1. Settings – Environment
Syros (Syra), is the most populated Cycladic island, holding a central place in the complex. It has many bulges and small valleys, and its coasts form several safe coves (e.g. Ermoupoli, Finikas, Vari, Galissas, Kini, Delfini, etc).
The arid scenery with drystones and sparse shrub vegetation, going dry from late spring, is typical of the natural environment of Syros, as well as of the rest of the Cycladic islands. An imaginary line divides the island into Ano Meria (Upper Part) and Kato Meria (Lower Part). The southern part is partly different, with pine-groves and areas covered in dense vegetation. They are considered reminiscent of the island’s past character, when it was covered in denser vegetation. Small water biotopes were formed at the mouth of streams. Dunes, which are important biotopes for migratory birds, were formed around them.
Within the last years, the flora of Syros has been substantially reduced. Yet, several species proliferate on the island, especially at Ano Meria. Such are 11 serpent species and the European green toad (Bufo viridis), 47 bird species, among which war eagles, peregrine falcons, etc., as well as hare and wild rabbits. North Syros is one of the Important Bird Areas of Greece for migratory birds. In fact, mount Syringas has been included in the European network of protected sites NATURA 2000. The Mediterranean seal (Monachus Monachus) finds shelter on the island’s coasts.
Ermoupoli (Hermoupolis), the capital of the island, is the only urban center of the complex. The mediaeval city of Ano Syros had been built on the hill of Agios Georgios, above Ermoupoli. Save Ermoupoli and Ano Syros, there are several more settlements.
(Maria Mavroeidi - Vasiliki Spyropoulou)
2. 1. Prehistoric and Ancient Times
Significant remains of the Early Cycladic Civilization (2700-2200 B.C.) have been uncovered at Chalandriani and Kastri. Notable findings had been uncovered during the 1862 excavations at the cemetery of Chalandriani, as well as during those conducted by archaeologist Christos Tsountas in 1898, which brought to light remains of fortifications, residences, etc. The Early Cycladic settlement at Kastri is one of the best preserved since the 1962 restoration works conducted by the Archaeological Service. Excavation findings are housed at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, the Cycladic Art Museum and the Archaeological Museum of Syros.
Traces of settlements have also been found at other locations as well (Talanta, San Michalis, Azolimnos, Galissas, Mallia, Manna).
In the centuries to follow, the island gradually found itself under the influence of the Phoenicians, the Minoans and then the Mycenaeans. Ionians are thought to have settled on Syros when the Mycenaean Civilization declined (11th-10th century B.C.). In his Odyssey, Homer referred to the island as Syrii (Συρίη), as well as to two of its cities governed by king Ktesios Ormenides.
Pre-Socratic philosopher Pherecydes was born on Syros in the 6th century B.C, when it had been taken over by the Samians. He is considered the inventor of the heliotropium, the first sundial, and a teacher of Pythagoras. Two caves of the island have been named after him: one at the eastern part (Richopos’ cave) and another one at Alithini, between Ermoupoli and Ano Syros. There were two cities on Syros at the time: one at modern Ermoupoli (in the Pefkakia-Psariana area) and another one at Galissas (Galissos).
During the Persian Wars, Syros had been subdued to the Persians. It joined the First Athenian League in 478 B.C., but remained autonomous with a boule (council) and demos (the civic body). Yet, it paid taxes to the Athenians.
During Roman Times (324-184 B.C.), the capital of Syros was located at modern Ermoupoli.
After a turbulent period during the 3rd century B.C., the island prospered again in the 2nd century BC, as demonstrated by the circulation of copper coins already since the 2nd century B.C. Mintage of silver coins in the 2nd century BC is also notable.
2. 2. Byzantine Times – Frankish Rule – Ottoman Period
With the ancient world coming to its end, barbaric incursions and the plague of piracy, marking the Aegean for several centuries, led Syros to decline. Along with the other Cycladic islands, Syros belonged to the Aegean Theme during Byzantine Times.
