Santorini (officially Thira; Thera in ancient Greek) is surely one of the most beautiful, charming and fascinating islands in the world. It is famous for its history, food, beaches, sunsets and its amazing white villages clinging to the rim of the caldera.
I’ll start my series of posts on Santorini by telling you a little bit about its history: that is the minimum necessary in order to better understand the island and I think it could also be helpful to choose the things to be visited and even the place where you will stay.
Santorini is the largest volcanic island of an archipelago which bears the same name and that includes also the islands of Therasia (which is inhabited too), Palaia Kameni, Nea Kameni, Aspronisi and Christiana (all of them uninhabited). In its turn, Santorini archipelago belongs to the island group of the Cyclades, in the Aegean Sea.
In ancient times Santorini was a circular island with an internal lagoon (to which there was only one access route) and a crater located right in the middle of that lagoon.
Approximately in 1627 BC the volcano exploded and Thera was almost completely destroyed. Actually it has been the most devastating volcanic explosion in Europe since the beginning of written History and it has dramatically changed Thera’s geography. The violence of that explosion split the island and a piece of the single island gave origin to Therasia. The explosion also modified soil composition and created Santorini’s characteristic caldera, 300 meters high.
By the way, you will always find the word “caldera” every time you read something about Santorini. But what does it mean?
In a few words a caldera is a vast depression, normally invaded by water, formed following a particularly violent volcanic explosion in which a large volume of magma is erupted during a short period of time, nearly emptying volcano’s magma chamber. Once the magma chamber is empty, it is no longer a support for the terrain found over it, and so the soil collapses.
The entire zone was victim of several earthquakes, before and following the explosion, and the explosion provoked also tsunamis that reached the island of Crete and Egypt, reason for which it is considered by many researchers as the main indirect cause of the beginning of Minoan civilization’s decline and the consequent rise of the Mycenaean civilization.
Some interesting theories identify in those events the myth of the lost city of Atlantis, putting Atlantis right in the area occupied by Santorini, precisely by the village of Akrotiri.
Other explosions took place across centuries and helped to form today’s Santorini archipelago with the creation of its smaller islands.
Origin of the name “Santorini”
Santorini is actually the popular name of the island. Its official name is Thira.
The island was ceded to the Barozzi, a Venetian family, in the XI century. Since there was a chapel in Perissa dedicated to Saint Irene, by the harbor that was used by the Venetian fleet, the island was renamed after it. So, the origin of the name Santorini is a contraction of the words “Saint Irene”. Nowadays that chapel has been often used as a breathtaking wedding venue.
During the Ottoman Empire’s domination, the Turkish already used the names “Santurin” or “Santoron” to identify the island.
So, this is how today’s Santorini has been formed. I’ve been preparing a post on Santorini and its main attractions – follow my blog and don’t miss it!