History SYROS (Island) KYKLADES - GTP - Greek Travel Pages
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Listed 7 sub titles with search on: History for destination: "SYROS Island KYKLADES".


History (7)

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1.Prehistory - Ancient Cycladic culture

  The first traces of the Ancient Cycladic culture on this group of islands date from about 3.000 B.C.
  The islands' mild climate, combined with its plentiful metal ores and its marble, all helped to develop this culture, which is among the oldest of Greece. Inhabitants of the Cyclades were masters in sailing and arts. They were great travellers and established commercial links with nearby lands.
  The Ancient Cycladic culture is divided into 3 periods. The most important of them is the 2nd, called the culture of Syros - Keros (2800-2200 B.C.), when the development of Syros reached its peak.
  The archaeologist Christos Tsoundas was responsible for the major part of archaeological work on the island.
  The most significant settlement on Syros of this period was situated in the region of Chalandriani in the northern part of the island. Testimonies to the life of the island's early inhabitants, such as works of art and innumerable tombs, were uncovered. They led to the conclusion that this settlement was of great importance. Built on top of a hill, it was surrounded by a fortified wall, featuring numerous towers.
  Archaeologic works in Chalandriani brought to light an important number of graves of this period. All of them, in the form of a circle or a square, are built of small stones and covered with slabs. Countless items from everyday life, such as utensils, statuettes, jewelry, weapons and tools were discovered as well. Remains of other settlements were found in different parts of Syros: at "Agia Thekla" in Chroussa, in Chondra at a site called Koskinos, near to Vari, which is supposed to be the oldest settlement of Syros. Many objects fashioned of volcanic glass were found there.
  The people of the Cyclades were excellent artists. They created objects that were both useful and decorative. But the greatest contribution to their art consists of the marble idols found on many islands of the Cyclades. These idols usually represent women with bent legs, hands crossed on the breast and the head in the shape of a lyre.
  Other characteristic items of the period are objects in the shape of a frying pan with a peculiar decoration of spirals and stylised ships. They may have been used for religious purposes or perhaps as a mirror - the hollow side would be filled with water in which one's face would be reflected.

This text is cited May 2003 from the University of Patras' XENIOS DIAS website URL below, which contains image.


2. Geometric Period - Archaic Period

  We know little about Syros at this period. Most historians are of the opinion that the island mentioned by Homer in "Siriyi" and characterised as "happy island" is Syros. In the Odyssey, rhapsody O, lines 403-414, the swineherd called Eumaeos, narrates his adventures and his life and describes his native island :
"There's an island, you may have heard, called Siriyi,
out beyond Ortigia above, where the sun turns in his course
It's not so very thickly peopled, though the rich land is
excellent for cattle and sheep, and yields fine crops of grapes and corn.
Famine is unknown there and so is disease.
No dreadful scourges spoil the islanders' happiness,
but as the men of each generation grow old in their homes,
Apollo of the Silver Bow comes with Artemis, strikes them with kindly darts, and lays them low.
Two cities on the island
both share equal wealth.
My father Ktissias reigned there,
the son of Ormenos, equal to the immortals."
  At about the 8th century B.C., the island was occupied by Phoenicians, a people of merchants and sailors, who dominated the sea. They gave the island its name. This name - Syros - is likely to have a Phoenician root, meaning "sherry". According to other opinions, the island derives its name from the Phoenician word "ousira" which means "wealthy" or from "ousura" which may be interpreted as "happy".
  Later on, the Ionians settled on Syros, headed by Ippomedont. In the 6th century B.C., Samians conquered the island, led by Polikratis, with the help of Killikont, a native of Syros. The great philosopher Pherekidis, the teacher of Pythagoras, lived on the island at approximately that time (about the 6th century B.C.).
  The idea of the eternal soul was first taught by his school. His work bears the name "Pedemichos" or "Theogonia". He is supposed to have invented the first heliotrope (sun clock).
  He lived in two caves on the island: one situated in Richopo (in Apano Meria) in the summer, and one in the region of Alithini in the winter.
  There were probably two cities on the island in this period: on the site of the present town of Hermoupoli (region of Kimisi) and in Galissas (Agia Pakou).

