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date: 15 January 2021


  • R. W. V. Catling

Thera (mod. Santorini, 76 km.2), the southernmost of the *Cyclades. It and Therasia are the remnants of a volcanic island destroyed in a cataclysmic eruption c.1650–1500 bce, burying the prehistoric landscape under volcanic ash. The absolute date of the eruption and its impact on *Minoan civilization are disputed (see atlantis). Viticulture thrives in its arid climate and light soils.

At Akroteri a bronze age town, deserted before the final eruption, has been uncovered, providing unique insights into the life of a community c.1600 bce. Buildings survive up to two storeys and preserve a splendid series of frescos depicting scenes of nature, daily life, and cult. Most remarkable is a frieze in miniature style showing ships, towns, and landscapes. Of neolithic origins, Akroteri flourished between c.2000 and 1600 bce, when it had close connections with Crete. Local art combines Minoan influences with a vigorous naturalistic style (see minoan civilization). Subsequently Thera remained uninhabited until c.1200 bce when Mycenaeans settled briefly at Monolithos (see mycenaean civilization). Recolonized by *Dorians from *Laconiac.850 bce, the ancient city occupied a naturally defensible, wind-swept ridge in the south-east with harbours on either side. Its rich Geometric to Classical cemeteries signal its prosperity. Following a prolonged drought, c.630 bce a colony was dispatched to *Cyrene. Thera avoided involvement in the *Persian Wars and remained independent of Athens until the *Peloponnesian War. Payment of tribute of three talents and an indemnity began in 430 bce. In the 3rd and early 2nd cents. bce it was a Ptolemaic possession, serving as a naval base. The city's remains belong chiefly to the Hellenistic and Roman periods.


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  • 1965– .
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