After the Franks dismantled Byzantium in 1204, Syros came under Venetian rule and was integrated into the Duchy of the Aegean. During Latin Rule, the majority of the local community welcomed the Catholic doctrine, preserving yet the Greek language. The small Orthodox parish of St. Nicolas “the Poor” was preserved though. Within the approximately three and a half centuries of the existence of the Duchy, Syros was under a peculiar feudal-like regime.
In the mid-16th century, the Ottoman fleet took over the island, and the Duchy was dismantled. However, negotiations of the local authorities with the Ottomans offered the Cycladic islands substantial privileges in 1579, such as reduction of taxation and religious freedom. At the same time, following the first agreement between France and the Ottoman authorities, the catholics of the island came under the protection of France; a privilege maintained for centuries. In 1617 though, the Ottoman fleet sacked the island. From the 16th century up to the 18th, the population comprised of approximately 2500 Roman Catholics and 150-200 Greek-Orthodox.
2. 3. Modern Times
After the second half of the 17th century, when the Venetian-Turkish Wars were over, a period of economic recovery began in the Aegean, climaxing with the transition from the 18th to the 19th century. Due to its key location, the support from Western powers and its stronger self-government, Syros became known as a maritime centre. The fact that it remained neutral during the 1821 Greek War of Independence attracted many Greek-Orthodox refugees from Asia Minor, Chios, Psara, Kasos and other places. Newcomers, mainly seamen and tradesmen, gave a new vigour to Syros, which along with its demographic and economic development turned into an administrative and cultural center. Trade of wheat and ammunition for the combatants, selling-out loot from wars and piracy, paying ransom for slaves and slave trade brought wealth. Gradually and as numerous refugees arrived from several areas of the eastern Aegean, the traditional ratio between Catholics and Orthodox changed favoring the latter. For instance, in 1828 the population of Ermoupoli stood at 13,800: one third was from Chios and one fifth from Smyrna and Kydonies (Ayvalık).
When the Greek state was founded, Syros, and especially Ermoupoli, which was founded by refugees from Chios, Smyrna, Psara, Kasos and Crete, became a hub in the Aegean Sea and also an international trade centre between Western Europe, the Mediterranean and the East. In May 1823, Syros and Myconos comprised a prefecture according to the administrative separation of the Aegean islands as set by the Greek authorities. From 1830 on, on Syros developed the trade of fabrics, silk, leather and ironware, along with the creation of a powerful credit bank system. Approximately up to 1860, Syros was the first commercial port of Greece. Along with trade, there was a development of small industries, seafaring, construction and public works. The heyday of Syros was connected with a significant development of the social and cultural life on the island. When sail shipping declined, a period of decay began. The significance of the island’s location was reduced as the port of Piraeus took the predominant position among Greek ports.
In late 19th century and for a few more decades, there was a temporary economic recovery thanks to the development of textile industry. World War II, the 1941 famine and bombardments destroyed the island’s socio-economic life. Postwar decades brought further decline to the island’s damaged economy. From the 1980s, its economy recovered as the island turned to tourism.
2. 4. Syros today
Following a period of economic decline, the island was revitalized for various reasons: tourist infrastructures developed, Syros was included in European programs, the shipyard operated once again, agricultural production increased, the island’s architectural and industrial heritage were highlighted and public services were established. Nowadays, Syros is the administrative, economic and cultural center of the Cyclads.
Catholics and Orthodox live peacefully together, and the mutual suspicion of the past has been substituted for economic and social interaction. Therefore, a high percentage of modern businessmen of Ermoupoli come from Ano Syros, while mixed marriages are common.
3. Archaeological sites and monuments
3. 1. Kastri
The fortified Early Cycladic settlement of Kastri dates approximately from 2300-2220 BC. This is the most important fortification construction of the 3rd millennium BC in the Aegean, with towers and gates. The extent of the settlement, the variety in ground plans of the excavated houses and the portable findings (examples of pottery, stone-craft, minor arts and metalwork) are evident of a prospering society with relations with the opposite Asia Minor coast.
