Ancient times - Roman period
The name "Syros" comes from the Phoenician Usira, which means happy or "Syr" rock!..
The island of Syros was already inhabited since prehistoric times. At the sites of Chalandriani and Kastri, after excavation, important samples of the Proto-Cycladic culture (2,700-2,200 BC) have been identified. The excavations that began in 1862 in the cemetery of Chalandriani and continued later in 1898 by the archaeologist Christos Tsoundas brought to light remarkable findings. Remains of fortifications, houses, etc. came to light.
The Proto-Cycladic fortified settlement in Kastri is one of the best preserved settlements of the period. The findings of the excavations are exhibited in the National Archaeological Museum (Athens), the Museum of Cycladic Art Goulandris and the Archaeological Museum of Syros.
Traces of facilities were also found in other parts of the island (Talanda, San Michalis, Azolimnos, Galissas, Mallia, Manna). In the centuries that followed, the island gradually came under the influence of the Phoenicians, the Minoans and then the Mycenaeans. During the decline of the Mycenaean civilization (11th-10th century BC) the settlement of Ionians in Syros is probable. In the Odyssey, Homer mentions the island with the name "Syria", and calls it "dipolis", because it had two cities - Poseidonia and Phoenicia - with Ktisios Ormenides as king.
In the 6th century BC in Syros, which in the meantime had been occupied by the Samians, the natural philosopher Pherecydes was born, who is considered the inventor of the first sundial, and the teacher of Pythagoras. Two caves of the island bear his name, one in the eastern part (Richopou) and the other in Alithini, between Ermoupoli and Ano Syros. During this period there were two cities in Syros: One in today's Ermoupolis (in the Pefkakia-Psariana area) and one in Galissa (Galissos). During the Median invasion, Syros was subjugated to the Persians. From 478 BC joined the First Athenian alliance. It maintained its autonomy, with a parliament and a municipality, but paid a vassal tax to the Athenians.
During Roman times (324-184 BC) the capital of Syros was located in the place of today's Hermoupolis. After a period of unrest during the 3rd c. BC, the island flourishes again during the 2nd century. BC, as evidenced by the circulation of copper coins as early as the 3rd century BC, while the minting of silver coins in the 2nd century BC is of interest.
Byzantine times - Frankish rule - Ottoman period
With the end of the ancient world, the barbarian raids and the scourge of piracy, which marked the Aegean area for many centuries, resulted in the decline of the island. In Byzantine times, Syros was, together with the other islands of the Cyclades, part of the "Aegean theme".
With the conquest of Constantinople by the Franks in 1204, Syros came under Venetian rule and belonged to the "duchy of the Aegean". During the Latin rule, the majority of the inhabitants accepted the Catholic doctrine, but kept the Greek language, but a small Orthodox parish, of Agios Nikolaos "the Poor", remained. In the three and a half centuries of life of the Aegean duchy, Syros experienced a peculiar feudal type regime.
In the middle of the 16th century, the Ottoman fleet captured the island and the duchy was overthrown. However, the negotiations of the local authorities with the Ottoman power lead in 1579 to the granting of important privileges to the Cyclades, such as, for example, a reduction in taxation and religious freedom. At the same time, in the context of the first confrontations between France and the Ottoman Empire in 1535, following a relevant agreement between France and the Ottoman authorities, the Catholics were placed under the protection of the French, a privilege that was maintained for centuries. Nevertheless, in 1617, the Ottoman fleet destroyed the island. During the 16th to the 18th century, the population of the island was about 2,500 Catholics and 150-200 Orthodox.
Modern times
After the second half of the 17th century, after the conflicts between the Venetians and the Ottomans ended, a period of economic recovery begins in the Aegean area, which peaked during the transition from the 18th to the 19th century. Thanks to its key geographical position, the support of the Western powers and the strengthened self-government, Syros emerged as a shipping hub. The maintenance of neutrality by the Syrians at the start of the Greek Revolution in 1821 resulted in the attraction of numerous Greek Orthodox refugees from Asia Minor, Chios, Psara, Kasos, who found safe haven on the island. The new residents, mainly sailors and merchants, brought new dynamism to the island, which, along with its economic development, developed into an administrative and cultural center. Activities, such as the trafficking of wheat and munitions for the belligerents, the sale of war booty and pirate booty, the purchase of captives and the slave trade brought wealth to the Syrians. Gradually and with the arrival of numerous refugees from various regions of the eastern Aegean, the traditional Catholic-Orthodox ratio was overturned in favor of the latter. It is characteristic that in 1828 the inhabitants of Ermoupolis numbered 13,800, of whom one third were Chiots and one fifth Smyrni and Cydonian.
With the establishment of the Greek state, Syros, in particular Hermoupoli, which was created by refugees from Chiots, Smyrni, Psarians, Kassians and Cretans - and was named so by the first settlers of the city, in honor of Kerdoos and also of the God of Reason Hermes - rose to prominence a focal point of the Aegean and an international trade center between Western Europe, the Mediterranean and the East. In May 1823, Syros together with Mykonos form a province according to the administrative division of the Aegean islands established by the authorities of the Revolution. From 1830, trade in textiles, silk, leather, and ironwork developed in Syros, and at the same time a strong banking system was created.
At the same time, the first port is also created. Huge warehouses and customs are built to the designs of the architect Erlacher and continued by the Bavarian Weiler. The foundation of the project was officially made by Othona himself. The first hospital in Greece was built here in 1834 and it was free for everyone. So until 1860, Syros developed into the first commercial port of Greece. Along with trade, crafts, shipping, construction and public works developed. The prosperity of Ermoupolis was associated with a significant development of social and cultural life. The decline of sailing shipping marked a period of withering. The importance of the geographical location of the island decreased as the port of Piraeus gained primacy in the Greek space.
At the end of the 19th century and for a few more decades a temporary economic recovery was observed, thanks to the development of the cotton industry. The Occupation, the famine of 1941 and the bombings destroyed the socio-economic life of the island. The economic decline intensified during the post-war decades. Since the 1980s, there has been a shift in the island's economy, with tourism as its main axis.
Syros today
The tourist infrastructure, the inclusion of the island in European programs but also the reopening of Neorio Syros, the increased agricultural production, the highlighting of the architectural and industrial heritage of the island and the presence of public services gave an impetus to the life of the island, after a period of economic wilting. Today, Syros is the administrative, economic and cultural center of the Cyclades.
Catholics and Orthodox coexist harmoniously and the earlier mutual reticence of the past has been replaced by economic and social osmosis. Thus, a large percentage of today's professionals in Ermoupolis come from Ano Syros, while mixed marriages are now a common phenomenon.