Syros, the Lady of Cyclades
Syros is geographically located in the centre of the Aegean Sea and belongs to the Cyclades group of islands.
Its name roots from the word Sour or Sur, which means "rocky" as the island emerges from the sea in the form of bare and precipitous rocks. Another version of name origin suggests that it derives from the ousyra or ousoura, Phoenician for happy.
The island flourished during the ancient times, this is evident due to many archaeological findings that came to light at the end of the last century. And so, on this "happy rock", one of the most important civilisations was born 3,000 years ago. Although archaeologists baptized it Keros-Syros Civilisation (Keros is a small uninhabited island near Amorgos), yet it became known as Cycladic Civilisation.
The first historical reference on the island was recorded in Homer’s Odyssey. He referred to it as "Syria" and as from then he called it "dipolis, the one of two cities: Posidonia and Phoenicia:
"There is a certain isle called Syria, if haply thou hast
heard of it, over above Ortygia, and there are the
turning-places of the sun. It is not very great in compass,
though a goodly isle, rich in herds, in flocks, with
plenty of corn and wine. Dearth never enters the land, and
no hateful sickness falls on wretched mortals. But when the
tribes of men grow old in that city, then comes Apollo of
the silver bow, together Artemis, and slays them with the
visitation of his gentle shafts. In that isle are two
cities, and the whole land is divided between them, and my
father was king over the twain, Ctesius son of Ormenus, a
man like to the Immortals."
In 1207 Syros was occupied by the Venetians and came under the administration of the Duke of Naxos. At that time, the first city was built on the top of the highest hill near the middle of the island. Its current name is Ano Syros and it is home to the Church of Saint George, the Catholic Episcopate.
In 1566, the island was conquered by the Turks, but throughout the period of Ottoman occupation, it was under the protection of the Pope and France. During the 360 years of Frankish occupation, locals converted to Catholism. In 1617, however, the Turkish fleet destroyed the island. During the 19th century, Syros and Ermoupolis in particular, bloomed to become a great commercial, industrial and cultural centre. The city gave home to refugees from Chios, Izmir, Psara, Cassos and Crete. After the liberation of Greece from the Turks in 1821, the city continued to be at the core of the country’s commercial and cultural life.
Ermoupolis is the capital city of the island of Syros and the Municipality of Cyclades. The wonderful neo-classical buildings of the city, one of which is Syrou Melathron, provide indisputable evidence of the island’s blooming during that era.
The German occupation, the famine in 1941 and bombings destroyed the socio-economic life of the island. Once again in its long history, efforts for Syros’ revival started after German troops left the country.
Today, Syros is a popular holiday destination due to its geographical position and wild beauty, its history and unique atmosphere, its sights and festivals, cultural events and of course its nightlife.