3. 2. Chalandriani
The Early Cycladic cemetery of Chalandriani is the most extended of its kind ever to be studied until now. It comprises of at least 600 caved-in tombs with rich funeral gifts, among which clay “frying pans” depicting ships. This attests that the settlement of this cemetery was one of the most significant ones in the Cyclades during the Early Bronze Age.
Signs of Early Cycladic settlements have also been found at other locations (Talanta, San Michalis, Azolimnos, Galissas, Mallia, Manna).
At Ermoupoli and Galissas have been found the remains of two cities that prospered from the Archaic up to the Hellenistic Era.
4. Museums and archives
4. 1. The Archaeological Museum of Syros
The Archaeological Museum was founded in 1835 and has been housed in the Town Hall of Ermoupoli since 1899.Exhibits housed date from Prehistoric up to Late Roman Times. The most important ones come from Chalandriani, where the Early Cycladic Civilization developed on Syros (second half of the 3rd millennium BC). Exhibits also include vessels and figurines from Naxos and Paros, Hellenistic sculpture and inscriptions from Syros and other southern Aegean islands, etc. One of the most important exhibits is the "Depas amphikypellon" (Inv. no. 458) from the settlement of Kastri (late 3rd millennium B.C.). From the cemetery of Chalandriani we have a pyxis (second half of the 3rd millennium B.C.), a marble figurine of a woman (Inv. no. 356) (second half of the 3rd millennium B.C.) and a clay “frying pan” (Inv. no. 152) (second half of the 3rd millennium BC).
4. 2. The Industrial Museum of Ermoupoli
The Industrial Museum of Ermoupoli is housed in three industrial buildings: the Katsimantis Dyeworks (1888), the Anairousis Pellet Factory (1889), the Kornilakis Tannery (approximately 1880) and part of the Velissaropoulos Textile Factory (1900-1905). It first operated in 2000. In the exhibition held at the Katsimantis Dyeworks (11 G. Papandreou St., opposite the hospital), one can see rare records of the industrial heritage of Ermoupoli (papers, maps, designs, pictures), as well as equipment from the rich collection of the Museum.
4. 3. Historical Archive of the Cyclades
The Historical Archive of the Cyclades are housed at the Ladopoulos Mansion, to the left of the Town Hall. These extensive archives dating from 1821 are open to researchers and visitors.
4. 4. The Agios Georgios Cemetery
The Agios Georgios Cemetery is located in the Neapoli area of Ermoupoli. Its oldest part is an open museum with numerous funerary monuments (small temples, statues, busts). The neighboring Roman Catholic and British cemeteries are also significant.
4. 5. The Historical Archive of the Catholic Bishopric at Ano Syros
The Historical Archive of the Catholic Bishopric at Ano Syros, where the Seminary used to be housed (1837), includes manuscripts from the 16th century onwards.
5. Folk culture
Remnants of the folk culture of Syros survive at villages on the Catholic celebrations of the Agioi Anarghiri (Apano Meria) and the Faneromeni, during the pig slaughter (choirosfagia) and the revival of the carnival at Ano Syros.
The pig slaughter, an age-old custom, still takes place at agricultural villages (Pagos, Danakos, Agros, Vissas, Adiata) and is accompanied with a feast. This practice includes butchering and chopping the pig in order to produce several products, such as sausages, the louza (smoked pork), the glyna (fat), pichti, etc. used by families at winter time.
(Transl. Onoufrios Dovletis)
6. The Architecture of Syros
6. 1. Architectural Styles of Hermoupolis
The oldest houses in Ermoupoli were built by refugees between 1821-1835 following the urban architectural style of their homelands. Thus, in these first houses built in Ermoupoli one can see elements of Macedonian architecture, that of Asia Minor and of the Greek islands. The houses were usually two-storey buildings; the upper floor being the reception area, rooms and a half- covered external veranda whereas on the ground floor there was the kitchen, dining room and storage area. The walls were either made of stone or wooden frames and plastered on the outside. The floors were wooden as were the roofs, which were covered with tiles. The houses had wooden balconies and wooden verandas; the latter were often closed in with windows at a later date. They also had wooden door and window frames and the ceilings were made of wood too. Today, few of these houses, showing these architectural characteristics of the first construction phase, have survived.
