(1900 Times Atlas of the World)
1207 Marco Sanudo, a Venetian adventurer, conquered Nasso and the nearby islands including Santorino.
1566 Jacopo IV Crispo, the last Duke of Nasso, was cashiered by the Sultan, but the Venetians included Santorino in their Kingdom of Candia
1579 Santorino became part of the Ottoman Empire.
1645-1669 During the War of Candia the Venetians often controlled Santorino.
Sanctorini was once the pleasantest island in the Archipelago. I am not without authority for the opinion; Herodotus says it was called Calliste from its beauty. (..) What changes does a series of years produce in things one would suppose most permanent. Santorini is now the worst and ugliest island of the Archipelago; nothing can be so ragged or so unpleasant to the eye or to the mariner as the prospect of its shores no where even or agreeable, but torn or rent as it were by violence. Nor is the suggestion without reason; no place has been so subject to earthquakes; no place so fatally full of their effects. The island once fruitful and covered with capes and variety of vegetables is now a bed of pumice. The form of the island is extraordinary. Tis a kind of crescent. (..) The bosom of the crescent seems to form one of the finest natural harbours in the world, but no line could ever yet be found long enough to get at a bottom, and consequently all the seeming advantages are lost for want of anchorage. At the entrance into the crescent or between the promontories of the island which makes its two horns there are four lesser islands. The largest however is not inconsiderable. Tradition says that all of these have been thrown up by volcanoes and eruptions from the bottom of the sea and there is reason to believe it. What was called the new island was produced in that manner in a place before absolute and unfathomable sea, but a little while ago and there is no cause to doubt the authority of those accounts which give the same origin to others. The people of Santorini were all terrified by the unaccustomed roarings under the ground and even under the bed of the sea, though so deep as to have no known bottom. They were collected to the shore by the noise and waked night and day with the alarm, conscious that something terrible must be the event. At length the fire threw itself up from the surface of the sea at a distance and when the day light and the dispersion of the smoak gave them opportunity of seeing there was a hillock of solid matter raised above the surface of the water; the roarings below continued, the fire tossed itself up from the middle of the new raised island and at every shake more and more matter was raised; the bulk encreased and the island grew under the eyes of the spectators more and more considerable.
Thomas Broderick - Letters from Several Parts of Europe, and the East: Written in the Years 1750, etc.
Santorino (or Sant'Irinni) owes its Venetian name to a church dedicated to St. Irene: of its other names Strongyle (the circular one) is perhaps the most appropriate one, because it describes the shape of the group of islands which were left at the end of one of the largest volcanic eruptions known in history (more on it at the end of the page). Santorino, the largest of these islands has the shape of a crescent.
St. Erino, here being several Merchants, who have some power amongst the Malteses, and drive a smart trade; buying up prize goods: they carry them, and sell them at Scalanova (Kusadasi), and other places in Asia, bringing for returns cotton; (..) great quantitys goe yearly to Candia, Zante, and other places. These Merchants also agree at Constantinople for the tribute of the whole Island. Most strangers are given to understand, the whole Island is enchaunted; such terrifying noises are somtimes heard, and the ships moorings to the shoare being often losed. (..) This Island has suffered very much by Earthquakes, a great part being swallowed up.
Bernard Randolph, b. 1643. The present state of the islands in the archipelago.
The principal town does not stand upon the coast, but such a way as is to it tis impossible to describe it to you. I have talked of rugged rocks and rough precipices of climbing up and of sliding down the beds of stone that interrupted my passage, but it would require worse words than all those have demanded to paint to you this way. I don t wonder that they have few visiters. Broderick
The Sanudo rulers of Santorino built Skaro, a fortified town, at the tip of a cape from which they were able to control both the southern and the northern entrances to the caldera, the sea area surrounded by the islands created by the eruption.
