The inhospitable offshore islet of Seriphopoula has remarkably revealed traces of a human presence in the Late Neolithic period. In the west of Seriphos itself are settlements from the Early Cycladic period, with evidence of ore-mining and metallurgic activity at this early period. The first settlers in historic times were Aeolians from Thessaly: Herodotus says the island was later colonised by Ionians from Athens. In the 6th century bc the city of Seriphos, on the same site as today’s Chora, became prosperous through its metal mining activity, and issued its own coinage. The only substantial archaeological remains visible today are from the late 5th century bc and the Hellenistic period, when a network of towers and forts was erected in the south and west of the island to protect the lucrative metal trade. The island became a Roman possession in 146 bc. The mines continued to be exploited by them, and the island was used as a place of exile: Tacitus (Annals, IV. 21) relates how the outspoken orator, Cassius Severus, was exiled to Seriphos on a charge of lese-majeste, or ‘maiestas minuta populi Romani’, under Augustus, and died there around 35 AD.
After the capture of Constantinople in 1204, the ownership of the island passed into the hands of the Venetian Ghisi and Giustiniani families, although it returned to Byzantine rule between 1276 and 1296 after being re-taken by the Veronese admiral Licario for Byzantium. A treaty in 1303 between Byzantium and Venice returned the island to Venetian possession, after which several names appear as prominent in the late 14th century—Ermolao Minotto, who reopened the mines to commercial activity, and Niccoli² Adoldo, a ruthless adventurer supported by Cretan mercenaries, who effectively pillaged the island in 1393. Cristoforo Buondelmonti visited Seriphos in c. 1421 and found the islanders living in fear of pirate attack. In 1537 Khaireddin Barbarossa captured the island for the Otto man Empire.
In 1829 Seriphos joined the Greek State. The industrial exploitation of the iron mines re-opened with an official licence in 1867. Deteriorating safety and unreasonable demands on the employees led to a strike in 1916—one of the first and bloodiest in the history of Greece’s labour movement (see box below). The mines closed in 1963. The island now lives from a moderate seasonal tourism.
Seriphos or Serifos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.