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Santorini View from the top of Thira

Santorini, also known as Thira or Thera, is a small, circular group of volcanic islands located in the Aegean Sea, 75 km south-east of the Greece mainland, (latitude: 35.25N - longitude: 25.20E). The southernmost member of the Cyclades group of islands, it has an area of approximately 80 kmē (30 sq mi) and in 2001 had an estimated population of 10,700. The inhabitants are citizens of Greece and speak Modern Greek.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the (then) dome-shaped island was inhabited by the Minoans prior to 3200 BC when the Cretans invaded (but the Minoans were the Cretans of the time of the eruption); at this time it was known as Stroggili or Strongyle (meaning 'round').
Probably somewhere between 1650 and 1645 BC (controversy rages within professional archeology, with some sources (Austin, 1984:81-83 and 185) dating the explosions to 1520-1500 BC) the volcano in the centre of the island erupted violently, demolishing the centre portion of the island and creating a 100 to 150m high tidal wave that devastated the north coast of Crete, 70km (45 miles) away. This disappearance of the centre of the island is regarded by many as the most likely source for the story of Atlantis, and it also explains the characteristic sheer cliffs that occur on the perimeter of the explosion zone on the remaining islands. This eruption will have caused a significant climate upset for the eastern Mediterranean region. It was one of the heaviest volcano eruptions on earth in the last 10,000 years. Half of that island, 83 square kilometres mountainous area disappeared.

Through the next 3000 years the island was occupied by the Phoenicians, the Dorians, the Romans, the Byzantines (who introduced Christianity in the 3rd century AD), and the Franks (who in the 12th century named it Santorini). A turbulent phase of its history came in 1579 when the island was temporarily occupied by the Islamic Ottomans who attempted to eliminate Christian worship.

In 1704 the undersea volcano breached the sea surface in the centre of the caldera, and it continues to expand. At some time in the future, it will almost certainly erupt violently again.

Throughout the next few hundred years Santorini had a peaceful period of self-determination, although this was disrupted by the Nazi occupation during WWII. Santorini is now politically a part of modern Greece.

Major settlements in Santorini include Fira (Phira), Oia and Therasia. Akrotiri is a major archaeological site with ruins from the Minoan era. The island has no rivers, water is provided from small springs and frequently has to be imported. The primary industry of Santorini is tourism, although there are some small wineries and pumice quarries.

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