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The history of Santorini's volcano

Santorini ● 05 December 2016

The volcano on Santorini is probably the most popular touristic attraction on the island. The volcano affects the economy and life of Santorini in many ways. Its eruption created the caldera, which offers the island a breathtaking view and a beauty that magnetise everyone, who has the luck to enjoy this scenery. Furthermore, the eruption covered the soil with volcanic ash, which gives the grape varieties and the wine produced in the vineyards and the local wineries an exquisite taste. In order to feel the myth of the volcano, one has not only to explore the area with a tour inside the caldera, but also to learn the history of the explosion that literally created the island as we know it today.

Santorini's volcano

The explosion of the volcano is called the Minoan Eruption because of its date during the Minoan Times of the Greek antiquity. The geological evidence has shown that the volcano erupted numerous times over several thousand years before the Minoan Eruption. The eruption's Volcanic Explosivity Index was 7, and the volcano ejected up to four times, making it one of the largest plinian explosions during the past 10,000 years on earth. This is a key marker for the chronology of the Bronze Age in the Eastern Mediterranean civilisation. The exact date has been difficult to determine. Archaeologists have traditionally placed the eruption at approximately 1500 BC, but radiocarbon evidence suggests a date more than a century earlier than suggested by archaeologists.

Since no human remains have been found at the excavations at Akrotiri, a prior volcanic activity probably caused the island's population to flee. Scientists suggest alternatively that several months before the explosion, Santorini experienced one or more earthquakes, which damaged the local settlements.

The historical impact of the Minoan Eruption was huge. It devastated the Minoan settlement at Akrotiri, and it is also strongly believed that it affected the Minoan population on Crete. Many archaeologists agree that it caused a crisis in Minoan civilisation, making them vulnerable to the conquest by the Mycenaean army. The eruption and the disaster after that are also possible to have inspired the myths of the Titanomachy and Atlantis. 

 Some scientists assert that the catastrophic volcano explosion caused significant climatic changes in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Northern Hemisphere. Among all these assumptions, one thing is for sure: the eruption changed the shape of the island itself dramatically. Before that, it had the shape of an almost complete ring that enclosed an earlier, shallower caldera. After the explosion, large sections of the island collapsed into the emptied magma chamber, disappearing under the sea.

The caldera and the volcano

In this regard, the magnificent caldera view we all admire today is a product of a catastrophic volcanic activity that devastated the civilization and the whole island.