The island of Santorini or Thera belongs to the Cyclades group of islands located in the south Aegean Sea. The island has an area of approximately 76.19 square kilometres and is known for its volcanoes. In particular, it belongs to the Aegean volcanic arc and still considered an active volcano.
The archaeological excavations in Akrotiri along with the volcano, has made Santorini history a very interesting and popular theme for all the historians and archaeologists around the world.
Together with the smaller islands, Therasia and Aspronisi are remnants of another island, which was named Stroggili as it was known in the prehistoric times. Legend wanted Stroggili to cast from the depths of the sea forming a volume of round land (perhaps as a result of a corresponding past volcanic activity). This round shape gave the island its name (Stroggili in ancient Greeks means round). It was actually a volcanic cone. Around 1600 B.C. in the Late Bronze Age, during a volcanic eruption, blew its central part along with the volcanic crater destroying the prehistoric culture of the island and burying it under 60 feet of ash. What remained from the original island was only three strips of land islands: Thera (the large part with Caldera), Therasia and Asrpronisi. From time to time in the gap beteween Thera and Therasia, appeared other small islands (Old Kammeni, New Kammeni, Kammeni of George A’, Kammeni of Fouquet, Afroessa and Dafni). These islands grew and eventually merged with the exception of Old Kammeni.
During the 13th century BC Santorini island was used by the Phoenicians as a trading base, while during the 9th century BC it was colonized by Lacedaemonians (Spartans) who were led by the Spartan Theras, by whom it took one of its two names. The second name is derived from the Crusaders, who passing by the island to replenish their supplies, stopped near the Church of St. Irene, and so they called the island Santa Irina. In 1832, the newly Greek State officially established the name Thera (which during the last years became Thira), but foreigners continued to refer to it by its Latin name and over the years Santa Irina was paraphrased in Santorini.
The greater part of the island fell to Ottomans in 1566, apart from the castle of Akrotiri that was occupied in 1617. In 1580 sultan Murat the Third ceded with firman important privileges to the Cyclades. During that period Santorini developed its agriculture and its shipping, as it is evidenced by the amount of taxes paid to the Ottoman Empire.
In 1830 Santorini was annexed to the New Greek State and developed extremely large commercial, shipping and agricultural prosperity. However, the two World Wars and the catastrophic earthquake of 1956 almost devastated the island.
In the late 1970s, the development of tourism along with the natural beauty of the island and the archaeological excavations that revealed its long history, have made Santorini or Thera, one of the most popular tourist destinations of the world.