According to legend, Santorini emerged from the depths of the sea- opinion justified by the timeless activity of the undersea volcano and the geological topography of the island. The first human remains, dating back to the Stone Age, show that the island has been inhabited since the prehistoric times. There is some evidence of life in the early Bronze Age, in the mid-3rd millennium BC, during the second period of the early Cycladic civilization (2800-2100 BC). However, from the middle Bronze Age (1900-1600 BC), evidence becomes more abundant, showing great development.In the area of Akrotiri (Promontory), there was a prehistoric settlement with a very important port. The great volcanic eruption in the late Bronze Age (ca.1600 BC) buried the settlement under 30 metres of ash.
The 1600 B.C. eruption changed the form of the island. We do not know if all the residents evacuated in time before the great catastrophe, where they moved, or when they returned. Occasional findings in the area of Monolithos suggest habitation from at least the 13th century B.C.According to Herodotus, the island named Strogili (round) due to its shape, was renamed Kallisti due to its beauty (kalos in Greek). Phoenicians settled in Kallisti. They were led by Kadmos who was travelling to search for Evropi (Europa) kidnapped by Zeus who had been transformed in a bull.The settlers occupied the island for eight generations. Later on Spartans and their leader Theras, son of Autesionas, came along. In the 10th century the island became colony of the Dorians.
Geometric times (10th -8th century B.C)
There is not much data from the geometric times. Some researchers claim that in the end of 9th or early 8th century B.C. the residents together with together with people from Milos and Crete were the first to adopt the Phoenician alphabet. The cemeteries discovered in the SE side of Sellada and the one discovered on the edge of Mesa Vouno were built during the geometric period. Cemeteries were used systematically until 7th century B.C. and in the graves possibly placed were ancient statues of Kouros, probably imported from Naxos.
Archaic Period (7th-6th CENTURY B.C.)
During this period the residents developed relations with nearby islands such as Crete, Milos, Paros and with important centers of that time, such as Athens, Corinth, Rhodes and Ionian centers in the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea. In 630 B.C. Therans founded Kirini, a colony in the northern coast of Africa. Data for this period exist from findings in the cemetery located NE, in Sellada, which had been used until the 4th century B.C. and from findings in the cemetery of Kamari. Therans farmed, fished and traded with their own products. In the 6th century Thera had its own currency with two dolphins as an emblem.
Relations with the important centers of that time continued and wine was one of the most exportable products. During the Peloponnesian war, Thera supported Sparta as it was a Dorian colony. During Hellenistic years it became a nautical military base of Great Alexander's Ptolemaic successors and the island was used as a station for the southern to northern Aegean Sea routes. Important for them was the location of ancient Thera and the bays of Kamari and Perissa.
Findings for this period are few and suggest that the centre during these years was in the SE side of Thera. In the 4th century there was an organized church with a Bishop. The first one is said to be Dioskouros (324-344). Christian temples were founded in the place where ancient shrines or temples used to be such as the one of Pythian Apollo in ancient Thera. In the Byzantine period, Thera belonged to the theme of the Aegean Sea, but had no major political or military importance. Due to Arab invasions that took place during the 9th century, the residents moved to the inland, to fortified and unseen from the sea places. This era is marked by decline and poverty. In the second half of the 11th century when the pirates' bases of operations were destroyed and the Arabs were weakened, the byzantine church of Episkopi Gonia was founded by Alexius I Comnenus. In the late 12th century, the byzantine fleet lost power, so the islands of the Aegean Sea were once again hit by piracy.
In 1207 Marcos Sanudos founded the Duchy of Archipelagos (or Naxo's), so Thera and Therassia were ceded to Iakovos Barotsi and were owned by his family with short intervals until 1335. During the Venetian era the feudal system applied and Santorini became the headquarters of the Catholic Archiodese, one of four in the Duchy. In 1335 Nicolo Sanudo expelled the Barotsi family and added the island to the Duchy of Naxos.After 1487, it was Venice that set the fate of the islands in the Duchy of the Aegean (1487). During the rule of the West, the islands suffered a great deal of pirate invasions from the Franks, the Muslims even the Greeks, which forced residents to live in fortified settlements called Kastelia. To make matters worst the competition among the local Latin dynasties and between the Duke and the Sultan, increased. At the same time, the coexistence of the two Christian communities, Catholic and Orthodox, often caused tension instigated by the religious leaderships of both communities. In 1537, Khayr ad-Dīn Barbarossa, the notorious ex pirate and admiral of the Turkish fleet, took over the island in the name of the Sultan. In 1566 it was ceded to Joseph Naji, a wealthy Jewish banker who governed the islands through a representative until 1579. Then Santorini and the other islands, except Tinos, were finally ceded to the Ottoman empire.
