3. Syros History
• The name Syros probably comes from the ancient name "Sour" or "Osoura" which meant rocky in
ancient Phoenician language. Homer mentions Syros island in Odyssey as "Syrii". Archaelogical
findings that came to light in the late 19th century at "Chalandriani" site, northeast on the island
are thought to be of the 2800 BC era, the second period of the Protocycladic civilisation.
• The findings include graves, statuettes and various artifacts which are now found at the National
Archaeological Museum in Athens, at the Goulandris Cycladic Art Museum and the local Syros
• Syros has been the birthplace of ancient philosopher, physicist and astronomer Pherekydes, mid
6th century BC. During these times, 2 cities existed on Syros. One located as today Hermoupolis
(Ermoupoli) and more specifically at the Pefkakia-Psariana location and another one at today
Galissas (ancient Galissos).
• Later, by the 5th to 4th century BC, Syros became a member of the Athenian Alliance and after a
short period of tension during the 3rd century BC, Syros thrives again in the 2nd century BC.
During the 1st century BC, Syros develops to an important naval hub. For the centuries to follow,
Syros is a permanent target of the Pirates and its population decreases significantly.
• During the 8th century AD, Ano Syros starts to get built. On 1207 it is conquered by the Venetians,
and during the 360 years of occupation, the local people have been converted to the Catholic
• In 1566, Syros is conquered by the Turks, but during the whole duration of Turkish occupation,
Syros is under the protection of France and the Pope himself. In 1617 the Turkish fleet destroys
• During the 16th and until the 18th century, Syros population has been around 2500 Catholic and
150-200 Orthodox Christians.
• During the 19th century, Syros had the biggest commercial, industrial and cultural in its history.
More specifically Ermoupoli (Hermoupolis), which has been founded by refugess that came from
Chios, Smyrni, Psara, Kassos and Crete.
• The Catholic influence is limited and Syros contributes financially to the the Greek revolution. In
the middle of the century, Syros is already at its peak of economic and cultural development,
which last until the end of the century.
• The German Occupation, the famine of 1941 and the bombings, destroy the social and economic
life of Syros. The attempt to reconstruct Ermoupoli, once again in the long history of Syros,
begins after the liberation.
4. Ermoupoli (Hermoupolis)
• Ermoupoli, capital of Syros Island and of the Cyclades island complex, is
founded in 1821 by refugees that gradually arrive on the island from Asia
Minor, Chios, Kassos, Psara and Crete. It is given that name to honor the
ancient god of commerce Hermes ( Hermes = Ermis , Polis = City)
• Ermoupoli rapidly develops into a great commercial centre and becomes
the most important port of the Eastern Mediterranean. In 1823, the first
hospital of modern Greece is founded in Syros. In 1833 it becomes the
capital of the prefecture and the first High School of modern Greece is
founded by Neofitos Vamvas, a school where Eleftherios Venizelos has
been a student. Many shipyards are built, which employ around 2000
people and around 80 ships per year are built there. The first greek
steamboat is built in Ermoupolis Syros in 1854.
• At the same time, the banking and insurance markets develop. Industry
is also thriving with most active sectors being tannage, soapmaking, iron
metallurgy, flour industry, textile industry etc. The growing prosperity of
Ermoupoli and Syros continues until the end of the 19th century when
the population reaches 30000 inhabitants. But the changes that occured
in the following years in maritime commerce, shake the economy of
Syros and Ermoupoli starts to decline.
The city of Ermoupoli
• As a capital of the Cyclades prefecture, Ermoupoli is host to
many public services and administrative offices of the Greek
government. Courts of justice, Prefecture Administration,
South Aegean Region administration, Customs Office, Tax
Office Fire Department and Directorates of Agriculture, Forests,
Education, Commerce, Fisheries, Urban design etc. The area
covered by the Ermoupoli Municipality is 926 acres and the
population is around 13000 inhabitants.
• Social life in Syros and Ermoupoli, in contrast to the majority of
the Cyclades islands, remains alive even during the winter
season. Dozens of cultural, professional, athletic, artistic and
charity clubs stimulate the interest of the inhabitants and the
visitors to Syros island. Theatrical and Cinema events, music
and dance festivals, lectures and sports evente, seminars and
workshops and art exhibitions are some of the elements of the
social life in Syros island.
