Santorini History

Updated: March 22, 2023
By Santorini Dave

Caldera and volcano in Santorini.

The ring of the Santorini caldera and volcano from Akrotiri.

What is the history of Santorini?
Santorini, an enchanting volcanic island in the Aegean Sea, boasts a rich and complex history that dates back to the Early Cycladic period, around 3200-2000 BCE, when the first settlements appeared on the island. The island reached its zenith during the Minoan civilization, which thrived on the island from approximately 2000 to 1600 BCE, as evidenced by the remarkable archaeological site of Akrotiri, known for its well-preserved frescoes and advanced urban planning. However, around 1600 BCE, Santorini witnessed one of the most catastrophic volcanic eruptions in human history, known as the Minoan eruption, which led to the collapse of the Minoan civilization and the formation of the island’s present-day caldera. The island was subsequently repopulated and came under the influence of various cultures and empires, including the Phoenicians, Dorians, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans, each leaving their distinct mark on the island’s culture, architecture, and art. In the modern era, Santorini has transformed into a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors with its unique geological features, captivating history, and enchanting Cycladic architecture.

How did Santorini begin?
The exact origins of Santorini are not clear, as the island has a long and complex geological history. However, it is believed that the island was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions that occurred over thousands of years. The earliest known eruptions occurred around 3.6 million years ago, and they created a small volcanic island that was later submerged by the sea. Over time, the island continued to grow through a series of eruptions, with each new eruption adding layers of volcanic rock and ash to the existing land mass. The most famous eruption of Santorini occurred around 1,600 BCE and is known as the Minoan eruption. This eruption was one of the largest in recorded history, and it caused massive destruction on the island and in the surrounding region. The eruption is believed to have contributed to the decline of the Minoan civilization, which was centered on the nearby island of Crete. Despite the destructive power of the volcano, the eruptions also had a positive impact on the island’s geography and ecology. The rich volcanic soil of Santorini is renowned for its fertility, and it has supported agriculture on the island for thousands of years.

Describe the volcanic eruption on Santorini.
The volcanic eruption on Santorini, also known as the Minoan eruption, occurred around 1,600 BCE and is considered to be one of the largest volcanic events in recorded history. The eruption was caused by the collapse of the island’s central volcano, which led to the release of a massive amount of volcanic ash, pumice, and gas. The eruption is believed to have had a catastrophic impact on the surrounding region, including the Minoan civilization on the nearby island of Crete. The ash and pumice from the eruption covered much of the eastern Mediterranean, causing widespread crop failures and environmental damage. The ash also caused respiratory problems in humans and animals, and it may have contributed to a period of global cooling. The eruption is thought to have occurred in several stages, with the first stage producing a massive explosion that sent a plume of ash and gas high into the atmosphere. This explosion was followed by a series of smaller eruptions that continued for several years, producing lava flows and ash deposits that buried much of the island.

Who were the early inhabitants of Santorini?
The early inhabitants of Santorini are not entirely known, but it is believed that the island has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Archaeological evidence suggests that the island was first settled by Neolithic people around 4500 BCE, who were followed by Bronze Age inhabitants from around 3200 BCE. The Bronze Age civilization on Santorini is known as the Minoan civilization, which was centered on the nearby island of Crete. The Minoans were a seafaring people who dominated the Aegean region for several centuries, and they established a thriving culture on Santorini that was known for its sophisticated art, architecture, and trade. The Minoan settlement on Santorini was centered around the town of Akrotiri, which was a major port and trading center that was home to thousands of people. The town was known for its large public buildings, paved streets, and intricate drainage systems, and it was a hub of activity for trade with other Mediterranean civilizations. The Minoan civilization on Santorini came to an abrupt end around 1600 BCE with the eruption of the island’s central volcano, which caused widespread destruction and may have contributed to the decline of the Minoan civilization on Crete as well. Despite the devastation, however, the island eventually recovered and was resettled by a variety of different peoples over the centuries.

What happened to the inhabitants of Santorini after the volcanic eruption?
It is believed that the vast majority of the inhabitants of Santorini died or were forced to flee the island in the aftermath of the volcanic eruption. The eruption was one of the largest volcanic events in recorded history, and it caused massive destruction and widespread devastation throughout the Aegean region. The town of Akrotiri, which was the main settlement on Santorini, was buried under layers of ash and pumice, and it is believed that most of the people who lived there were killed in the eruption. Archaeological evidence suggests that the inhabitants of the town had time to evacuate before the eruption, but it is unclear how many people were able to escape.

