SANTORINI



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Santorini - The South of the Island - Ancient Historic Thera - The Hellenistic city

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The Hellenistic city
As you climb towards the remains of the city itself from the entrance to the enclosed area you pass the double-nave church of Aghios Stephanos, which dates from perhaps as early as the 9th century ad, and is built within the remains of a 5th century ad Early Christian basilica, dedicated to the Archangel Michael. The chapel is constructed with antique material—its vaulted, cave-like interior, reminiscent of Aghios Kosmas on Kythera in the ubiquitous use of ancient spolia. Monolithic columns without capitals rudimentarily support the vaults, and ancient blocks and tomb-covers from the Christian basilica, engraved with crosses and inscriptions, constitute parts of the walls. The area of rock behind the church shows signs of quarrying: all the stone in Ancient Thera, apart from the elements of white marble and red, volcanic stone, comes from the ridge itself.
   Fifty metres beyond Aghios Stephanos you come to the Temenos or Shrine of Artemidoros of Perge, who was admiral of the Ptolemaic fleet in the late 4th century bc. Little remains of the superstructure of what was a grand and complex monument, intended equally to honour a group of divinities and to promote his own glory. The carved symbols of the principal divinities are clearly visible in the rock face behind: the dolphin of Poseidon, the lion of Apollo and the eagle of Zeus. Artemidorus—as sailor and admiral—has had his own image positioned above the dolphin of Poseidon and carved in numismatic profile. The cutting away of the platform of the shrine would have provided stone for construction in the town.
   After a final rise with steps, the path drops into the agora of the city. The area is not built around a central square as was most common, but is drawn out along the ridge of the mountain, as determined by the steep lie of the land. The bases of shops are seen to the seaward side, while the residential area climbs up above, to the right. This is a good point at which to observe the variety of masonry: in the shops are many elements in a dark red, volcanic pumice brought from the north of the island, which provides vivid chromatic re lief; visible on the hillside, well below to the left, is the perfect, drafted, 4th-century bc masonry of the corner bastion of a deep podium for a building on the slope, referred to as the ‘platys teichos’, or ‘broad wall’. On the hill above the agora, the walls display areas of similarly well-cut and laid ashlar masonry, alternating with other areas of rough and irregular masonry: the latter would probably have been faced with plaster, the former left exposed. This meant that the appearance of the ancient town was not that dissimilar to many historic Mediterranean towns today, in which the corners of large buildings—which always take the brunt of knocks and bangs—are in clean masonry, while the long stretches of wall were rendered with a stucco. On the slope, the public buildings to the seaward side broke the wind, and reflected the stepped buildings facing them higher up. The streets of the area are endowed with a network of covered drains.

   A little further along the main path and to the right-hand side is the so-called Royal Stoa, an elongated building, with a central spine of columns, running below terraces above. This was a roofed and closed edifice, built at the start of the 1st century ad, which functioned as the city’s principal civic and judicial building. The central columns supported a hipped roof which (according to inscriptions) collapsed in an earthquake during the reign of Trajan and had to be re stored. The building would have exhibited decrees inscribed on stelai, similar to those in the back wall of the building which have been haphazardly immured there at a later date. To the south, the main street narrows, passing a municipal water-house—a communal cistern which husbanded the city’s precious supply of stored water, so as to supplement that of the private houses which were nearly all endowed with individual cisterns for collecting rainwater. To the east of it, opens out the small, highly panoramic, 3rd-century bc theatre. This began as a Greek-style theatre with a circular orchestra and low skene; but, as often happened, it was re modelled in roman times with a large skene which now took up half the space of the original orchestra. The street beyond the theatre leads down between finely built ashlar walls of houses to either side, towards the oldest and most sacred area of the town. Before following it, we retrace our steps to the north end of the royal Stoa, so as to explore the residential area further uphill.

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Santorini Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.


access

Santorini Island, 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

eating

Santorini Island, Greece.

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

further reading

Santorini Island, Greece.

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

lodging

Santorini Island, Greece.

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

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