The prehistoric settlement of Ancient Akrotiri is one of the most significant sights in the entire Aegean region. It is also commonly referred to as the “Greek Pompeii” since it was also destroyed by a devastating volcanic eruption like its Italian namesake.
Akrotiri was a Cycladic Bronze Age settlement that was destroyed during the Theran eruption sometime around the 16th century BC. Although the earliest evidence of habitation dates back to the Late Neolithic era, Aktotiri became a prosperous town later on in history. During the time of the Minoan civilization, it served as the most important urban centre and port in the Aegean Sea. The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age Aegean civilization that originated from the island of Crete. Akrotiri flourished into a well-connected port town that maintained business ties with Egypt, Syria, and the mainland of Greece. The entire size of the settlement is estimated to be 20 hectares although there are still some remaining parts that have not been excavated yet.
In prehistoric times, Akrotiri was considered a modern sophisticated town. It boasted its own elaborate drainage system and even several multi-storey buildings. Based on the quality and quantity of the furniture and various artifacts, the residents were relatively affluent and enjoyed high living standards. Akrotiri was a fascinating town with fashionable residents as well as grand homes and public buildings. They built stone houses with large airy rooms that overlooked the Aegean Sea. The walls were reinforced with wooden beams so the buildings could withstand the earthquakes, in theory.
Sadly, the residents were not able to prepare for an even larger natural catastrophe. The Theran volcanic eruption was the largest geological event in human history. The inhabitants were forced to evacuate and this tragic event also abruptly ended the Minoan civilization. The eruption made all the buildings collapse and covered the town in a thick layer of ash. However, unlike in Pompeii, there were no human remains found under the ashes when the excavation began. It appears that the residents had enough time to leave the premises.
Nowadays, the ancient site of Akrotiri is open for visitors who can walk through the ruins and admire the numerous well-preserved artifacts and everyday objects. These prehistoric objects give a valuable insight into what life must have been like back in the day. You can wander through the site under a bio-climatic roof that is meant to sustain the ruins. You can peer into windows and doorways and get a real feel for how airy and spacious the ancient buildings must have been. Walkways are suspended above the ruins and will take you around the city.
Ancient Akrotiri is also believed to be the lost Atlantis by some. The Greek philosopher Plato’s dialogues include numerous references suggesting that this claim might be true. According to the ancient manuscripts, this prosperous port town, which consisted of one large and two smaller islands, launched an attack on the Athenians who defeated them and liberated all the enslaved regions in the Mediterranean. There are also several other matching facts in Plato’s work that support the Atlantis theory. Whether it is true or not, one thing is guaranteed: you will find your lost paradise once you visit Santorini!