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The world famous island of Santorini is the southern most island of the Cycladic group in the Aegean Sea, and is located 63 nautical miles north of Crete.
Human presences on the island seem to have existed since the middle of the 3rd millennium B.C. The excavations at Akrotiri have confirmed that human activity on the island continued until the eruption of the volcano around 1500 B.C, which entirely buried the island beneath very thick layers of pozzuolona, At that point, all traces of human activity vanished from the island until the end of the 13th century B.C.
According to Herodotus, the island was initially called Strongyle (the Round One). Then later, because of its beauty, it was named Kalliste (the Fairest One). The Phoenicians settled in Kalliste, and after the Phoenicians, the Lacedaemonians arrived and renamed the island after their leader, Theras. In the 9th century B.C. Thera, became an important stopping point of that era in the travel routes between the East and the West. The Phoenician alphabet was adopted at this time for writing in the Greek language. Interestingly though, the conservative Therans, did not follow the cultural development of their counterparts in the other Cycladic islands. At about 630 B.C the Therans reached the north coast of the African continent where they founded Cyrene, the only Theran colony. From as early on as the 6th century B.C. Thera had its own coinage. During the Classical period in Greece [5th and 4th century B.C.] Thera did not play any significant role in the events of that Hellenic time. During the Peloponesian War Thera sided with Sparta, as expected. In Hellenistic times the island's strategic position made Thera an important base for the war campaigns in the Aegean of the successors to Alexander the Great.
During the Roman Empire, Thera was little more than a small, insignificant island. However, when Christianity reached the island early, an organized church was established by the 4th century A.D. The island had neither political nor military significance in Byzantine times, although Alexius I Comnenus [1081 - 1118] founded the church of the Panagia Episkopi at Gonia. After the fall of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade , the Duchy of Naxos was founded and Thera became the seat of one of the four Catholic Bishops of the Duchy. The name Santorini was given at that time by the Crusaders, named after a small chapel of Agia Irini [Santa Irene] which some say was located at Perissa and others say it was at Riva on Therasia.
In the years under Frankish rule [1207 - 1579], Santorini experienced the development of a thriving cotton cultivation and viticulture, but the island suffered as much from piratical raids as it did from the rivalries between the local Latin rulers as well as the Duke and the Sultan.
The Turkish dominion [1579 - 1821] resulted in the abolition of piracy and the development of international trade. The Santorinians created close contacts with the great harbours of the Eastern Mediterranean (Alexandria, Constantinople, Odessa) where they founded important communities.
In 1821, Santorini with its shipping power, took part in the fight for independence from the Turks, and in 1830, the island became part of the independent Greek state. Up until the beginning of the 20th century shipping, textiles, tomato production and viticulture were all flourishing markets, but the change from sail to steam-driven ships and the relocation of the island's factories to mainland Greece had a negative effect on the island's economy. After the 1956 earthquake there was a huge decrease in the population resulting in an economic catastrophe. Towards the end of the 1970s however, tourism began to develop, bringing economic relief to the island.
See more at: www.santorini.com
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