(1900 Times Atlas of the World)
1208 Marco Sanudo a Venetian adventurer conquers Sifno which becomes part of the Duchy of Nasso
1307 The island is seized by Januli da Corogna, a Knight Hospitaller who establishes a local dynasty
1456 The island passes to the Gozzadini, a family from Bologna
1617 Sifno is formally annexed to the Ottoman Empire
I had read so much of the mines of Siphanto and the riches of the island derived from those treasures that I was eager to know where they were. (..) M. told me they must be toward the sea from an account he remembered of the water running in upon and destroying them on their refusing Apollo his accustomed tythe of their produce. We were led to a cavern in a mountain that faced the sea and at a high storm might possibly be within its reach; the inhabitants told us that the tradition of the place was for their being there.
Thomas Broderick - Letters from Several Parts of Europe, and the East: Written in the Years 1750, etc.
The Syphnian Treasury is one of the finest votive temples to Apollo at Delphi. The inhabitants of this small island could build it because Sifno was rich in silver and gold mines.
There are five villages on this island and the people numerous and busy in all of them. They have several manufactures and sell great part of the natural produce of their land at a considerable rate: oil, capers, fruit, wax and honey are great branches of their commerce. Broderick
When we had crossed the ridge of central hills we saw the long line of villages, five in all, which runs for nearly two miles along the western slopes. As each house has its own garden and olive orchard, and as green fields cover all the hillside, it was by far the most luxurious sight we had as yet seen in the Cyclades. (..) We drew up at Apollonia; (..) in this village is the seat of government in Siphnos.
James Theodore Bent - The Cyclades - 1885
Beside the villages there is a castle built on a rock toward the sea where the old Apollonia stood and they have several convents. Broderick
The Latin seat of government was at the town now called Kastro, an interesting specimen of mediaeval fortification, built on a tongue of land running out into the sea. Bent
Old Sifno was built on an isolated hill on the eastern coast of the island. Today it is known as Kastro, because the site of the ancient acropolis was fortified by the Latin rulers. It is no longer the administrative centre of the island, which was moved in 1836 to Apollonia, a village located in a more central position.
Ancient and medieval walls
An island once so rich as Siphnos could not but in those times have noble buildings on it. Tis amazing that we find so little remains of them, not that I mean by this to tell you there are none. Broderick
The castle of the Kastro is almost in ruins. (..) Traces of the old wall are still visible. Bent
The inhabitants of ancient Sifno were so rich that they could strengthen their acropolis with marble stone from Paro. The Latin rulers built their fortifications on top of these walls.
(left) View of the Church of the Seven Martyrs from Kastro; (right) view of Kastro from the church
Though we did not distinguish any thing like ore of gold and silver, we saw that of lead in prodigious abundance in every part of the country. Whenever there was a bare surface of the rock for any extent we saw a bluish glittering matter in lumps of various bigness disclosing itself. Broderick
The cliff below the acropolis (which does have a bluish colour) is very precipitous, thus Sifno could not be attacked from the sea: it was very difficult to land at the only cove near the castle.
Gates of Sifno
The streets are narrow and dirty, many houses
are falling into ruins, for the glory of Siphnos has left
the Kastro, and is now centred in the villages on the
The houses surrounding the top of the hill were built in order to form an enclosure: access to the town was limited to a few narrow passages, similar to what can be noticed at Paro and other islands.
A square (or rather a piazza) of Kastro
The Kastro of Siphnos, or Seraglio, as it is still
occasionally called, is a regular old-world Italian town. (..) Each house has an outer staircase,
which projects into the street for the benefit of the
inhabitants of the upper storey; up this staircase climbs
the chimney of the lower storey, and beneath it is the
pigsty. (..) Some of the old houses are very fine (..) and the
houses of the richer inhabitants of the place are perfect
museums of Venetian treasures, glass, china, oak chests,
cabinets, carved candle-brackets, pictures, and other
things which delight the eye of a bric-a-brac hunter. Bent
Saray in Turkish means palace and it was Italianized as Seraglio; it chiefly applied to Topkapi Sarayi in Constantinople.
A relief, fragments of statues, an inscription and a 1551 coat of arms of the Crispo, the last Dukes of Nasso
The Siphniotes are wonderful hands at whitewash. Every house, every church is covered with it. Ancient bits of statues and inscriptions, which have been let into the walls by way of ornament, are coated and illegible with it. The ruins of an old town hall have an inscription in Gothic characters, testifying that it was built by one of the Da Corogna family in 1365; you pass on a step or two, and read an inscription, in ancient Greek, of course, let into the wall wrong way up by the ignorant builder; you go a little further, and see round a well a Turkish inscription, telling how it was erected by the munificence of the Ottoman dragoman. Thus from the stones by the street side can you read the varied history of the Kastro. Bent
(left) Mitropolis (cathedral) 1635; (right) Panagia Teoskepastis (1631)
There are no more Western Christians now
in Siphnos. In fact, a new era has now dawned for these
islands: the Western interregnum is over: a few names
of people and places, a few ruins of Gothic art, a few
costumes, and this is all that is left of the dukes of the
Aegean Sea. Bent
The Ottoman rule did not have an impact on the everyday life of the inhabitants of Sifno as long as they met with their yearly payment obligations to the high admiral of the Ottoman fleet. Thus they were allowed to continue to build and maintain large churches.
Two ancient sarcophagi and a fluted column
Outside the gate of the Kastro, down by a little
brook, are visible traces of a still more ancient regime.
Four large sarcophagi, one of which is adorned with
garlands of fruit, some remains of statues, some stones
of buildings, point to the existence here of the old town
called Siphnos alluded to by Herodotus. Bent
Some of the ancient objects which were described by Bent were eventually placed inside the town.
Many parts of the island show the result of centuries of hard work to terrace the hills and obtain some farming land. The Latins introduced the breeding of domesticated pigeons: in Tino there are isolated dovecots, while in Sifno the birds were sheltered under the roof of the farms (in Italian a theatre gallery is called piccionaia - dovecot).
At Apollonia and its environs
The image in the background of this page shows a detail of the cathedral.
Introductory page on the Venetian Fortresses in Greece
List of the fortresses
|Geographic area||Location||Ionian Islands||Corfų (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, Passavā and Chielefā Mistrā 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.