What happened to Santorini after the ancient volcanic eruption?
After the ancient volcanic eruption on Santorini, the island was left largely uninhabited for several centuries. The eruption caused massive destruction and buried much of the island under layers of ash and pumice, forcing the Minoan civilization to abandon the island. The island eventually recovered and was resettled by a variety of different peoples over the centuries. The ancient Greeks established a colony on the island in the 9th century BCE, and the island was later occupied by the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottoman Turks. During the Byzantine period, the island became an important center of Christian worship and was home to several monasteries and churches. In the 13th century, the island was conquered by the Venetians, who established a system of governance that lasted until the Ottoman Turks captured the island in the 16th century. Under Ottoman rule, the island became a major center of maritime trade and was known for its sailors and shipbuilders. The island remained under Ottoman control until the early 20th century, when it became part of the newly formed Greek state.

What is the modern history of Santorini?
In modern times, Santorini has undergone significant changes and has become a popular tourist destination, known for its stunning natural beauty, unique geology, and rich cultural heritage. During the early 20th century, the island was incorporated into the newly formed Greek state and underwent significant modernization and development. The island’s economy shifted from agriculture and maritime trade to tourism, and today, tourism is the main source of income for the island’s residents. Santorini’s unique landscape and rich history have made it a popular destination for travelers from around the world, and the island is home to many hotels, resorts, and other tourist amenities. Despite the growth of the tourism industry, however, the island has worked hard to preserve its cultural heritage and protect its natural resources. In recent years, the island has faced several challenges, including environmental concerns related to the impact of tourism and the potential for future volcanic activity.

How long has Santorini been part of Greece?
Santorini has been part of Greece since 1830. Prior to that, the island was part of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire was a vast empire that controlled much of southeastern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa from the 14th to the early 20th century. In 1830, Greece declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire, and Santorini became part of the newly-formed Greek state. Since then, the island has been an important part of Greece and has played a role in the country’s history and culture. Today, Santorini is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches, stunning views, and unique architecture.

What is the history of the Cycladic Islands?
The Cycladic Islands are a group of islands located in the Aegean Sea. The islands are part of Greece, and they are known for their beautiful beaches, stunning views, and unique architecture. The Cycladic Islands have a long and interesting history, and they have been inhabited by various cultures over the centuries. The first known inhabitants of the Cycladic Islands were the Cycladic civilization, who lived on the islands around 3200-2000 BC. The Cycladic civilization was a Bronze Age civilization known for their skill in metalworking and their distinctive marble sculptures. Later, the islands were settled by the Minoans, who were a civilization that flourished on the island of Crete. The Minoans established colonies on many of the other islands in the Aegean Sea, including the Cycladic Islands. In more recent history, the Cycladic Islands have been part of the Ottoman Empire and, later, the modern state of Greece. Today, the Cycladic Islands are a popular tourist destination and are known for their beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and picturesque villages.

What are the main towns on Santorini?
The main towns on the island of Santorini are Fira, Oia, and Kamari. Fira is the largest town on the island and is the capital of Santorini. It is located on the western side of the island and is known for its stunning views, beautiful architecture, and vibrant nightlife. Oia is located on the northern tip of the island and is known for its picturesque setting and beautiful sunsets. Kamari is a resort town located on the eastern side of the island, and it is known for its black sand beaches and many restaurants and shops. These towns are the most populous and well-known on the island, but there are many other smaller towns and villages on Santorini as well.

What is the history of Fira, Santorini?
Fira is the capital of the island of Santorini, which is located in the Aegean Sea. The exact history of Fira is not known, but it is believed to have been founded by the Dorians, who were a Greek-speaking people who settled on the island of Santorini around the 9th century BC. The Dorians established a city-state on the island called Thera, and Fira was likely a part of that city-state. Later, the city-state of Thera was conquered by the Romans, and it became part of the Roman Empire. In more recent history, Fira was part of the Ottoman Empire until it became part of Greece in 1830. Today, Fira is the largest town on Santorini and is a popular tourist destination known for its stunning views, beautiful architecture, and vibrant nightlife.

