The amazing geological history of Santorini

Oia - Photo by White Pearl Villas©
Oia – Photo by White Pearl Villas©

The geological history of Santorini is not just a story of men. It is the history of a land that emerged from the depths of the sea constantly evolving and shaped along with its people’s lives, since then.

How the geological history of Santorini started?

The geological history of Santorini begins million years ago since the Aegean Sea was just a land known as ‘Aigiida’. After long-term geological phenomena, Aigiida sunk and the sea took its place. Nevertheless, some peaks of the old land still protruding, forming the well-known Aegean Islands. Three of these peaks still exist in Santorini. They are the mountain of Profitis Ilias, the imposing rocks above the port of Santorini (Athinios), and Monolithos. These rocks, isolated, overlooked the Aegean, until, 80.000 years ago, the volcano exploded. That tremendous explosion filled the sea with flaming volcano materials which formed a pineal tumor as they froze. That tumor incorporated with the preexisting islets and shaped a new round island. The island was named ‘Stroggyli’ (from the Greek word ‘stroggylos’ that means round).

You emerged from a thunderpeal’s entrails

Shuddering amid repentant clouds

Bitter stone, proved, proud

You sought the sun for the first-martyred witness

To confront perilous splendor together

To head out to sea with a cross-bearing echo

Ode to Santorini, Odysseas Elytis

The famous Caldera’s formation

Through the ages ‘Stroggyli’ did not maintain its shape. A second tremendous explosion of the volcano took place about 1450 B.C. Every sign of life on the island disappeared. Scientists believe that, during the eruption, lava created a huge hollow dome right at the center of the island which shattered due to the weight of the rocks, and sunk into the sea. Only parts of the region remained above the sea which is known today as the island of Santorini. These parts are Santorini, Thirasia and Aspronisi which embraced the water basin known as ‘Caldera’.

The names of Santorini through time

The sacramental beauty of the island brought the Phoenicians to colonize it during 1300 B.C. They gave the island the name ‘Callisti’ (which means the most beautiful). Later on, probably during 1115 B.C. the Dorians with their King Thiras -grandson of Oedipus- arrived at the island. They built cities, ports, and sanctuaries and changed the name of the island to Thira after their King. In 1204 A.D. the Franks crusaders arrived at Thira and renamed it Santa Irina from the name of the Basilica church at the location Mesa Vouno. During 1579 A.D. Santorini annexed to the Ottoman Empire and took the name ‘Demergic’ which means little windmill in Turkish. After independence, the name Thira established by the Greek government but the island is famous by the name Santorini which is a paraphrase of Santa Irina.

The birth of the Volcano islands

Along with the history of the island, the volcano continued its activity and many small eruptions shaped new tumors at the center of Caldera, the New and the Old Kameni, nowadays known today as ‘the Volcano’. Next time you visit Santorini, remember that you are stepping on an island born from lava!

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