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Syros (Greek: Σύρος), or Siros or Syra is a Greek island in the Cyclades, in the Aegean Sea. It is located 78 nautical miles (144 km) south-east of Athens. The area of the island is 83.6 km2 (32 sq mi). The largest towns are Ermoupoli, Ano Syros, and Vari. Ermoupoli is the capital of the island and the Cyclades. It has always been a significant port town, and during the 19th century it was even more significant than Piraeus.


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Ermoupoli
Ermoupolis City Hall.

Ermoupoli, stands on a naturally amphitheatrical site, with neo-classical buildings, old mansions and white houses cascading down to the harbour. The City Hall, where Miaoulis Square lies ringed with cafes and with seating areas under palm trees, has a grandeur all of its own. The "City of Hermes" has numerous churches, the most interesting of which are Metamorphosis, Koimisis, St. Demetrius, Three Hierarchs, Anastasis, Evangelistria and St. Nicolas. The Archaeological Museum has a collection of notable finds and the Municipal Library contains numerous interesting and rare editions. The quarter of the town known as Vaporia, where the sea captains lived, is of special interest . Along its narrow streets, stand numerous neo-classical mansions.
Ano Syros
Ano Syros and Hermoupolis.

Ano Syros is the second town of Syros and was built by the Venetians at the beginning of the 13th century on the hill of San Giorgio, north-west of Hermoupolis. Ano Syros maintains a medieval atmosphere. Innumerable steps between narrow streets and houses with coloured doors lead to the top of the town.[1] The medieval settlement of Ano Syros is accessible by car; the town is served mostly by marble steps. The distance from the harbour up to the main entry point of the town is approximately 1000 metres. The Catholic basilica of San Giorgio dominates Ano Syros. The church was constructed during the 13th century. From the church of San Giorgio visitors enjoy a panoramic view of the neighbouring islands of Tinos, Delos, Mykonos, Paros, Andros and Naxos.

History
Antiquity

During Roman times the capital of Syros was situated in the area of contemporary Ermoupoli. At the end of ancient times, the barbarian raids and piracy, which had surged the Aegean for many centuries, led Syros to decline. In the Byzantine years Syros constituted part of the Aegean Dominion, along with the rest of the Cycladic islands. After the overthrow of the Byzantium by the Venetians and Franks in 1204, Syros came under Venetian rule and was included in the Ducat of the Aegean. Meanwhile, Ano Syros 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, Syros had a singular feudal regime.

5234 : Unique silver diadem decorated, Kastri, Syros

Ottoman Era
Further information: Ottoman Greece

In the mid-16th century, the Ottoman fleet occupied the island and the Ducat fell apart. However, negotiations of the local authorities with the Ottomans gave the Cyclades substantial privileges, such as the reduction of taxes and religious freedom. It was known as "Sire" during Ottoman rule.[2]
View of Ermoupoli from the beach.

At the same time, following an agreement between France and the Vatican with the Ottoman authorities, the Catholics of the island came under the protection of France and Rome, a privilege maintained for centuries. 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.

Due to its crucial geographical position, Syros 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. As a result, Syros became a secure shelter during the Revolution, attracting many Greek refugees from Asia Minor, Chios, Spetses, Psara, Aivali, Smyrna, Kydonia, Kassos and other places. 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.

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 La Scala di Milano), the main Library, the General Hospital of Syros (Vardakeio-Proio), Miaoulis square and other buildings were built during that period of time.

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, Syros 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.

Syros 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. Many embassies and consulates of countries such as France, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries connect Syros with other European capitals.

Because of the Venetian domination from the Middle Ages and onwards, the islanders were 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 Syros.
The Pope's Island
Inside the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Ermoupolis.
View of the Cathedral.

The diocese of Syra (Syrensis, "The Pope's Island") was a Latin diocese, suffragan of Naxos, comprising the Island of Syros in the Aegean Sea. The island has an area of about 31 square miles (80 square kilometres) and 32,000 inhabitants today. It was first called Syra, then Syros or Siros, and appears in ancient times to have been inhabited by the Phoenicians. In the Odyssey, Syros 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, Syros (now the modern Ermoupoli) and another city on the western coast where stands to-day Galissas.

The largest villages are Galissas, Finikas, Vari, Mana, Kini and Posidonia. The island did not play an important role during antiquity nor and the early Christian years[CN], it was not even a diocese at a time when even the smallest island possessed its bishop. Devastated several times during the Middle Ages along with the other Cyclades by the Sicilians, Arabs, Turks, and Venetians, it was definitively conquered by the Venetians in 1204 under the leadership of Marco Sanudo. It remained under Venetian rule until 1522 when the corsair Barbarossa took possession of the island.

During the Ottoman Empire Syros came under the protection of France and the Vatican[CN]. After 1829 it was annexed to the Hellenic kingdom.