What is the history of Oia, Santorini?
Oia is a town located on the island of Santorini, which is part of Greece. The exact history of Oia is not known, but it is believed to have been founded by the Dorians, who were a Greek-speaking people who settled on the island of Santorini around the 9th century BC. The Dorians established a city-state on the island called Thera, and Oia was likely a part of that city-state. Later, the city-state of Thera was conquered by the Romans, and it became part of the Roman Empire. In more recent history, Oia was part of the Ottoman Empire until it became part of Greece in 1830. Today, Oia is known for its picturesque setting and beautiful sunsets, and it is a popular tourist destination on Santorini.

Describe the wine industry on Santorini.
Santorini is known for its thriving wine industry. The island has a long history of wine production, and it is home to many vineyards and wineries. The unique soil and climate of Santorini, which are shaped by the island’s volcanic origins, provide the ideal conditions for growing grapes for wine. The wines produced on Santorini are known for their distinctive flavors and aromas, and they are highly sought after by wine connoisseurs around the world. Some of the most famous wines from Santorini include the white wines made from the Assyrtiko grape variety, which are known for their crisp, citrusy flavors, and the red wines made from the Mavrotragano and Aidani grape varieties, which are known for their rich, fruity flavors. The wine industry on Santorini is an important part of the island’s economy and its culture, and it continues to thrive and evolve today.

How is Santorini wine unique?
Santorini wine is unique because it is made using grapes grown in the unique soil and climate of the island. The soil on Santorini is rich in volcanic ash and minerals, and it is this soil that gives the wines their distinctive flavors and aromas. The climate of Santorini is also unique, with hot, dry summers and mild winters. This climate helps the grapes to ripen fully, giving the wines their characteristic depth and complexity. In addition, the wines of Santorini are made using traditional methods that have been passed down for generations, which adds to their unique character. All of these factors combine to make Santorini wines truly unique and highly sought after by wine lovers around the world.

Where is Santorini located?
Santorini is an island located in the Aegean Sea, to the southeast of mainland Greece. The island is part of the Cyclades group of islands, and it is known for its stunning views, beautiful beaches, and unique architecture. Santorini is a popular tourist destination and is easily accessible by ferry from other parts of Greece. The island is also known for its wine industry and its long history, which includes being inhabited by the Minoans, the Dorians, and the Romans.

Important dates in the history of Santorini and Athens (for comparison)
Santorini:
• Early Cycladic period (3200-2000 BCE) – First settlements appear on the island.
• Minoan civilization (2000-1600 BCE) – Akrotiri, a significant settlement, flourishes during this period.
• Minoan eruption (c. 1600 BCE) – A catastrophic volcanic eruption destroys the island’s Minoan civilization and forms the present-day caldera.
• Various influences (Phoenicians, Dorians, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans) – Santorini experiences multiple conquests and cultural influences over the centuries.
• 20th century – Santorini becomes a popular tourist destination.

Athens:
• Neolithic period (c. 5000-3000 BCE) – Early settlements are established in the area that will become Athens.
• Classical period (508-322 BCE) – Athens experiences its Golden Age, with the establishment of democracy and significant cultural, political, and architectural advancements. The construction of iconic monuments, such as the Parthenon, occurs during this time.
• Roman rule (146 BCE-330 CE) – Athens is annexed by the Roman Empire and maintains its status as a center for philosophy and education.
• Byzantine period (330-1204 CE) – Athens becomes part of the Byzantine Empire, during which time many of its ancient monuments are converted into Christian churches.
• Ottoman rule (1458-1832) – Athens falls under Ottoman control, and its population declines significantly. The city experiences occasional destruction due to conflicts and natural disasters.
• Greek War of Independence (1821-1832) – Athens is liberated from Ottoman rule, and Greece becomes an independent nation.
• Modern Athens (19th-20th century) – Athens is declared the capital of Greece in 1834 and undergoes rapid urbanization and growth throughout the 20th century.

About Santorini Dave

Santorini Dave Author Bio. Santorini Dave was started in 2011 by a guy who loved Greece, travel, and great hotels. We're now a small team of writers and researchers on a mission to deliver the most helpful travel content on the internet. We specialize in Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, and Greece and recommend the best hotels, best neighborhoods, and best family hotels in top destinations around the world. We also make hotel maps and travel videos. I can be contacted at dave@santorinidave.com.