In the Middle Ages, Santorini settlements fell into two categories: the fortified ones, which were called Kastelia (castles), and the unfortified ones. Kastelia are mentioned in written sources from the early 15th century. Since the Byzantine times, pirates were the biggest problem faced by the Aegean islands, taking over the shores, imposing taxes and looting local communities. In an attempt to protect themselves, the people of Santorini built the Kastelia, where everyone -even vassals- took refuge when the alarm sounded. There is evidence of five such castles on the island since the Rule of the West.
The 5 Castles
Skaros, in the village of Imerovigli, was the most important castle, and that is where the Franks and their Lord came to settle. The second most important one was the Kasteli of the Epano Meria (Upper Side, i.e. Oia), which was called "of Agios Nikolaos". The third one was in the area of Pyrgos (Tower), the fourth in Emporio and the fifth in the Akrotiri settlement. The last four ones were still in very good condition before the catastrophic earthquake of 1956.The exact period when the Κastelia were built remains unknown (even though it is definitely placed between the 14th and 18th centuries), since no relevant inscriptions or historical evidence survive. What we do know, however, is that they stood in strategic locations, hard to approach by sea.They looked a lot like fortresses, thanks to the morphology of the ground and the fortified houses of the outer perimeter, with few openings to the outside, practically forming a wall. On the inside, they were densely structured, with two or three-story buildings leaning against each other. These were long and narrow, with a common middle wall supporting a dome. Lower floors were partly built above the ground and partly rock-hewn underground. Streets were very narrow.Nearly all members of the Catholic aristocracy of Venetians lived within these castles. The rulers had churches built in the entrances, dedicated to St. Theodosia, patroness of all Kastelia.
The Watchtowers (Goulades)
A typical feature of the Kastelia was the defensive watchtowers. They were called Goulades. They had a rectangular shape, many floors and thick walls. These buildings, either public or private, were the last refuge of the locals in case of an attack. There were Goulades inside the castles (as in Oia and Akrotiri) or outside (as in Fira and Emporio) so as the villagers could take refuge there.The best preserved Goulas is that of Fira, known as Delendas' Goulas. It was built by the Bodgis' Venetian family before the depopulation of the castle in Skaros. Resident before the second world war was the French noble Compte de Simoni. Today it belongs to the family of Petros M. Nomikos.Before the earthquake of 1956, the best-preserved castle was that of Pyrgos. Skaros in Imerovigli is destroyed; however, it served as prototype to build the other Kastelia on the island. During the Turkish Rule, when pirate raids subsided, construction was expanded beyond the defensive perimeter of the Kastelia, new settlements were founded and the capital was moved from Skaros to Fira. The expansion of the Kastelia and the creation of new settlements did not follow a specific plan. The morphology of the ground was the deciding factor and the roads connecting the Kastelia to the working areas and the production sites (such as the kánaves and windmills) were the main expansion routes. New communities were created around the main roads, as was the case with Fira, Firostefani, and Imerovigli. The years 1700-1900 were crucial for the formation of structured communities, which were eventually urbanized, especially after the Greek Revolution.
In 1580, sultan Murad III granted substantial privileges to the Cycladic islands, boosting trade and favoring local governments.Living conditions changed. Christians were free to build or repair their churches (Francois Richard reports 700 in total at that period, most of which were Orthodox). The faith of locals to Virgin Mary was very strong: they vowed to Ηer before each travel and they left their property to Ηer after their death.According to Richard, residents ate barley bread and salted quail caught in their nets, drunk rain water from cisterns, cultivated vines, barley, beans, fava, millet, squash, cucumbers and melons. The wine was exported to Chios, Smyrni, Chandakas (Heraklion of Crete) and Constantinople. He also described the 1650 eruptions. In the end of 16th and 17th century the Kasteli of Pyrgos, the churches of the Transformation of Jesus, St. Theodosia, the church of the Virgin Mary, St. Catherine, Taxiarchis and many more, were built. Franks had presence on the island even during the Ottoman Rule, while in 1642 Jesuit monks settled and got permission to build their first church. Since the Kasteli of Skaros was abandoned, they used building material from there.In the late 17th century the privileged status of Santorini and other islands, together with changes in the community's organization, allowed financial growth- something more apparent in the 18th century. Merchants established close relations to famous ports in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea (Alexandria, Constantinople, Odessa), where they also founded important colonies.Agricultural and marine activities continued to grow in Santorini; by the 18th century, the island had 9,000 people. In the 19th and the early 20th centuries, commercial sailing flourished and numerous ships from Santorini sailed the Aegean, transporting goods. On the eve of the 1821 revolution the Santorinian sail boats were several dozens, since the island had the third largest fleet in the Aegean Sea after the ones of Hydra and Psara. In 1856 it numbered 269 boats and the growth continued until the prevalence of steamboats in the late 19th century. Great example was Oia, the so called "village of the captains".
