3,500 years ago there was a small unique island in the Greek Cyclades, with a thriving metropolis, strong trade and a thalassocracy, naval supremacy. Then in a single day and night, there was a mighty eruption, the largest and most destructive in the world’s history. Even to this day, no other eruption has come close to the cataclysm that wiped out this ancient civilisation. I know many of you will say it didn’t completely destroy the people and you are right. However, this culture never regained its former glory, over run by invading forces and soon melted away into non-existence until Sir Arthur Evans brought it back to life.
Thira/Thera known to us all as Santorini, is today a tourist magnet. The beautiful island with its unusual formation, sheer cliffs and white washed buildings with blue doors has an ominous and living creature. Just in the Greek mythologies, this dark monster smoulders beneath the Mediterranean blue sea, ready to emerge and wreak destruction. Its growing in strength and its blackened skin lurks as a chilling reminder of the power it holds. Yellow sludge oozes from its pores, smelling of rotten eggs, the discharge discolouring the water in its circumference. Yet intrepid tourists, like the heroes of Ancient Greece, scale its hind seeking and hoping to find answers.
Nea Kameni (new island) is still an active volcano and monitored daily. It is highly probable it will erupt again and with the same force which happened in 1650BCE. For over 2,000 years, there have been repeated eruptions of lava and ash, hence the growing island and its smaller counterpart, Palea Kameni (old island). The sulphuric waters of Nea Kameni have healing properties, and attracts many visitors. The caldera, the body of water surrounding the island, was created following the eruption. Prior to the volcano going nuclear, the island was attached to the mainland of Santorini and stuck out like a promontory.
Santorini has been occupied since 5,000 BCE, the early inhabitants lived in fishing villages and farming communities. Archaeologists have found pottery, stone vases and figurines as well as burial chambers cut from the rock dating to 3,000 BCE. They traded with nearby islands, Paros and Naxos, exchanging Thiran pumice stone for marble. The position of the island made Thira major trade route between the isles, in particular copper. The ancient settlement of Akrotiri became a centre of metal work, where moulds and vessels have been found.
Akrotiri flourished and grew into a prosperous city with paved streets and a drainage system that would not be out of place in our modern world. Homes had toilets, not like we know them, but a repository and separate pipes to take away the effluence. They even had hot and cold water! Then it came to an end. Santorini sits on a seismic fault line, and preceding the massive eruption, experienced a series of earthquakes which the ancient Thirans repaired and rebuilt Akrotiri.
Akrotiri was buried under volcanic ash and layered with lava making it one of the best preserved ancient settlements. So well preserved, archaeologists were able to make castings of wooden furniture. Due to the absence of bodies at Akrotiri, unlike its counterpart, Pompeii, experts believe the residents abandoned the town before the massive eruption. It wasn’t until 1967, when archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos began excavations. In the 1930’s he published a paper and believed the eruption of Thira was responsible for the demise of the Minoan civilisation.
Could Akrotiri be the source of Plato’s story of Atlantis? Let’s list the possible tie-ins:
1. Thira was an island with concentric circles of water surrounding land, as was Atlantis
2. Thira was an thalassocracy, as was Atlantis
3. The Thirans were renowned for their skills in arts, craft and metals, as was the Atlanteans
4. The people of Thira and their settlement were sophisticated, so too were the Atlanteans
5. Both islands were destroyed by a cataclysmic event
6. Both were trading powers
If you can think of more connections please let me know.
Thank you for visiting and reading.
As always, your comments are valued and welcomed.
Historical fiction fantasist Luciana Cavallaro, a secondary teacher, meanders from contemporary life to delve into the realms of mythology. Subscribe to her FREE short story http://eepurl.com/bhESs1
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Santorini Archaeological Sites: Akrotiri Excavations, Santorni.com
Santorini (Thera) Volcano, http://www.photovolcanica.com
Thera, Ancient History Encyclopedia