg, Denmark in november 2007, published by the Danish Institute in Athens in 2009 as Time’s Up! Dating the Minoan Eruption of Santorini.
Santorini Travel Guide
On Santorini, the Kavalari Hotel (T.22860 22347, fax 22603, www.kavalari.com) is one of the older hotels on the island, centrally placed, with magnificent views, created from traditional Santorinian houses cut into the native lava at the top of the cliff above the caldera. It is simple, friendly, unpretentious, and beautiful: there is no elevator, however, and the rooms are reached down precipitous flights of steps.
For greater ease of access (also near the Metropolitan Church) is the Theoxenia Hotel (T.22860 22740, fax 22950, www.theoxenia.net): panoramic and very pleasant, with a good breakfast served in the rooms. The island’s oldest hotel, the Atlantis (T.22860 22111, fax 22821, www.atlantishotel. gr) is practical, straightforward, welcoming and superbly sited; it is one of Santorini: practical informati on 97 the few hotels open all year round.
The Aressana Hotel (T.22860 22860, fax 23902, www.aressana.gr), opposite the Atlantis, is also comfortably appointed and convenient. On one of the highest points of the cliff, with views directly over the caldera, Anteliz Apartments Hotel (T.22860 28842, fax 28843, www. anteliz.gr) is modern and attractive, with spacious rooms and a pool. For ‘boutique chic’, Homeric Poems (T.22860 24661, fax 24660; www.homericpoems. gr) offers a luxurious and rarified atmosphere.Oia is generally more tranquil than Chora; it also has the most delightful place to stay on the island – Chelidonia Villas (T.22860 71827, fax 71649, www. chelidonia.com),which combines simplicity with good taste, friendliness and a perfect position (T.22860 71827, fax 71649, www. chelidonia.com), which combines simplicity with good taste, friendliness and a perfect position. On Therasia there are rooms to rent at Zacharo, just above Manolas to the south, T.22860 29102.
Santorini Travel Guide