World renowned as the "black pearl of the Aegean", Santorini is
one of the most amazing islands of the Mediterranean sea,
with its breathtaking landscapes and the enchanting view
of the caldera. It is situated in the
middle of the Aegean sea, in the Cyclades cluster and it
has a surface of 96 km2.
On the western side, a steep coastline faces the
caldera deep blue sea that surrounds the
volcano. Its sheer cliffs, dotted
by dazzling white houses with light blue windows and tiny
round roofed churches, range from 150 to 350 m over the sea.
On the eastern side, the sight is completely different: the rocks gradually slope down to the sea. There are
plenty beautiful beaches, either sandy like in
Monolithos or pebbly like in Kamari.
One of the most magnificent spectacle you can watch in the
island is the sunset
over the caldera from the small typical village of
really an experience you will never forget for the rest of your
In the course of time, the island has been named in many different
ways: Stronghyle is the name that Herodotus refers to, due to
its formerly round shape; Kalliste, that means "the most
beautiful"; Thera, that now is the name of the present main
town. The French geologyst F. Fouqué called it "the Pompei
of the Aegean", referring to the huge volcanic expolsion
that took place in the XVI century B.C.
Actually Santorini is regarded as one of the most likely
candidate for the mythical Atlantis,
but the dating of the eruption is still uncertain, possibly between 1650 and 1500
There are actually no written reports, but it seems
that a big earthquake caused the awakening of the then dormant
volcano. At that time the island was called Stronghyle owing to
its round shape, with the volcanic cone at the centre reaching
an elevation of about 1000 m over the sea and a diameter of
about 15 km. Since no skeletons and
jewelry have been found in the ruins of Akrotiri, the main
archeological site of the island, it's widely believed that its inhabitants had enough time to
run away carrying their goods with them. It's a general opinion that the eruption took place
about one year later the main earthquake, because in the meanwhile, before the eruption, the seeds had the
time to sprout in the ruins of the houses. The whole island was then buried under a
30 meters layer of pumice stone and basalt. The central part of
Stronghyle collapsed together with the volcanic cone, and about 83 km2 of
the island gave way into the caldera, an abyss 800 m deep soon covered by the
In the thirties of last century, the Greek archeologyst
Spyridoon Marinatos, after having found pumice stones in Crete,
that is about 70 nautical miles away from Santorini, inferred
that the dramatic end of the Minoan civilization was caused by
the eruption of the volcano in Santorini with its catastrophic
effects and the huge waves of tsunami.
From then till 1950, in almost 3500 years, there happened 14
further volcanic eruptions: in 197 B.C the island of Palea
Kameni came out; in 1573 Nea Kameni, the today's
volcano, sprang out from the sea.
But how is Santorini linked with the Atlantis myth?
Plato mentions Atlantis civilization in two of his Dialogues: Timaeus
(21E-25D) and Critias (108E-121C). He refers to the lost
continent as a very advanced and mighty one that had ruled most
of the lands overlooking the Mediterranean sea, from Lybia
Founded by Poseidon, the god of sea, it started to
decline and the gods of the Olympus decided to destroy it.
So Plato tells that there was a strong earthquake and flooding and the island
collapsed in the deep blue sea.
It's quite clear that the stories are strinkingly alike. Is really Santorini the ancient Atlantis?
Who knows. But with its beauties it deserves for sure the
fascination of the myth.
After the eruption, Herodotus tells us that the Phoenician
settled there and gave it the name of Kalliste, the most
Then Santorini was inhabited by Boeotians and then Dorians with
their leader Theras. Since then the island was named Thera in
It's only in 1153 A.C., in the writings of the Arab geographer
Edrisi, that the island was called for the
first time Santorini: the crusader drew inspiration by the name of a small
church, Haghia Irini -Saint Irini-, located in the
From then on many dominations followed one another: from the
crusaders, to the Venetians, the Franks, the Turks. Now
the island combines the relaxing athmosphere of the traditional
Greek villages with
the cosmopolitan character of one of the most touristic place in