At the same time another type of urban construction appeared which was already widespread on the coastal trading areas of Greece, having been introduced by the Venetians and Genoese. These were multi-storey stone buildings with wide openings and tiled roofs. Examples of this traditional style of building can be seen in the working-class districts of the town.
Between 1840-1860 celebrated architects such as the Italian Pietro Sampo, the Germans Johann B. Erlacher and Wilhelm von Weiler and later the Greeks Emmanouil Psychas, Ioannis Vlysidis and Dimitris Eleftheriadis started to create the type of building typical of Hemoupolis. Under the influence of the Romantic and Classicist trends in architecture, they designed buildings that represented the special Neo-Classical style of Ermoupoli, which is characterized by the stronger presence of romantic Classicism in comparison with Athens. The first town plan of Wilhelm von Weiler ( 1837 ) resulted in the foundation of this Neo-Classical town with central roads, squares and public buildings being mapped out.
Two- and three-storey buildings were typical for this period; they were either simple houses or houses with shops or storerooms on the ground floor. These buildings had stone walls, wooden floors and wooden roofs with tiles. The position of the floors internally was usually denoted externally by a marble strip on the outside of the building. On the upper floors there were usually marble balconies either square in shape or having rounded ends.
6. 2. Public Buildings of Ermoupoli
During this same period the impressive public buildings of Ermoupoli were built, which have survived till the present time. On the quay, next to the Customs House, is the Municipal Transit Warehouse designed by the architect J. Erlacher and it was the first public building to follow the principles of romantic Classicism. The Customs House was designed by Alexandros Georgantas, an Engineers officer, and is still used for the same purpose today. There is also the impressive Quarantine building (1839-1841) designed by W. von Weiler with its beautiful wall structures and arched openings. Along with these is the domed basilica of Agios Nikolaos, in the district of Vaporia, which was designed by the architect Gerasimos Metaxas; the foundation stone was laid in 1848. This building marked the shift of the architectural style of the island to that of monumental, classical form. In 1861 began the construction on the Apollo Theatre. It was designed by the Italian architect P. Sampo and was a miniature copy of La Scala in Milan. In the last quarter of the 19th century the well-known German architect Ernst Ziller was invited to Ermoupoli to design the splendid Town Hall which dominates Miaoulis Square and is an excellent example of his work.
The Neo-Classical houses in Ermoupoli, built at this time, combined the Italian tradition of internal decoration with ceiling and wall frescos with the sensitive lines and limited monumental design of Greek Classicism. The architectural style of Ermoupoli did not change much during the 20th century except for a few post-war buildings. Even today the town maintains ots Neo-Classical profile.
6. 3. Ano Syros
Compared to the bourgeois character of Ermoupoli, Ano Syros has a completely different appearance. It is a medieval settlement with the buildings close to one another, built in a steep, circular order with a radial street plan. The buildings on the outside of the settlement form a fortification, being built one next to the other. Inside the settlement characteristic there are the paved or cobbled alleys, the “stegadia” (covered passageways) , the ‘portopoules’ (balconies without sides), the rounded edges at the corners and the “skalounia” (cool built cellars). A typical house of Ano Syros has an “anogeio”( stairs, bedroom and kitchen) and underneath a “katogeio” (shop, storeroom, stables or other auxiliary areas). Between these two floors is an internal staircase that is often closed with a trap door or “glavani”. Ano Syros has been declared a traditional listed settlement.
6. 4. Traditional Architecture of the Countryside
The old country houses in the countryside of Syros preserve the characteristics of traditional architecture. “Thimones” are independent, farm installations with a farmhouse, barns, stables, threshing floor etc.