This text is cited May 2003 from the University of Patras' XENIOS DIAS website URL below, which contains image.


3. Classic Period

  We have less information about Syros during this period.
  During the Persian war, in the 5th century B.C., the Cyclades sided with Athens. Syros also was a member of the Athenian Alliance and paid an annual tax of 1.500 drachmas.
  The island's position near to the holy island of Delos, combined with its commercial development, led to its economic recovery at the end of the 5th century B.C. Proof of this is an increase of taxes. Great activity of the port of Syros is evident. Coins from Syros were circulated as far as Syria. The centre of all this activity was situated on the site of present Hermoupolis.
  Syros was an independent island governed in a way similar to that of Athens, with its own parliament, mint and court.

This text is cited May 2003 from the University of Patras' XENIOS DIAS website URL below.


4. Hellenistic, Roman & Byzantine period

  The island flourished during the reign of the descendants of Alexander the Great, more specifically of Antigon the First, who founded "Kinon ton Nisioton", a confederation of the Cyclades.
  The island experienced a period of great economic activity and development of trade with Delos. Under Roman rule, the island prospered, increasing the commercial value of the port of Syros.
  Numerous coins of that period were found, as well as engraved inscriptions at ormo Grammata.
  The islanders worshipped Posseidon, Zeus, Athina, Dimitra, Pan, Hermes, Dionysios, and other gods.
  According to manuscripts of Bishop Irinei of 307 A.D., Christianity came to Syros in the 4th century A.D. It was part of the Byzantine Council of Aegeos, first belonging to the episcopate of Delos, then to that of Athens, and finally to that of Keas-Thermion-Sifnos.
  In the 4th century A.D., earthquakes and constant pirate invasions destroyed the better part of the island. In 747-750 A.D., the plague decimated its population. Pirates continued their incursions into the island, forcing the survivors of the plague to withdraw to a hill above the port, where they settled and which developed into the town which today is called Ano Syros.
  At that time, Syros bore the name of Souda.

This text is cited May 2003 from the University of Patras' XENIOS DIAS website URL below, which contains image.


5. Venetian period

  After the conquest of the Byzantine empire by the Franks in 1204 A.D., Syros was under Venetian rule and, along with some other Cycladic islands, became part of the Duchy of Naxos of duke Marcos Sanoudos in 1207 A.D.
  The small island of Syros, without particular opulence, seemed unimportant to its conquerors. Thus, it obtained a relative autonomy, which it kept until the duke's representative was replaced by a Byzantine governor. Syros contributed greatly to the survival of the Greek language, which continued to be used in religious services and for the official records.
  The establishment of the village of Ano Syros, as we know it today, dates from that period. It was protected by the walls of its houses to the east, while to the west, a steep, rocky hillside formed a natural defence. It counted seven gates, called "portares", which were closed at sundown for protection against pirates.
  At that time, a number of Venetians, common peasants, settled on the island and married local women. There is an opinion that the noblemen of Syros prefered marrying their daughters to foreigners, whom they considered to be more powerful and more respectable. In fact, there was no gentry to speak of as a result of migration and constant pirate invasions. This also made for a dramatic change in religion. Catholicism appeared on the island, but Greek language, customs and traditions remained, probably thanks to Greek mothers who raised their children in the Greek tradition, whereas foreign women became hellenised.
  It is worth drawing attention to the difficult situation of the islands of the Aegean sea at that time. There was no protection from the Byzantines at a time when pirates constantly ravaged the island. Western powers could offer them no protection. Yet the western church was better organised, while the eastern church did not even have a bishop. Perhaps these are the reasons for the catholic presence on Syros to this day.
  Obviously, there are other opinions, such as the theory of "enforced adoption of catholicism", or the opinion based on promises which the island's bishop Michail Psilos made to the Pope in order to preserve his position. Whatever the reason, we can conclude that, though catholicism is still present on Syros, its people are fundamentally Greek, keeping their language and following Greek-Byzantine religious ceremonies and customs. The characteristic observations of P. Zontanos from Hermoupolis, in 1842, ring very true, when he writes:
  " The population of Syros is of the same heritage as that of the Greek people; in other words, they are Greeks and not Latins as they may think; they are Greeks as well as inhabitants of Ermoupolis. They share the same ethnos; they are Greeks , and not from other tribes or families; they are generations of the same motherland , of Greece."
  In 1286 A.D., the duke of Tinos, Vartholomeos Gizi, invaded the island. Syros was saved thanks to the help of the king of Naples and his fleet, commanded by admiral Narsi di Togri.
  In 1303 A.D., the island was given by the duke of Naxos, Francisco Krispi, as dowry to his daughter Petrounella, when she married duke Petro Zeno.
  In 1408 A.D., the Florentine priest Christophoros Buondelmonti visited the island and described the situation he found there:
  "People there use for food barley bread and goat meat. Because of the constant threat of pirates, their life is so desperate that the only reason that keeps them on the island is their children, their relations and their great attachment to their native place."
  Stefanos Magnus wrote that, in 1484 A.D., its population counted only 400 people.
  It is clear that Syros, along with the other Cycladic islands, suffered much, not only from pirate invasions, but also from conflicts between Frankish princes.

