Ηistory of Santorini
Two million years ago, the present island of Thira was three islands or rocks. Through many volcanic eruptions over the years, lava filled the gaps and connected the three islands/ rocks forming a circular island with a crater in the middle of 3.000 feet high.
According to searches and excavations made in the inhabited sites of Santorini, the first human presence on the island is situated back to the Neolithic Period. Santorini hosted an important civilization around 3600 BC. Discoveries made in an important city near Akrotiri and the famous red beach show the existence of an ancient Minoan colony. The city was very similar to those found in the island of Crete, with many wall ornaments and pottery showing naturalistic landscapes of animals and humans of the same ancient Minoan style.
In Ancient times, Santorini Island was known as Stongili, which means "round" in Greek. Strongili was the victim of an enormous volcano eruption around 1600-1550 BC. After the first eruption of the volcano, that resulted in the island's present shape, the island was named Kallisti, meaning the “fairest one”. The eruption was so huge that many consider it to be the main cause of the destruction of the great Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, situated 70 nautical miles away. The specialists believe that the explosion was so strong that it created gigantic waves that reached the shores of the surrounding islands and Crete. After the explosion, the centre of Santorini sank, and the many earthquakes that followed destroyed a big part of the rest of the island.
In some ancient myths, the destruction of the island is closely associated to the legend of Atlantis. According to history, Phoenicians settled on ancient Thera around 1,300 BC and stayed for five generations. Then, around 1100 BC, the island was occupied by the Lacedaemonian. Around 825 BC, the inhabitants of the island, then named Thera, were using the Phoenician alphabet. In the 7th and 6th centuries BC, Thera had commercial and trade relations with most of the islands and cities of Greece. During the Hellenistic Period, Thera, because of its central position in the Aegean, became an important trade centre and a important naval base, due to its strategically perfect position.
Until 1204 AC the island was under Byzantine rule and the church of Episkopi Gonia was founded. In 1204 AC the island is surrendered to the Venetian Marco Sanudo and becomes part of the Duke of the Aegean. The new name of the island Santorini was given by the Venetians after the Santa Irini, the name of a catholic church. During that time there is a strong battle between Venetians and pirates. During the Turkish rule (1579-1821) the island succeeds in trading development with the ports of Eastern Mediterranean. In 1830 Santorini joined the free New Greek State. The period that follows is quite prosperous.
Due to the wars in 20th century, Santorini's economy declines and the inhabitans abandon the island due to the catastrophic earthquake in 1956. The tourist development in Santorini begins in the 1970s and today it is one of the best tourist destinations in the world.