The city of Ancient Thera, built on the hill called Mesa Vouno, is located at the south-eastern coast of the island. It was founded by the people of the Dorian colony in the 8the century B.C and until the end of the ancient times it constituted the urban, administrative and religious centre of the city-state of Thera.
As it has been documented, the island was inhabited since the neolithic period (around the middle of the 5th millennium). There were various settlements – with Akrotiri being the most important one – which provide evidence for its habitation since the mid-17th century B.C. when the first big volcanic eruption took place. Since then the island remained deserted for a couple of centuries. The only small settlement in the area of Monolithos demonstrates that the island was inhabited again for a small period of time at the end of the prehistoric era (beginning of 12th century B.C.).
New settlements started being established since the 8th century B.C. up until the historic years when the Dorians arrived and settled in the island.
The city of Ancient Thera flourished during the archaic and Hellenistic period. The cemeteries and sanctuaries are the main monuments that provide evidence for its development over the archaic period and the first centuries of habitation, as there are only a few building remains preserved from the time it was founded until the Hellenistic period.
The city owes its current formation to that period, since it was then that the construction activity was highly increased. Some massive islets were constructed and artificial terraces were developed, upon which its buildings were established. The Market expanded, some public buildings were established and the inhabited area was further developed. In the meantime, some temples were built and devoted to foreign Egyptian gods as well as Ptolemaic kings and there were even more sculptures created in order to decorate the market, public buildings and temples.
In the Roman era, during the 1st and 2nd century A.C., the city’s construction activity continued to develop even though it was more restricted. Since the 3rd century A.C. the city started to fall into decline and its citizens started to leave. However, it was inhabited until the end of the ancient era, during the early Christianity (4th-6th century A.C.) when two basilicas were established.
In the 8th century A.C., when the Arabic invasions rendered life extremely dangerous, the deserted city offered shelter to its former inhabitants. At that time, there was a huge wall built in the western end of the city, the temple of St. Stefanos was established on top of the ruins of a basilica and some temporary shelters made of ancient building material were constructed. Some years later the city was finally deserted.
The city and some parts of its prolonged cemetery were brought to light during the excavations of a wider range that were conducted by the German scholar-epigraphist Hiller von Gaertringen and his partners (1896-1902). The city’s cemetery and the Curator of Antiquities N. Zafiropoulos (1961-1982) conducted an excavation research with the expenditure of the Archaeological Company of Athens, whereas some minor excavations in the city and its cemeteries were conducted in the 1990s by the KA’ Curatorship of Prehistoric-Classical Antiquities. A large number of the excavation findings are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Fira.
During the years 2003-2008, KA’ Curatorship of Prehistoric-Classical Antiquities carried out the “Reformation-Improvement of the Archaeological Site of Ancient Thera” project which was co-funded by 75% from the European Union and 25% from the Greek Public Sector.
You can find a detailed description of the archaeological monuments and the architectural structures in http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/3/gh352.jsp?obj_id=2454
The archaeological site is open 08:30-14:30 apart from Mondays.
You can find more information at the museum of Prehistoric Thera:
+30 22860 23217
There are some paths that connect Ancient Thera with Perissia and Profitis Ilias.