This text is cited May 2003 from the University of Patras' XENIOS DIAS website URL below.


6. Turkish occupation

  In 1537 A.D., Syros was under Turkish oppression.
  The population of the island at that time amounted to about 3. 000. It suffered from repeated invasions of pirates, who, in turn, were at war with the Turks.
  In 1617, the Catholic bishop Andreas Kargas was condemned to the gallows by Captain Ali Pasha. These events resulted in an important decrease of the island's population.
  In 1633, Capucine monks settled on the island. In the middle of the18th century, Jesuits and Ursulines took over the education and medical care for the people of the island.
  Towards the end of the 18th century, Turkish power declined. Representatives of the Turkish kadis (senior officers) lived on Andros. There were no Turks on the island. The concession of the island's catholic church passed from Turkish into French hands. A bishop was appointed by the Pope. Bodies of local self-administration (Assembly, committee, deputation) were founded. Thus, the basis for further economic development was established.
  During the 2nd Russian-Turkish war, the islands were liberated (1770-1774). However, by the Treaty of Kioutchouk- Kainardji, they were again passed to the Turks. Syros appeared to be in favour: Sultan Abdul Hamid made it a gift to his niece Sah, who relieved the island of its tax burden.
  The island did not actively take part in the Greek revolution of 1821, being under French protection at that time. Neither was it a considerable maritime power. However, it supported the revolution financially and accepted refugees from Chios, Izmir and Psara, who were persecuted by the Turks and had to escape to a safer place. It were these refugees who built Hermoupolis, which soon became one of the most important centres of the new Greek state. The "miracle" of the city of Hermoupolis was wrought thanks to the efforts and the commercial talents of these people.

This text is cited May 2003 from the University of Patras' XENIOS DIAS website URL below, which contains image.