Site of Skaro, the old Venetian town
I set off for a walk along
the cliff to visit the old ruined town of Scaros, where the
Italian princes who were younger sons of the dukes of
Naxos held their court. (..) The red rock on which Scaros is
built juts out into the bay; on the top of it is the castle
of the mediaeval rulers, and around cluster the old houses
which were abandoned only twenty years ago because
they were falling into the sea; and the last inhabitant,
an old woman, had to be dragged away by main force,
so attached was she to the home of her ancestors. Few
visit the spot now, for the approach is difficult; but
wishing to find an inscription (..) I climbed over
a good part of it without discovering the object of my
search. (..) From one point of view the crumbling ruins of the
mediaeval town are interesting, for they show the strength
of the vaulted cement roofs, which only fall to pieces in
huge masses, the arches being firmly wedged together
and levelled with cement; some of these houses are two-storeyed, and hold together in a remarkable way. Scaros
must have been a strong spot in ancient days.
James Theodore Bent - The Cyclades - 1885
In the XVIIIth century the inhabitants of Skaro began to move to a village which was still on the edge of the caldera, but in a more easily reachable position. The buildings of the old town gradually crumbled and the earthquakes completed the destruction of Skaro.
View of Thira
Pherà has many Roman Catholics in it, for in the
middle ages numbers of Italian and Spanish families
settled here: these families still take the lead, and possess
the finest houses. Bent
On many Cycladic islands, even after the fall of the Dukes of Nasso, the families of Venetian origin retained a prominent role in the local communities: when the inhabitants of Skaro moved to Thira, their new town (a village previously known as Pyrgos due to an existing tower), the Catholic families settled on higher ground: their quarter, with several churches and monasteries, (on the left in the photo shown above) is clearly distinct from the Orthodox one which is grouped around a very large church.
The steamer stopped in front of a nest of houses, clinging to the cliff, which forms the little port. (..) The wall of rock is ascended by a newly made zigzag path, which joins Phera and her port, 950 feet beneath her - which 950 feet are composed of countless layers of volcanic eruptions in contorted lines of black and red. Here and there a little verdure clings to the cliff; here and there the little houses peep, like owls, from out of the rocks; and huge black boulders, which have been loosened and fallen in times of earthquake, stand ominously threatening on the next opportunity to roll down and crush the houses by the harbour. Bent
(left) Ghisi or Chigi house; (right) relief portraying St. Catherine of the Wheel at the Dominican nunnery
New Burnt Island appeared in the centre of the basin in 1707. (..) Nothing happened to this mysterious workshop of Vulcan until January 1866, when scientific men from all nations hurried to Santorin to witness another eruption. (..)
There are the Dekigallas (De Cigalli)
and Barozzi, of Italian origin; there are the Da Corognas
and Delendas, of Spanish origin, said to be remnants of
the wandering Catalans who haunted these seas in the
fourteenth century, and some of whom reigned, as we
have previously seen, in Siphnos. There is a convent,
too, in Pherà, where the young ladies of Santorin are
taught French; so the upper class inhabitants of this
town consider themselves very Western indeed, and give
themselves airs which are highly displeasing to the
Greeks: never was there any love lost between devotees
of the Eastern and Western dogmas. Bent
Very few buildings of Thira did not collapse in 1956 when another strong earthquake struck the island. As it often happens some of the oldest houses, e.g. that of the Ghisi, held fast while more recent ones fell apart.
Venetian heritage: (left) altar in the Dominican church; (centre) 1825 funerary inscription celebrating Giuseppe Delenda in the Catholic cathedral; (right) Venetian bell portraying St. Nicholas in the Ghisi house
Vincent Clarence Scott O'Connor, who had a career in the Indian Civil Service, travelled extensively in the Cyclades in 1929: in his book Isles of the Aegean (published by Hutchinson) he described his meetings with families of Venetian descent living on Santorino:
|They are poor these families, and they are fallen from their great estate; but they retain the great houses they built to maintain their pride; their heirlooms and signet rings and genealogical trees; and those courtesies of life which, if they can be acquired, are none the less the product of time.|
I was accordingly lodged at the house of Madame Baseggio, who showed me much kindness; with a concern for my welfare that was not included in the small price I paid her as her guest. I was presented to all the members of the family, and for a few days I lived their life. It was a big house built across the ridge that is here the watershed of the island; Italian in its style, with a barred iron gate like that of a Venetian palazzo, leading into a vast basement; marble stairs and a salon, large enough to receive a hundred guests, with the remains in it of old furniture and family portraits, but otherwise bare.