During the Second World War, Santorini was occupied in 1941 by Italian forces and in 1943 by German. In 1944, the German and Italian garrison on Santorini was raided by a group of British Special Boat Service Commandos, killing most of its men. Five locals were shot in reprisal.
In 1956 a major earthquake near Amorgos island resulted in the demolishing of many buildings in the north of Santorini, leading to the desertion of many of its villages. The expansion of tourism has resulted in the growth of the economy and population.
In 2007, the cruise ship MS Sea Diamond ran aground and sank inside the caldera.
A giant central, rectangular lagoon, which measures about 12 by 7 km (7.5 by 4.3 mi), is surrounded by 300 m (980 ft) high, steep cliffs on three sides. The main island slopes downward to the Aegean Sea. On the fourth side, the lagoon is separated from the sea by another much smaller island called Therasia; the lagoon is connected to the sea in two places, in the northwest and southwest. The depth of the caldera, at 400m, makes it impossible for any but the largest ships to anchor anywhere in the protected bay; there is also a fisherman's harbour at Vlychada, on the southwestern coast. The island's principal port is Athinias. The capital, Fira, clings to the top of the cliff looking down on the lagoon. The volcanic rocks present from the prior eruptions feature olivine and have a small presence of hornblende.
It is the most active volcanic centre in the South Aegean Volcanic Arc, though what remains today is chiefly a water-filled caldera. The volcanic arc is approximately 500 km (310 mi) long and 20 to 40 km (12 to 25 mi) wide. The region first became volcanically active around 3–4 million years ago, though volcanism on Thera began around 2 million years ago with the extrusion of dacitic lavas from vents around the Akrotiri.
The island is the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history: the Minoan eruption (sometimes called the Thera eruption), which occurred some 3,600 years ago at the height of the Minoan civilization. The eruption left a large caldera surrounded by volcanic ash deposits hundreds of metres deep and may have led indirectly to the collapse of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, 110 km (68 mi) to the south, through a gigantic tsunami. Another popular theory holds that the Thera eruption is the source of the legend of Atlantis.
The traditional architecture of Santorini is similar to that of the other Cyclades, with low-lying cubical houses, made of local stone and whitewashed or limewashed with various volcanic ashes used as colours. The unique characteristic is the common utilisation of the hypóskapha: extensions of houses dug sideways or downwards into the surrounding pumice. These rooms are prized because of the high insulation provided by the air-filled pumice, and are used as living quarters of unique coolness in the summer and warmth in the winter. These are premium storage space for produce, especially for wine cellaring: the Kánava wineries of Santorini.
URBAN & RURAL HOUSES
In Santorini, the original type of residence was like the one found inside the Kastelia. The one-room houses were either stone-built or rock-hewn, usually two-story, due to limited space, and narrow-fronted. An external staircase led to the upper floor. The ground floor accommodated auxiliary spaces, such as stables and storage areas. The homes of the nobles inside the castles probably followed the same rationale, only at a larger scale. When settlements expanded beyond the defensive perimeters, auxiliary buildings were added to the main construction, adjacent or connected to it through the yard, where a significant part of daily activities took place. Urban houses maintained their irregular shapes.Rural houses had a big yard and auxiliary buildings (an outdoor, usually cylindrical, brick oven, stables, etc.). They were located in the countryside or on the village outskirts. Most of them also had kanaves (wineries).
18TH AND 19TH CENTURY MANSIONS
A few homes from that time survive in all villages. Residential complexes can be found in neighbourhoods such as Sideras in Oia, Frangomahalas in Fira, and at the centre of Mesaria (see also The Unknown Santorini and Attractions sections). Their foreign influences – Renaissance or Neoclassical or both – are distinct, as their owners had various contacts abroad. They are very imposing, with symmetrical, monumental fronts.
FOLK ARCHITECTURE HOUSES.
These were built by non-experts to cover housing needs; however, they turned out to be artistic works of unique aesthetics. They are the most numerous on the island, mainly characterized by plasticity and simplicity. An interesting fact is that they overlap; they also have domes of different shapes and sizes, and their outdoor spaces are irregularly shaped. Fronts have small openings, windows, and doors with lunettes. This type of house was an inspiration for architects of the early 20th century, such as Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto and others.
CRAFTSMEN ARCHITECTURE HOUSES
Built by craftsmen, they were bigger and more complex than the folk architecture houses. Most urban houses and churches are typical examples of this category.
Source: www.santorini.gr wikipedia.org