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Santorini (Thira)

History

Minor eruptions have been the norm in Greece’s earthquake record, but Santorini has bucked the trend – and with attitude – throughout history. Eruptions here were genuinely earth-shattering, and so wrenching that they changed the shape of the island several times.

Dorians, Venetians and Turks occupied Santorini, as they did all other Cycladic islands, but its most influential early inhabitants were Minoans. They came from Crete some time between 2000 and 1600 BC, and the settlement at Akrotiri dates from the peak years of their great civilisation.

The island was circular then and was called Strongili (Round One). In about 1650 BC a colossal volcanic eruption caused the centre of Strongili to sink, leaving a caldera with high cliffs – now one of the world’s most dramatic sights. Some archaeologists have speculated that this catastrophe destroyed not only Akrotiri but the structure, and eventually the essence, of Minoan civilisation.