(..)" We live in these great houses," said Madame Baseggio, " but we cannot keep them up, for we are poor. On dit ` Nous sommes des grandes familles, il faut avoir les grands maisons.' Mais quoi bon ?" She has a clear sense of reality and a frank outlook on life. She laughed gently at these pretensions, while sorrowing at the decline of the old Latin families, steadily diminishing now in the islands. She spends her life meantime in acts of charity and goodness, a faithful daughter of the Church. She gave me a room off her great salon, very simply furnished, but with a rich coverlet of silk to the bed; and she saw to it that I lacked nothing which the limited resources of a Greek island home can furnish. Her family consisted of five daughters, of ages from twelve upwards, the eldest of whom is recently married. They all speak French fluently, and earn a little money discreetly, by working in a knitting-factory established by the Church. There are no sons; and the women have twice the wits of their menfolk. A very ancient lady, her mother, with a wax-white face and silver hair, moved about the house like a ghost from the vanished past. Her brother-in-law who for many years was British ViceConsular Agent at Santorin, maintained a bolder front. He wore a signet ring with the arms of his family engraved upon it. He had them also embroidered on silk after a copy made by him from the heraldic Archives at Venice whence his family originated.
(..) There are scarcely two hundred Catholics now in the island, in which they once possessed five great Castles, and of which for so many generations they were the lords. Their greatest castle of all at Scaros has vanished into the sea.
Emporio: views of the fortified village
Our road led us through a large village, with evidences of
Venetian splendour, and then on to a spot called Emporion, which name testifies to the trade that was once
carried on here in days now long gone by; yet still it is a
well-to-do place, and we were by no means badly housed
with the demarch. Bent
Emporio is a village in the southern part of the island at some distance from the sea. The houses of its older section were built one next to the other with only two small gates leading to the village main church. Although Emporio has now expanded in all directions, from a nearby hill it is still possible to figure out its old fortified appearance.
Emporio: the Ottoman tower
At the entrance to the village is a
mediaeval tower, planted against the mountain side, and
near it a tall, waving palm-tree; vineyards are all spread
around, and the spot looked very picturesque as it climbed
up a cleft of the mountain. Bent
Santorino is the southernmost island of the Cyclades: when the Ottomans acquired it Venice still retained Candia, which is located some 60 miles south of Santorino; the new rulers built a large tower on a hill near Emporio in order to detect the arrival of a Venetian fleet early: the Ottomans hoped to check the enemy's attempts to land. However, during the War of Candia, the Venetians for many years had such supremacy at sea that the tower was useless.
View of Pyrgos and in the foreground the very low vineyards which are typical of Santorino
You will know that Santorini itself cannot be a very little island when you hear that there are no less than ten thousand inhabitants upon it; but indeed I wonder that there are so many in a place which has so many disadvantages. Excepting figs there is hardly any such thing as fruit in the island; I don t know how there should indeed when there are hardly any trees. Broderick
Our next expedition was to the village of Pyrgos, high up on the hillside, where the coating of pumice clings to the lower spurs of Mesa Bounò and its twin peak Mount Prophet Elias. As its name implies, Pyrgos is a fortified town or fortress much resorted to in days gone by, when pirates ventured into the basin of Santorin. (..) Without her vineyards Santorin would be a desert. Bent
Pyrgos means tower: in the case of this village, it would have been more appropriate to use the word Kasteli (castle), which the locals use for the buildings inside an enclosure at the top of a hill.
Pyrgos: (left to right) entrance to the castle; house above the entrance; a fragment of an ancient statue
It is just like all the island
fortified towns, dirty and old-world, but decidedly more picturesque than the long white line of Pheri. Bent
Very few people live inside the castle, notwithstanding the fine views it offers over the whole island.
View of Ia (S. Salvador) and of the blue-domed churches of many postcards of the island
Old maps identified this village in a very Venetian way: San Salvador (in Italian it would have been Salvatore), probably with reference to the name of a church. The village is located at the very northern tip of the island. The image used as background for this page shows another cliff.
The site of Akrotiri is located in the SW of the island of Thera, above a sheltered S facing bay and with a view to Crete, ca. 110 km to the S. The Bronze Age settlement (over 10,000 sq m) was at the zenith of its development when it was completely buried by ash and pumice following a volcanic eruption (dated at ca. 1500 B.C.) that has been estimated as 4 times as powerful as the Krakatoa eruption of 1883 A.D. The extensive architectural remains and well preserved wall paintings have led to a comparison with Roman Pompeii. The destruction may have given rise to the Atlantis myth.