The farmhouse consists of a “stegadi” (covered courtyard) surrounded by a low wall. The walls are covered in plaster which goes up to the roof finishing at the so-called “samari”. The roof is made of a clay mixture based on canes or slates; between the layers of canes and clay there is usually a layer of dried seaweed that acts as natural insulation. It must be mentioned that this type of roofing is common throughout the farming areas and Ano Syros.
6. 5. Industrial Architecture
Industrial development and therefore the appearance of industrial buildings in Ermoupoli date from the middle of the 19th century, particularly from 1869 onwards, when the majority of the factories were converted to steam power. During this period monumental factories and warehouses were built for the needs of merchants and industrialists of Syros and great attention was given to the architectural style. The industrial and commercial area of Ermoupoli extended from the southern edge of the town, from Neorio to Kamares, that is to say as far as the remains of the textile mill of Ladopoulos and Sons. On the southern edge of town and furthest away was the new shipyard and tanneries whereas at the northern end were the textile mills. Many of these buildings are still standing today and show a variety of construction types. They are characterized by simple forms, well-done wall structures and many openings. The majority of these buildings are now empty and are being renovated for other uses.
(Transl. Christine Easthope)
6. 6. The settlements of Syros
Save Ermoupoli and Ano Syros, there are also other settlements of architectural interest. Before the Greek War of Independence there was no other significant settlement on the island save Ano Syros. Piskopio, Dellagratsia and Chrousa became resorts for residents of Ermoupoli from the mid-19th century on.
The best-known among them is Posidonia, or Dellagratsia. We should also mention that, due to the frequency of visits from Ermoupoli, Ermoupoli and Dellagratsia were to be connected with train. At the settlement named after the small Catholic church of Madonna della Grazia, visitors can admire impressive Neoclassic mansions with large gardens, reminiscent of those at the rich suburb of Kifisia in Athens. Those of the families of Psiakis, Valmas (with an impressive tower), Tsiropinas, Ladopoulos and Aragis are among the most important. At the centre of the settlement we find the Posidonia Social Club, which operates up to now, and the church of St. John the Baptist, built in 1876.
Episkopio or Piskopio is situated close to Ermoupoli, on a hill slope with thick vegetation and springs. It was the first resort option for the people of the island’s capital. It was named after the nowadays deserted country house of the Catholic bishop. At Piskopio we find imposing 19th century mansions, as well as the one-aisled basilica of Prophet Elias, built in 1845.
Chrousa is an area full of pine trees with 19th century mansions of people from Ermoupoli. Impressing is the arrangement of the area by Italian and Viennese agriculturalists invited by the mayor of Ermoupoli D. Vafiadakis in 1862, when he built his mansion. This mansion is located in an estate that once was a park with pavillions, a dovecot, pebble pavements, etc. In fact, in 1895, the first phone line on the island connected Ermoupoli with this very mansion. Parakopi was also a significant resort for the 19th century bourgeois society of Ermoupoli.
Finally, Kini, Galissas, Finikas and Vari are settlements with tourist infrastructure and beautiful beaches hosting numerous tourists in the summertime.
(Transl. Onoufrios Dovletis)
7. Urbanization, Trade and Industry
7. 1. The Development of the Town
Ermoupoli was inhabited and developed by refugees who came from Smyrna in Asia Minor and the Greek islands of Chios, Psara, Kasos and Crete during the Greek War of Independence. In the 1820s, when the first refugees arrived, there were very few buildings around the port.
In 1822 the first houses were built and in 1824 the first church, Metamorphosis, was erected. The houses started spreading up the slopes around the port creating neighbourhoods of people from the same area (those from Ydra, those from Vrontados in Chios, those from Psara etc.). In the first incomplete census of 1828 the population of Ermoupoli reached already 13,800. At a community meeting in 1826 the town was given the name Hermoupolis (the town of Hermes), as an indication of the importance of trade in the area.
This refugee settlement quickly developed into a town and an important urban centre for the Aegean.
