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It was first called Syra, then Siros or Siros, and appears in ancient times to have been inhabited by the Phoenicians. In the Odyssey, Siros was the country of the swineherd Eumaeus who described it at length (Odyssey, XV, 403 sq.). The island was also the home of the philosopher Pherecydes, the teacher of Pythagoras. It possessed two leading cities, Siros (now the modern Ermoupoli) and another city on the western coast where stands to-day Galissas.

The island did not play an important role during antiquity nor the early Christian years[citation needed], it was not even a diocese at a time when even the smallest island possessed its bishop. During Roman times the capital of Siros was situated in the area of contemporary Ermoupoli.

Middle Ages

At the end of ancient times, the barbarian raids and piracy, which had surged the Aegean for many centuries, led Siros to decline. The island, along with the other Cyclades, was devastated several times during the Middle Ages by raiders from different directions including SiciliansArabs,Turks, and Venetians.

In the Byzantine years Siros constituted part of the Aegean Dominion, along with the rest of the Cycladic islands. After the overthrow of the Byzantium in the Fourth Crusade by the Venetians and Franks in 1204, was definitively conquered by the Venetians under the leadership of Marco Sanudo and would remain under Venetian rule until 1522. It was included in the Ducat of the Aegean.

It was at this time that Ano Siros was founded. During the Latin period, the majority of the local community were Roman Catholics, but maintained the Greek language. During the reign of almost three and a half centuries of the Ducat of the Aegean, Siros had a singular feudal regime.

Ottoman Era - "The Pope's Island"

Inside the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas inErmoupolis.
View of Anastasis church in Vrodado.

By the 16th century, the Ottoman fleet became dominant in the Aegean and the Ducat fell apart. In 1522 the corsair Barbarossa took possession of the island, which would be known as "Sire" during Ottoman rule.[2] Siros. However, negotiations of the local authorities with the Ottomans gave the Cyclades substantial privileges, such as the reduction of taxes and religious freedom.

View of Ermoupoli from the beach.
View of Ermoupoli from Ano Siros

At the same time, following an agreement of France and the Holy See with the Ottoman authorities, the Catholics of the island came under the protection of France and Rome[citation needed].

The diocese of Syra (Syrensis, "The Pope's Island") was a Latin diocese, suffragan of Naxos, comprising the Island of Siros in the Aegean Sea. The Venetians had established there a Latin bishopric which was subject to the Archbishopric of Athens until 1525. From the time of the island's occupation by the Turks in the 16th century, the Greeks established a metropolitan on Siros: Joseph[3] is the earliest known, along with Symeon who died in 1594[4] and Ignatius in 1596.[5] The island became for the most part Catholic.[6]

The list of titulars may be found in Le Quien[7] and in Eubel.[8] The most celebrated among them is the Venerable John Andrew Carga, who was strangled by the Turks in 1617 because he refused to convert to Islam and because he was helping the Greek revolutionaries hiding on the island.[9]

After the second half of the 17th century, a period of economic recovery of the Aegean began, climaxing during the transition from the 18th to the 19th century. The special regime of the islands allowed the development of local self-government. The decline of piracy since the beginning of the 19th century led to the gradual liberation of the sea routes of the Eastern Mediterranean

In Independent Greece

Greek War of Independence

Due to its crucial geographical position, Siros became known as a maritime way-point. Moreover, the special social, religious and institutional conditions prevailing on the island led Syriots to neutrality at the beginning of the Greek Revolution in 1821, and they did not take part in the Greek revolt. As a result, Siros became a secure shelter during the Revolution, attracting many Greek refugees from Asia MinorChiosSpetsesPsaraAivaliSmyrnaKydoniaKassos and other places.

19th century

After 1829 it was incorporated in the newly-founded Hellenic kingdom. The island returned to peace and tranquility, Siros became known as a cross-road in the Aegean and as an international commercial center linking Western Europe and the Mediterranean sea to the East. The construction of the first buildings began in 1822, and in 1824 the first Orthodox Church Metamorphosis and the largest Greeksanatorium was constructed.

With the foundation of the Greek state, the Catholic population of the island was hellenized and changed their Latin family names to Greek ones, (e.g. the family name Vuccino to Voutsinos, Russo to Roussos, Vacondio to Vakondios, Daleggio to Dalezios, Salsa to Salsapoulos, Freri to Freris just to mention a few).

