SANTORIN (corruption of St. Irene; anc. THERA), a vol canic island in the Aegean Sea, the southernmost of the Sporades. Officially it is a province in the Greek department of the CYCLADES (q.v.), divided into 9 communes.
In shape Santorin forms a crescent and encloses a bay on the north, east and south ; on the western side lies the smaller island of Therasia. The encircling wall thus formed, elliptical, and 18 m. round its inner rim, is broken in two places—towards the N.W. by a strait a mile in breadth, where the water is not less than 1,100 ft. deep, and S.W. by an aperture about 3 m. wide, shallow, with Aspronisi (White Island) in the middle. From the bay cliffs rise perpendicularly to as much as ',coo ft.; but towards the open sea, both in Santorin and Therasia, the ground slopes and has been converted into broad level terraces of tufaceous agglomer ate, which though bare and ashen, produce the famous Santorin wine. The tufa itself is exported as cement especially for house roofs. Towards the south-east, the limestone peak of Mount Elias (1,910 ft.) existed before the volcano was formed. In the middle of the bay lie three small volcanic islands, Palaea-, Mikra- and Nea-Kaiimene (Old, Little and New Burnt Island). The highest, Nea-Kailmene, was thrown up in 1707 and 1866 to 351 ft. above the sea. Owing to the depth at the foot of the cliff there is no anchorage, and vessels have to be moored to the shore, except at one point in the neighbourhood of the modern town, where there is a patch of shallow bottom. The cliffs show horizontal bands of black lava, white and yellow tufa, and other volcanic strata, red, purple, brown and green, with but little herb age. The modern town of Thera (or Phera, as it is commonly pronounced) is built at the edge of these cliffs, overlooking the bay at a height of goo ft. The foundations of the houses and in some cases their sides, are excavated in the tufa, so that they are hardly traceable except by their chimneys. Owing to the absence of timber—for, except the fig, cactus and palm, there are hardly any trees in the island—they are roofed with barrel vaults. Both wood and occasionally water are imported from neighbouring islands, for there are no wells, and the rain water, collected in cisterns, sometimes fails. The next largest village, Apanomeria ("Upper Part"), near the N. entrance, is crowded together in a whitewashed mass above the reddest rocks in the island.
Geology.—Most geologists agree that the whole of the bay was once covered by a single volcanic cone, represented by the outward slope of Santorin and Therasia, with its crater at the Kaiimene Islands ; and that the bay results from explosion and subsidence. The kaiimene Islands arose subsequently, and Palaea Kaiimene is considered to be prehistoric. Principal eruptions in historic times are those of 196 B.C. (Strabo 57), when flames arose from the water between Thera and Therasia for four days and an island appeared; of A.D. 726, when again an island was
thrown up; of 1570, when Mikra-Kaiimene arose; of 165o, which destroyed many lives by noxious exhalations, and ended in the upheaval of an island in the sea to the north-east of Santorin, which is now a reef below sea-level; that of 1707, when Nea Kaiimene arose; and that of 1866, when Nea-Katimene was ex tended towards the south and enlarged threefold.
In the southern parts both of Santorin and Therasia pre historic dwellings have been found underneath the layer of tufa and between the stones branches of wild olive, a mode of building that still prevails in the island, to resist earthquake. Vases of imported Cretan ware date this settlement to the middle Minoan period, and connect the volcanic explosion with the earth quake which wrecked the first Palace at Cnossus.
In Greek legend the island of Thera originated from a clod of earth presented to the Argonauts by Triton (Apoll. Rhod., Argonaut, iv., 1551 seq. 1731 seq.). A colony was left there by Cadmus (Herod. iv. 147.). Subsequently a colony from Sparta, including Minyan refugees from Lemnos, was brought by Theras, who gave the island his own name, in place of Calliste. But the chief event in Thera's history was the planting of its famous colony of Cyrene on the north coast of Africa by Battus in 631 B.C., in accordance with a command of the Delphic oracle. Thera, as a member of the League of the Cyclades, was from 3o8 to 145 B.C. under the protectorate of the Ptolemies.
The ancient capital occupied a site on the eastern coast now called Mesavouno, between Mount Elias and the sea. It has been excavated since 1895 by Baron Hiller von Gartringen. There are extensive cemeteries; a Heroum of Artemidorus; an Agora ; a Royal Portico ; a temple of Dionysus and the Ptolemies, later dedicated to the Caesars ; the Ptolemaic barracks and a gymnasium. The main street has narrow lanes to right and left ; one leads to the sanctuary of the Egyptian gods. Near the street there is a small theatre, beneath the seats of which is a cistern into which rain-water drains from the auditorium : water was evidently scarce then as now. Farther south-east are the temples of Ptolemy Euergetes III., and of Apollo Carneius; finally, where the rocks fall precipitously, a gymnasium of the Ephebi. Numer ous rock-carvings and inscriptions have been discoNiered, as well as statues and vases. Near the W. foot of Mount Elias is the temple of Thea Basileia, perfect even to the roof, now dedicated to St. Nicolas Marmorites.
Tournefort mentions that in his time nine or ten chapels were dedicated to St. Irene, the patron saint of the place ; the name Santorin was given after the fourth crusade, when the island formed a portion of the duchy of the Archipelago.