7. 2. Trade, Shipping and Industry
The new inhabitants brought new life to the island. There were merchants and bankers from Chios, sailors from Psara and Kasos, tanners and ship carpenters from Crete and Chios, and bakers from Smyrna and Thessaly.
When the Greek state was established Syros distinguished itself by being at the crossroads of Aegean and international trade between Western Europe, the Mediterranean and the East. The silk and cloth trade developed along with that in leather and iron. From 1830, insurance companies were founded and in 1845 a branch of the National Bank of Greece opened in Ermoupoli.
In 1834 Greece's first Municipal Transit Warehouses were constructed and at about 1860 Syros was the main trading port of the country.
Industry developed parallel to trade, starting with tanneries (in about 1828) and shipbuilding. This was followed with ironworks and carpentry, food processing (the production of Turkish delight and the flour industry), the processing of leather (shoe making) and finally textile industry. In 1856 the Greek Steamship Company, first of its kind in Greece, was founded, having its headquarters in Ermoupoli. In 1861 the company founded a shipyard and ironworks under the name of Neorio Machine Works of Syros.
The prosperous period for trade and shipping came to an end just after the first half of the 19th century. Sail shipping declined and the importance of the geographical position of the island diminished, as Piraeus became the first port in Greece.
(Transl. Christine Easthope)
7. 3. Cultural development
In 1825, Georghios Kleovoulos, Grigorios Konstandas and Filipos Ioannou founded at Ermoupoli the first school operating under the . In 1830 operated the first secondary girls’ school and a little later, on November 13th 1834, the first High School of Ermoupoli was inaugurated. The director was Neophytos Vamvas (1833-1836). At the same time, the Catholic schools of Ano Syros were also important. Such were the School of the Sisters of Charity and St. Joseph’s School, succeeded by the French School of the Frères.
The cultural life of Ermoupolis was sealed by the construction of the municipal theatre "Apollo" in 1864 and of the Club Hellas (1862-1863). At the same time, printing shops opened, books were published and local newpapers were founded.
Ermoupoli was one of the the centres of Modern Greek Enlightenment, since the refugees of the new city, mostly those from Chios, represented some the most progressive factions of Enlightenment. It is indicative that the first literary commemoration for the great scholar Adamantios Korais was held on Syros in 1833.
Progressive people of the time, like Theophilos Kairis from Andros and his sister Evanthia, one of the first female scholars of Modern Greek literature, stayed on Syros for long periods. Evanthia also wrote the play Nikiratos, which was put on at the theatre of Syros by the Mantzouranis company. That was probably the first thatrical production in post-revolutionary Greece. Important personalities of the Enlightenment were active on Syros, such as Anthimos Gazis, Grigorios Konstandas, Daniil Filippidis and Georgios Kleovoulos, who introduced the in Greece.
Several representatives of Romanticism, of the so-called New Athenian School and of the literature of the generation between the two World Wars had ties with the Cyclades, especially Syros. Demetrios Vikelas (1835-1908) was one of them. He wrote Loukis Laras, one of the most important 19th century Greek novels, was a pioneer for the revival of the Olympic Games in Greece and founded the famous “Association for the Propagation of Useful Books”. A contemporary of Vikelas and fellow student at the historic 1st High School of Syros was the writer of the satiric historical novel Pope Joan Emmanouil Roidis, one of the brightest minds of the second half of the 19th century in Greece. The poet Ioannis Gryparis (1870-1942), a significant representative of Parnassianism and Symbolism in Greece and a translator of ancient Greek tragedies, was from Sifnos and worked as an inspector of education on Syros.
Critic, journalist and writer Kostis Bastias, since 1937 general director of the “Royal Theatre”, the forerunner of the National Theatre, and founder of the Greek National Opera, was born at Ermoupoli.
Writer and poet Rita Boumi-Pappa was also from Syros. In 1930, she founded the Cyclades magazine, where some of the most important writers of that time contributed within the two years it came out. In 1956, she published the monthly Poets’ Newspaper, a journal in which were also published texts in the main European languages for the first time in Greece.
