Santorini Volcano History

BB-(73-of-130)Land … of  Hephaestus …

Sea … of Lava …

People … of Explosions ….

An island that is permeated by the genesis and evolution of the volcanoes. An archipelago which developed and became known because of its direct contact with the volcanoes. Thira, Thirassia and Aspronissi. And along with these modern volcanoes, Palea and Nea Kammeni constitute… the Myth and History together…
Thira – the main island of the group that got its name from Thiras, the king of Sparta, is not entirely a volcanic island, and not always did it have its current size. Over time Santorini once took a kind of round shape which corresponds somewhat with the current external contour of Thira, Thirassia and Aspronissi.”1

Akrotiri, the prehistoric city of the “Minoan” eruption period was one of the most important cities of Cycladic Polynesia during the 3rd millennium BC and thanks to its strategic geographical position developed as a cosmopolitan -and not only- port. In the middle-Cycladic period (2000 BC-1650 BC) the city of Akrotiri, played an important role in the goods handling and the development of metalworking activities that brought it to the forefront of evolution. The most famous volcanic activity of Santorini, occurs in the 17th century BC. It was characterized as “Minoan”2 by Spiros Marinatos, the pioneer of excavations in Akrotiri (1939), with the destruction of the Minoan palaces, a theory though that was toppled in recent years because of modern discoveries3. The explosion generates great scientific interest of geologists, archaeologists, historians etc. to date.


After the eruption of the 17th century BC – in 1630, the island of Santorini was inhabited again at the end of 13th century BC – early 12th. In the 9th century, Lacedaemonians from Sparta with their leader Thiras, came to the island and founded the colony in Mesa Vouno. After years of changes and History, the volcano fills again shaping the modern volcanoes, Palea and Nea Kammeni. In 197 BC the eruption of the caldera of Santorini, creates the old Kammeni, and from 46 A.D -the island Thia-, until 726 AD there is a historical geological watershed. Another reason why the volcano and generally the island were known is that volcanic eruptions were inextricably linked with historical events. One of these was the eruption of 726 AD, which was seen as the cause of the beginning of iconoclasm in Byzantium.

The next two volcanic eruptions in Palea and Nea Kammeni were those of 1457- 1458 and 1570. On the other hand, the volcanic complex of Santorini includes, besides the “known” active volcanoes, the volcano “Columbo”, northeast of the island. Columbo exploded in 1650 releasing poisonous gases that killed about seventy (70) people and decimated the animals on the island4, while there is a report on geological change from the monks of Mount Athos5 related to that explosion.

  1. A. Kontaratos:  Santorini Course in time, Heliotopos publications, p.24
  2. Sp. Marinatos:  Treasures of Santorini, Athens 1972, p.30
  3. Chr.Doumas “Unearthing a dead city in Akrotiri” ALS, 1 (2003), p.39, and W.Friedrich: Fire in the Sea, Paschalidis publications, p.78.
  4. Nomikou P., Carey S., Croff Bell K., Papanikolaou D., Bejelou K., Cantner K., Sakellariou D., Perros I. (2012): «Tsunami Hazard Risk of a future volcanic eruption of Kolumbo submarine volcano, NE of Santorini Caldera, Greece »: Natural Hazards. Vol. 52 and K. Simopoulos: Foreign travellers in Greece 333 AD-1700, vol.I, Piroga publications Athens 2008, pp. 526-537, Joseph Dekigallas: “Theran”, Truth, 249 (22.10.1866) pp. 2-3.
  5. Matthew Mindrinos: “Santorini and Mount Athos” E.E.K.M. Proceedings of the 2nd Kykladological Congress vol.Q. (2000-2001), Athens 2001, pp. 364-394

From the eruption of the 18th century -1707 onwards the plethora of special narrations that we have not only by official investigators of the volcano, but also by ordinary citizens, who were impressed as well as terrified, recorded as much as they could concerning the explosions. There is also great academic interest in the following eruption, that of 1866. In this case two figures are worth mentioning. The particularly important for the history of the island of Thira doctor-philosopher Dekigallas Joseph, who among other things also records that explosion, and the Professor of Chemistry Anastassios Christomanos, who due to his detailed records of the phases of the explosion, was promoted to Professor from lecturer during his stay on the island.

The eruptions of the 20th century (1925, 1938-1939, 1950) are characterized by very short bursts – approximately every 11 years, the existence of several narrations once again by ordinary residents some of whom are still alive, and of course it has to be clarified that the last volcanic eruption should not be associated with the devastating earthquake of 1956 which convulsed the island of Santorini socially.

As it can be understood, the existence of an active volcano in a region is considered to be a key factor in the development and interaction of the local community. As the islanders learned to live with the volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, the volcano learned to evolve along with history as well.
Until today, the volcano is being monitored by researchers from different scientific teams – geologists, volcanologists, seismologists, historians and numerous students in order to examine any changes in its structure and of course for the immediate protection of residents and visitors of the island.

Photo Resources: ,
Writing by Iosif Perros,
Translation by Amalia, Kalogeraki