The Venetians established there a Latin bishopric which was subject to the Archbishopric of Athens until 1525. The list of titulars may be found in Le Quien (Oriens christianus, III, 865-868) and in Eubel (Hierarchia catholica medii aevi, I, 492; II, 267; III, 324). 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 (Pétridès in "Revue de l'Orient chrétien", V, 407-422). From the time of the island's occupation by the Turks in the 16th century, the Greeks established a metropolitan on Syros: Joseph (Le Quien, op. cit., II, 233) is the earliest known, along with Symeon who died in 1594 (Ampelas, Histoire de Syros, 411) and Ignatius in 1596 (Miklosich and Mueller, "Acta patriarchatus constantinopolitani", V, 461). The island became for the most part Catholic (Ricaut, "Histoire de l'estat présent de l"Eglise grecque", 361; Hilaire de Barenton, "La France Catholique en Orient", 171-173).
Greek Fight for Independence
Further information: Greek War of Independence

Syros did not take part in the Greek revolt of 1821. However, it was inundated with refugees from Chios, Spetses, Psara, Aivali, Smyrna, Kydonia, Kassos, Asia Minor and other parts of Greece. They flocked to the island and founded the town of Ermoupoli, which rapidly became the leading port of Greece. Ermoupoli was designed by well-known European architects such as Ernst Ziller and Campo. Since 1870, the ports of Piraeus and Patras have reduced its commercial importance. The diocese numbers 9000 Catholics, 21 secular priests and 8 regulars, 7 parishes, 7 churches with a resident priest, 3 without a priest, and 56 chapels. The Capuchins and Jesuits each have an establishment; the Sisters of Charity, 2 houses, one of which is a hospital; the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition have a boarding school and St George, a De La Salle Public School.

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 Syros, mostly Roman Catholics and the newly arrived refugees, mostly Greek Orthodox. The island returned to peace and tranquility, Syros 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 Greek sanatorium was constructed.
Administration

Syros is a separate regional unit of the South Aegean region. The only municipality of the regional unit is Syros-Ermoupoli. As a part of the 2011 Kallikratis government reform, the regional unit Syros was created out of part of the former Cyclades Prefecture. At the same reform, the municipality Syros-Ermoupoli was created out of the 3 former municipalities: [3]

Ermoupoli
Ano Syros
Poseidonia

The municipality also includes the uninhabited island Gyaros and several other islets. The total area of the municipality is 102.4 km2 (40 sq mi).
Economy
View from boat.
Galissas beach.

Since 1830 the commerce of fabrics, silk, ship building, leather and iron developed on Syros and at the same time a powerful banking system was created. During 1831 Syros 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 1854 cholera and a series of other epidemics unfortunately plunged Syros into mourning. A number of charitable institutions for public health and social services were established during this period: orphanages, poorhouses and a mental hospital. The tremendous growth and development of Ermoupolis continued and until 1860 Syros was the most important commercial harbour in Greece. Together with commerce and ship building, construction and public works were also developed. The renowned Greek Steamship Company was founded in 1856. 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 density in the neoclassical history of architecture. The prosperity of Syros was connected with an important 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. 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.

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 Syros' 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 with tourism 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 Syros 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 Syros Island National Airport, the Aegean casino, 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.
Religion

As in the rest of Greece, Syros has Eastern Orthodox churches. Metamorphosis is the most important Orthodox church on the island, Kimisis tis Theotokou is also significant and noted for the fact that it hosts a masterpiece by painter El Greco.[4] There is also an equal number of Roman Catholic churches on the island and some entirely Catholic villages; thus, it is one of the most significant places for Roman Catholicism in Greece.[4] Syros is one of a few places where Catholics and Orthodox share a common date for Easter, which in Syros' case, is the Orthodox date.[5]
Notable residents

Emmanuel Rhoides (left) and a picture of Markos Vamvakaris (right).

Pherecydes (c. 600-550 BC), philosopher
Demetrius Vikelas (1835–1908), writer and the first president of the International Olympic Committee
Emmanuel Roidis (1836–1904), writer and journalist
Antonio Gregorio Vuccino (Voutsinos) A.A. (1891–1968), Archbishop of Corfu, Zante and Cefalonia, Greece
Markos Vamvakaris (1905–1972) musician
Sir Richard Musgrave, Bt 1922-2000
Olga Broumas (1949-), poet and translator
Stelios Mainas (1957-), actor

See also

List of islands of Greece

References

^ "Virtual walk through Ano Syros in panoramic shots". Open Resource Project. www.open-resource-project.org.
^ http://www.turkcebilgi.com/ege_adalar%C4%B1/ansiklopedi Ege Adaları
^ Kallikratis reform law textPDF
^ a b "Syros Churches: Information about the churches of Syros Greece, Cyclades". Greeka.com. 20 November 2007.
^ "Easter: A date with God". The Economist. April 20, 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-23. "Only in a handful of places do Easter celebrants alter their own arrangements to take account of their neighbours. Finland’s Orthodox Christians mark Easter on the Western date. And on the Greek island of Syros, a Papist stronghold, Catholics and Orthodox alike march to Orthodox time. The spectacular public commemorations, involving flower-strewn funeral biers on Good Friday and fireworks on Saturday night, bring the islanders together, rather than highlighting division."

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