Perseus Digital Library
Vases from Akrotiri
The earliest evidence for settlement at Akrotiri dates to the Early Bronze Age II and III periods. The pottery and artifacts of this phase show connections to the N Aegean islands. In the Middle Bronze Age the size of the settlement expands and artifacts now show closer connections with Mainland Greece (see some vases found at Argos). The 1st Minoan influence is also seen at the site in this period. The transition from Middle Bronze Age to Late Bronze Age passes with no cultural break, but was marred by an earthquake (at ca. 1550 B.C.) which caused great damage to the settlement. The inhabitants apparently rebuilt their city immediately and in an even more luxurious and larger scale. Perseus
Frescoes from Akrotiri (largely integrated with modern painting, similar to what was done at Knossos)
The size of the Late Bronze Age I settlement is estimated to have been several thousand inhabitants. The wealth and size of the city, with paved streets, city sewer system, and 2 and 3 story private houses with magnificent wall paintings, indoor toilets and rich furnishings certainly equalled or surpassed the level of culture and wealth on Minoan Crete. The settlement at Akrotiri probably gained this high degree of wealth and culture through its foreign contacts and its position in the center of the Aegean trade networks. Perseus
Fresco from Akrotiri most likely depicting a Nilotic landscape
At ca. 1500 B.C. earthquake tremors again caused damage to the city. There is evidence that immediately afterwards the inhabitants began again to clean up debris and repair the damage. Before the repairs were completed, however, the inhabitants were forewarned (possibly from gas or smoke from the volcano) of the coming eruption (no human remains or valuables have been found during the excavations). The eruption buried Akrotiri under 5 m of ash and pumice. At least 200 years passed before the island of Thera was again inhabited, and there is no evidence for a settlement on the island again until the Archaic period. Exploration began in 1845 and systematic excavations were carried out 1895-1903, then resumed after WWII. Perseus
Frescoes from Akrotiri: (left) rear side of two parade ships; (right) vase with lilies
The photos of exhibits from Akrotiri were taken at the exhibition Pompeii and Santorini at Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome in December 2019.
Introductory page on the Venetian Fortresses in Greece
List of the fortresses
|Geographic area||Location||Ionian Islands||Corfù (Kerkyra) Paxo (Paxi) Santa Maura (Lefkadas) Cefalonia (Kephallonia) Asso (Assos) Itaca (Ithaki) Zante (Zachintos) Cerigo (Kythera)||Greek Mainland||Butrinto (Butrint) Parga Preveza and Azio (Aktion) Vonizza (Vonitsa) Lepanto (Nafpaktos) Atene (Athens)||Peloponnese (Morea)||Castel di Morea (Rio), Castel di Rumelia (Antirio) and Patrasso (Patra) Castel Tornese (Hlemoutsi) and Glarenza Navarino (Pilo) and Calamata Modon (Methoni) Corone (Koroni) Braccio di Maina, Zarnata, Passavà and Chielefà Mistrà Corinto (Korinthos) Argo (Argos) Napoli di Romania (Nafplio) Malvasia (Monemvassia)||Aegean Islands||Negroponte (Chalki) Castelrosso (Karistos) Oreo Lemno (Limnos) Schiatto (Skiathos) Scopello (Skopelos) Alonisso Schiro (Skyros) Andro (Andros) Tino (Tinos) Micono (Mykonos) Siro (Syros) Egina (Aegina) Spezzia (Spetse) Paris (Paros) Antiparis (Andiparos) Nasso (Naxos) Serifo (Serifos) Sifno (Syphnos) Milo (Milos) Argentiera (Kimolos) Santorino (Thira) Folegandro (Folegandros) Stampalia (Astipalea)||Crete||Grambusa (Granvousa) Castello (Kasteli/Kissamos) La Canea (Xania) Souda Candia (Iraklion) Rettimo (Rethymno) Spinalonga and Castel Mirabello Castles on the southern coast Sittia and Paleocastro|
You may refresh your knowledge of the history of Venice in the Levant by reading an abstract from
the History of Venice by Thomas Salmon, published in 1754. The Italian text is accompanied by an English summary.