Some of his childhood years spent on Syros also Anreas Embeirikos (1901-1975), the main representative of surrealist poetry in Greece. He was the offspring of a family of tradesmen and ship owners based in Romania.
Among the writers representing aesthetic trends of the mid-war period (e.g. Karyotakis movement, Bohemianism), stand out Giorgos Kypraios (1908-1968) and Katina Sideri-Baila (1906-1950).
Anna Sikelianos, the second wife of poet Aggelos Sikelianos, established in literature through her exemplary translations, was also from Syros.
This congestion of poets on Syros goes on up to now with the modern postwar generation. Poet and writer Manos Eleftheriou is one of them. He is also known as the writer of well-known popular songs set to music by composers such as Mikis Theodorakis and Giannis Markopoulos.
One of the modern writers is Loukritia Dounavi, who described with sensibility the life at Ano Syros during the 1950s.
(Eva Kekou - Maria Mavroeidi)
7. 4. The society of 19th century Ermoupoli
During the 19th century, Ermoupoli was the most important urban center of the Aegean, due to the refugees who inundated the island during the Greek War of Independence, and the subsequent trade and economic development of the city. A strong society was therefore shaped with intense economic, political and cultural activity.
The tradesmen of Ermoupoli, namely the highest percentage of the city’s population, held the most important posts in economy and society and acted through their business and family networks. The Chians, mostly hwolesale merchants, were the majority. Impressive residences both at Ermoupoli and resorts Dellagratsia, Chrousa, etc., as well as the adoption of western bourgeois attire, demonstrate the accumulation of wealth and the appropriation of European culture. At the Club Hellas, visited by significant representatives of the arts, private receptions and carnival balls were held At the same time, the Club was a place for obtaining and promoting social status.
The tradesmen of Ermoupoli monopolized local political power, sometimes with great political zeal and fanaticism. Two groups rivaled for the municipality of Ermoupoli, the center of local political power. One was the “Chian” and the other was the “Anti-Chian”, round which rallied the rest of the population groups of the island. Disputes in politics had been transferred at the Chamber of Commerce, dominated by the Chians.
That was also a period of cultural bloom for Ermoupoli. Social clubs, educational and cultural associations and coffeehouses with music operated in the city. Plays would be put on at the stage of Apollo, while publishing activity was also very intense with the publication of numerous books and newspapers. For instance, ever since The Greek Bee was published in 1831,the first newspaper of Syros, more than 160 newspapers had been published at times by 1900.
At the same time, a “port culture” also developed on Syros. Its social milieu, formed by workers, sailors and tanners, included transgression (koutsavakides), and prostitution. We have to underline that both this culture and the -very different from it- bourgeois society of Ermoupoli were shaped as the island was inundated with refugees and emigrants from other areas and islands of the Aegean.
(Transl. Onoufrios Dovletis)
7. 5. A New Era: Industry
Ermoupoli passed into a new phase and until the end of the 19th century it gradually became an almost industrial town. New industries were developed: flour industry, glassworks and shipyards with refitting and repairing facilities. Nevertheless, towards the end of the 19th century the industrial activities were mainly centred on the textile industry. With more than 25 cotton mills it was not surprising that Ermoupoli was called “Greek Manchester”.
In 1922 a new wave of refugees revitalized Ermoupoli with their creativity, business know-how and specialization in small- and medium-size industries.
At the end of the mid-war period many factories closed and the port stagnated. The German Occupation, the famine of 1941 and the bombings took their toll on Syros. The economic decline continued for several decades after the Second World War, especially as industries started to move their businesses to Piraeus and elsewhere. Between 1951 and 1971 the majority of factories closed and 20% of the population emigrated. The shipyard (Neorio) closed for three years and reopened in 1994.
From the 1980s there has been a revival in the economy of the island mainly due to tourism and the industrial activities of Neorio.
(Transl. Christine Easthope)