Santorini is an astonishing natural phenomenon; but its human history, archeology and past, are no less mesmerising. For its small size, it has one of the richest and most varied archeological histories of any island. The volcanic nature of Santorini, even before the great eruption during the 2nd millennium BC, has always shaped its existence.
The Minoan eruption was one of the worlds largest volcanic events in the last millennia. The collapse and subsequent explosion resulted in a massive tsunami and major environmental change across the whole northern hemisphere. No trace of the islanders themselves has yet been found, but the present theory is that this event brought about the demise of the Minoan civilization.
A description of Atlantis as written by Plato shows a striking resemblance to Santorini. In his account Plato describes quarries on the island of Atlantis were “rocks of white, black and red were extracted from the hills and used to construct a great island city”. This description matches the composition of rocks found in Santorini. Also, one of the frescos discovered at the archeological site of Akrotiri, painted before the eruption in this ancient dwelling, resembles Plato’s description of the mythical Atlantis. All these, bring about the theory that Santorini may have been one of the possible locations of the fabled island of Atlantis.
According to evidence found in Santorini’s main archeological sites, the first human presence dates back to the Neolithic Period. Traces of settlement on the island found on Akrotiri date to around 3600 BC and confirm the island was inhabited by either the Minoans, or people with a very similar culture, as discoveries made at Akrotiri and Red Beach confirm.
The ancient dwellers of the island were most certainly, highly sophisticated and cultured people. Much of the Art found is in the style of Knossos of the island Crete, with many wall paintings and pottery depicting naturalistic landscapes of animals and people in ancient Minoan style.
At the site of Ancient Thira, on the peak of Mesa Vouno 396m above sea level, one can find the remains of a main Hellenic city founded by one of the 4 ancient greek tribes, the Dorian, circa the 9th century B.C. It was one of the first Aegean centers to adopt the Phoenician alphabet for writing the Greek language. In the late 6th century BC it minted its own coins, bearing the motif of two dolphins.
In the 4th century, a christian bishop, named Dioscorus lived on the island, whose seat was probably the Basilica of St. Irene at Perissa, after which the island was later named. In its history Santorini was also ceded as a marriage dowry to the Duke of Crete in 1480, and attacked by Khaireddin Barbarossa in 1537. The Santorini fleet contributed considerably to the Greek War of Independence and in 1832 the island officially became part of the Greek State.
One could plan a whole day around Greek Archeology with visits to the excavations of Ancient Thera, and the Minoan ruins of Akrotiri followed by a visit to the museum to see the exquisite mosaic masterpieces. Stroll the many cobblestone lanes of the picturesque villages, deciphering the history that is written in the architecture and mingle in the stories and culture of the place and its people.
The diverse monuments of Greece belong to a cultural continuum, which extends far beyond the country borders. Santorini has a rich history and culture that can be enjoyed throughout the island, which has also made its impact throughout the western world.