From the sea Seriphos has a striking profile. Spacious and relatively empty, it is the most mountainous of the Western Cyclades with a ridge of peaks well over 500m high and long ravines which drop to protected bays, often with shores of sand. On the moister, northern sides of the mountains the slopes have been densely terraced for cultivation; on their south-facing side they are bare and stony. The island’s rock is rich in metal ores, and both the land scape and the history of the island have been marked by the extraction of iron. This has brought its share of prosperity and of grief for the islanders. Metallurgic activity is very ancient on Seriphos, going back possibly to Early Cycladic times, and it has continued with some interruptions for over 4,000 years. The island’s name may even come from the Phoenician word for a foundry, ‘sareph’. All this creates an unusual landscape, in which the black breaches and subterranean galleries of the mines contrast starkly in the mind’s eye with the brilliant white buildings and churches which dot the landscape.
Seriphos has beautiful bays for swimming, but its greatest joy is the range of walking opportunities it offers—although these are best enjoyed in the cooler seasons because of a general lack of shade. The paths can be steep and rocky, but the views and ravines, especially in the north, are exhilarating. There are a number of ancient rural churches along the way, some with traces of paint; and a handful of impressive Late Classical and Hellenistic towers to explore. What stays in the memory long est, however, is the image of the island’s dramatic Chora, clustered around its peak far above the island’s harbour like an efflorescence of white crystals. At its heart is one of the most delightful town-squares in the Cyclades, in whose intimate and welcoming space the island’s distinctive, amber-coloured, fresh wine can be enjoyed—tasting of the sea, and strong in colour and flavour.
Seriphos, its frogs, and the legend of Perseus
Seriphos is associated with the legend of Perseus and his mother Danae. Zeus, in the form of a shower of golden rain, had procreated a child by Danae in her prison cell where she had been enclosed by her father, King Acrisus of Argos, who feared the fulfillment of an oracle which predicted he would be killed by his grandson. When the child was born he locked Danae and the infant Perseus in a chest and threw them into the sea. The chest washed up on Seriphos and was found by the kindly Dictys—brother of the island’s king Polydectes—who undertook to raise the child. Polydectes later fell in love with Danae, and seeking to keep the now adult Perseus out of the picture, sent him off to obtain the dreadful Gorgon’s head, a mission from which he was sure he would never return alive. Amply aided by Athena, Perseus succeeded and returned to Seriphos to find his mother and Dictys seeking refuge in a temple from the menacing attentions of Polydectes. Perseus went into the presence of the king and his sceptical courtiers so as to present the Gorgon’s Head; taking it out from its protective pouch, it had the customary effect of turning them all to stone. Dictys was placed on the throne of Seriphos, and Danae and Perseus departed for their homeland in Argos. It was after these endeavours that Perseus was prevented from resting by the noise of the frogs of the island, and asked his father, Zeus, to silence them. In Antiquity the ‘silent frogs of Seriphos’ were a curiosity that became proverbial. They were still silent, according to Pliny (Nat. Hist. VIII, 83), in his time; but—he observed—they would croak again if moved to another place. The Thunderer has since relented, it seems, and today’s frogs on Seriphos have a voice once more. The island’s 6th century bc silver coinage bears the design of a frog on the obverse. According to Pausanias (Descrip. II, 18.1) there was an important and long-lasting cult of Perseus on Seriphos.
Seriphos or Serifos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.