As a continuation of the Neolithic Age, the Cycladic Era began about
3,200 B.C. and flourished for 1,200 years in three main phases: Ancient, Mid and
Later. The appearance of Cycladic engineers, marble workers, ship builders and
seamen were succeeded first by the Minoan and then by the Mycenean civilizations.
Sifnos, a significant entity in the ancient world, gave much which remains inscrutable. However judging by the unparalleled beauty of the sculptures of the Sifnoan Treasure, further investigation would be well worthwhile.
In ancient times, Sifnos was a very prosperous island due to its gold and silver mines. Originally it was inhabited by the Cares and the Phoenicians and was known as "Akis" or "Meropia". Later it was named Minoa after the Minoans who lived there. In more recent years it was inhabited by the Ionians. The splendid Sifnoan Treasure, one of the more important collections exhibited at the Archaeological Museum in Delphi, bears witness to the cultural blossoming of these years. There are prehistoric monuments at Kalamitsi, Agios Andreas and Agios Nikitas.
Sifnos participated in the Persian Wars and later was a member of the Athenian Alliance. During the Hellenistic and Roman Eras, Sifnos, like all the other Cycladic islands, was ruled by the Roman Empire and during the Byzantine period was part of the Aegean "Theme". Between 1207 and 1269, it came under the Venetian Dukedom of Naxos. In 1537, it was pillaged by Barbarosa and in 1617 it was conquered by the Turks. Until this time, it was ruled by the Cozadino Dynasty. Sifnos played an active part in the 1821 revolution and was liberated in 1836, along with other Cycladic islands.
This text (extract) is cited August 2003 from the Apollonia and Artemonas Communities tourist pamphlet.
The Seriphians, Siphnians, and Melians also took part, since they were the only islanders who had not given earth and water to the barbarian.
When the Lacedaemonians were about to abandon them, the Samians who had brought an army against Polycrates sailed away too, and went to Siphnus; for they were in need of money; and the Siphnians were at this time very prosperous and the richest of the islanders, because of the gold and silver mines on the island. They were so wealthy that the treasure dedicated by them at Delphi, which is as rich as any there, was made from a tenth of their income; and they divided among themselves each year's income. Now when they were putting together the treasure they inquired of the oracle if their present prosperity was likely to last long; whereupon the priestess gave them this answer:
"When the prytaneum on Siphnus becomes white
And white-browed the market, then indeed a shrewd man is wanted
Beware a wooden force and a red herald."
At this time the market-place and town-hall of Siphnus were adorned with Parian marble.
They could not understand this oracle either when it was spoken or at the time of the Samians' coming. As soon as the Samians put in at Siphnus, they sent ambassadors to the town in one of their ships; now in ancient times all ships were painted with vermilion; and this was what was meant by the warning given by the priestess to the Siphnians, to beware a wooden force and a red herald. The messengers, then, demanded from the Siphnians a loan of ten talents; when the Siphnians refused them, the Samians set about ravaging their lands. Hearing this the Siphnians came out at once to drive them off, but they were defeated in battle, and many of them were cut off from their town by the Samians; who presently exacted from them a hundred talents.
This extract is from: Herodotus. The Histories (ed. A. D. Godley, 1920), Cambridge. Harvard University Press. Cited Feb 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.
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