However, there was no problem of integration between the old residents of Siros, mostly Roman Catholics and the newly arrived refugees, mostly Greek Orthodox. Because of the Venetian domination from the Middle Ages and onwards, the islanders had been exclusively Roman Catholic. However, due to immigration from other islands, Catholics now constitute some 47% of the population. The majority of the population are Greek Orthodox. They live peacefully side by side. Intermarriage between Churches is very common in Siros.

During 1831 Siros played a prominent role in the elaboration of the new Greek Constitution. Under Ioannis Kapodistrias (Giovanni Capo D'Istria), the first Governor of the new state, the population of Ermoupolis had reached 13,805 residents and the city had evolved into a seat of government.

It had a Commercial Court of Law, a post office (one of the first in Greece), insurance brokerages, the first public school, a branch of the National Bank of Greece, art gallery, museum, library, a social club for the elite society etc. However, in 1854cholera and a series of other epidemics unfortunately plunged Siros into mourning. A number of charitable institutions for public health and social services were established during this period: orphanages, poorhouses and a mental hospital.

Newcomers, mainly mariners and tradesmen, gave the island a new dynamic, which along with its demographic and economic development, turned it into an administrative and cultural centre. Newcomers flocked to the island and founded the town of Ermoupoli, which rapidly became the leading port of Greece.

Between 1822 and 1865, Ermoupoli was rebuilt in a Neoclassical style, merging Greek Classicism with elements of the Renaissance. Many landmarks such as the City Hall (designed by the famous German architect Ernst Ziller), the theatre Apollon by the Italian architect Campo (a miniature version of the La Scala in Milano), the main Library, the General Hospital of Siros (Vardakeio-Proio), Miaoulis square and other buildings were built during that period of time.

The European architects (mainly Germans and Italians) and also Greeks who participated in the design and planning of Ermoupolis respected the classical and ancient Greek architecture and harmonized it with the romanticism of the West. Ermoupoli enjoys the greatest[peacock term] density in the neoclassical history of architecture. The prosperity of Siros was connected with an important[peacock term] development of social and cultural life. The evolutionary cycle was completed with the creation of the first industrial units during the decade of 1860–70.

Most public buildings, churches, schools, stadiums and many mansions were built in the same elegant and neoclassical style, making Ermoupoli at the time a very modern city with a unique character. As a result, Siros changed almost overnight from a rather quiet island into a vigorous centre of crafts, industry and production. Also, due to its large port of Ermoupoli, it turned into a major centre for ship building and refitting. Neorion was the first shipyard of Greece. To this very day, it remains a place where many ships are serviced and refitted.

Since 1830 the commerce of fabricssilk, ship building, leather and iron developed on Siros and at the same time a powerful banking system was created. The tremendous growth and development of Ermoupolis continued and until 1860 Siros was the most important commercial harbour in Greece. Together with commerce and ship building, construction and public works were also developed. The renowned[peacock term] Greek Steamship Company was founded in 1856.

A period of decline then followed, as sailing gave way to steam, the importance of the geographical situation of the island was reduced and Piraeus harbour finally took the predominant position in Greece - with the competition of Patras also reducing Siros' commercial importance.

20th century

Beginning at the end of the 19th century and for several decades, a temporary economic recovery took place, due to the development of the textile industry ("Foustanos-Karellas-Velissaropoulos & Co").

The Second World War reduced Siros' economic development, as was the case for every economic centre in Greece. However, already since the 1980s, along with the generalized economic recovery and the rise of the living standards in Greece, elements of improvement appeared withtourism as its central axis. At the same time, the re-opening of the Neorion shipyards, as well as a number of other activities, indicate that Siros is on an upward trend.

Ermoupoli today has 7 elementary schools, 2 junior high schools, 2 high schools, 2 technical schools and the Aegean University with a department of Fine Arts and system design, with a proposed future addition in Applied Arts and Visual Arts. The Siros Island National Airport, the Aegeancasino, the frequent passenger boat transportation system and all other modern amenities help to attract many domestic and foreign tourists to the island all year round.

Siros also has a British cemetery where various people are buried, including many seamen and servicemen who died in the Cyclades region, particularly during the Second World War. The numerous consulates of countries such as France, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries bear witness to the connection of Siros with the wider European scene.

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