7. New period

  The period between 1830 and 1870 was one of great cultural flourishing and economic prosperity.
  In 1832, Syros counted 181 trade ships: a great deal more than the fleets of the other islands: a.o. Hydra with 95, Spetses with 79, Galaksidi with 33. We have to remember that the entire fleet of the Cycladic islands was destroyed during the war against Turks.
  After the establishment of the independent Greek state, Hermoupolis counted a population of 13.805. In 1833 it became the capital city of the Cycladic region and its centre of administration and jurisdiction. In 1835, Ioannis Petridis became the first mayor of Hermoupolis. In 1839, Neofitos Vamvas founded the senior school. Syros was the centre of opposition during the reign of king Otto. It was here that the Rebellion of Leotsakos started, in 1862.
  Banks, shipping companies, shipyards, guild-halls and printing houses appeared. In 1845, the National Bank opened a branch in Hermoupolis. Through the next few years, we witness the rapid development of such branches of industry as tanneries, soap production and iron metallurgy. Efficiency in shipbuilding increased, reaching a production of 60-80 ships annually. About 2.000 people were employed in the shipbuilding industry in 1835. In 1835, Hermoupolis counted four printing houses. In 1836, the "Ermis tis Sirou" and "Ermis ton Kikladon" newspapers circulated in the city.
  In 1853, there were only three cities in Greece with a population of over 10.000: Athens, Patras and Hermoupolis.
  In 1854, the first Greek steamship was built at a private shipyard; in 1856 the first Greek steamship-building company, "I Eliniki Atmoplia", was founded, with the participation of the municipality, the National Bank and 102 other shareholders. The Greek Steamship-building Company challenged the existing Austrian, Italian and French steamers and tradeships: the ships which were launched from the docks of Hermoupolis could easily compete with their foreign counterparts. Apart from the actual ship-building, the wharves also produced the necessary infrastructure like drydocks, shipbuilding installations, workshops for repairs, warehouses, etc.
  A public dock was built in 1866. Numerous ships docked at the piers of the harbour of Hermoupolis for taking in stores, transporting visitors and providing the island with the necessary goods. At that time, Hermoupolis became the centre of international trade, ideally situated as it was between the eastern Mediterranean and western Europe.
  At a later point in time, a number of textile factories appeared, some of them still operational at the beginning of the 20th century. It was here that the first strike took place, in 1879.
  In 1866, Syros took in countless refugees from Crete. Among them was the family of Eleftherios Venizelos, who studied at the senior school of Syros. New schools were opened: girls' schools, a theological college, etc. The Greek Museum was inaugurated.
  In 1864, we see the renaissance of the "Apollon Theatre", a small-scale version of the Scala of Milan. In this theatre, many a performance by both Greek and foreign troupes was staged. The Philharmonic orchestra, "Leshi Ellas" was founded at that time.
  Taking into account the intellectual prosperity of that period, one is nevertheless surprised at the large number of eminent persons who were born and raised on Syros:
• Georgeos Serouios,
• Chr. Evangelidis, the founder of the "Greek Senior School".
• Emmanouil Roidis (1836 - 1904 ), the great novelist.
• Dimitreos Vikelas (1835 - 1908 ), who contributed much to the revival of the Olympic Games.
• Georgios Souris (1853 - 1919 ), the great poet.
  The tradition was followed by the new generation of Leon Koukoula, Kosti Bastia, Rita Boumpi-Papa, Mano Elevtherou, etc.
  In 1889, the island's population amounted to 31.573. In 1907, Ermoupolis, with a population of 18.100, ranked as the 6th largest city in Greece after Athens, Piraeus, Patras, Kerkira (Corfu) and Volos.
  At the end of the 19th century, the economic situation of Syros started to decline. The main cause was the international progress in shipbuilding and in the textile industry. Many factories closed down and the port of Hermoupolis lost its primacy over Greece. We must remember that the period of rapid development on Syros was brought about by a great inflow of population after its independence, counting among them a significant number of merchants and sailors. Added to this advantage was the favourable geographical position of its port on the crossroads of the Aegean sea. However, the establishment of Piraeus as the port of the capital of Greece, along with the opening of the Corinth Canal, announced the decline of the island, at the end of the 19th century. Especially the opening of the Corinth Canal was of great influence in this context, shortly followed by the end of World War I. It also reduced, to a large extent, the importance of oversea routes towards the Black Sea.
  In 1922, the island once again took in waves of immigrants, victims of the Catastrophy of Asia Minor.
  During World War II, the island suffered under the Italian and German occupation. In the winter of 1941-42, about 8.000 citizens of Syros lost their lives because of starvation and extreme hardship.

This text is cited May 2003 from the University of Patras' XENIOS DIAS website URL below, which contains image.


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