6. Neighborhoods in Ermoupoli
• Psariana, where the Kimisis (Assumption) Church is located and a
little bit higher you can find Pefkakia.
• Neapoli, Taksiarchis and Ksirokampos on the road that leads to
Ano Syros, near the Church of Saint George
• Vaporia, just next to Saint Nicolas church. Vaporia is the rich district
with the imposing mansions that overlook the Aegean Sea and have
a direct view of Mykonos island when the atmosphere is clear. Most
of these mansions belong to shipowners and industry owners and
their rooms are full of murals (wall paintings) and impressive ceiling
• Vrontado can be found just below the church of Anastasi
• Dili on the top of the Dili hill probably got its name from "Dilios
Apollo" where you can find the Anastasi church (Resurrection)
• Lazareta is the area around the old Quarantine building and is
located at the south part of Syros port.
7. Ermoupoli (Hermoupolis) Sightseeing
• The Miaouli Square, with the statue of Andreas Miaoulis (1889) in the centre and the marble platform for
the Syros Philharmonic (1907) showing embossed representations of ancient god Apollo and the 9 Muses.
• Syros City Hall. The most imposing structure in Ermoupoli, took 22 years to complete. Its founations were
set in 1876 and completed in 1898. The architect was Ernest Chiller and the mayor of Ermoupoli
D.Vafiadakis. The Ermoupoli City Hall is open to the public in the morning and sometimes of the year in
• Syros Archaeological Museum, is located inside the Syros City Hall, in its northeastern side, its entrance
being on the Em. Benaki street. You can find various exhibits, ranging from the Proto-Cycladic to the
Byzantine era. Entrace to the Syros Archaeological Museum is free of charge and the telephone number is
• The Cyclades Historical Archive, is found on the first floor of the Ladopoulos building, right on the left of
Ermoupoli City Hall. The archives are rich in information as early as 1821 (Greek War for Independence)
and they are open to any researcher or visitor.
• The Cultural Centre of Ermoupoli is located on the first floor in the building right on the right side of
Syros City Hall. In the same building you can also find the Cycladic Art Museum with exhibits replicas of
the Proto-Cycladic civilisation. On the ground floor, with entrance from Themidos street, you can find the
"Art hall Ermoupoli".
• The Public Library of Syros is housed in the ground floor of the Cultural Centre as well. It boasts 35000
books, some of which are very old and rare. In the small terrace in front of the building, there are busts of
famous Syros historical personalities Em. Roidis, G. Souris, Dim. Vikelas, Tim. Ampelas, Rita Boumi-
• The first High School of modern Greece opened its doors in 1833 in Ermoupoli. Eleftherios Venizelos
and Petros Protopapadakis have been students of Syros High School. The building is today used by the
"University of the Aegean".
• The Church of Metamorphosis of Jesus is located at the end of the granite-paved street, around 200
metres to the left behind the Syros City Hall. It was in the terrace of this church, where the first inhabitants
of Ermoupoli gathered and officially named the city as "Ermoupoli". The church is rich in icons and relics.
In the southern entrance, the grave of Anthimos Gazis (1828) can be found.
• The Church of the Assumption (Kimisis) was built in 1829 and is host to the famous icon of "The
Assumption of Holy Mary" by El Greco (Dominikos Theotokopoulos).
• The building of the Maritime School of Syros can be found by the port next to "Kymata" beach. The first
Greek Telegraph Office used to operate there in 1858 and employed 160 people.
8. Ermoupoli (Hermoupolis) Sightseeing
• The impressive Syros Customs Office buildings and Warehouses by the port have been built
in 1861. Now except the customs office , they also house the "Cyclades Picture Gallery" which
was founded in 1994.
• The Catholic church of Evagelistria, is found at the end of Protopapadaki street and has been
built in the early 19th century.
• The Apollon theatre was built in 1864 by design of P.Sampo and enjoyed years of glory until the
German occupation, when it was almost completely destroyed. In the latest decades, there have
been consecutive attempts to restore the Apollon theatre and today it is functional as a theatre
• The Church of Saint Nicolas, lies just a few metres far from Apollon theatre. The construction
finished in 1905 after works of 61 years! It is a magnificent church that every visitor must visit. In
the small garden the lies the monument of the "unburied soldier" or "unknown soldier", which is
the first monument to be built for the unknown soldiers that fought for freedom. It is a work of the
sculptor G.Vitalis (1880). You can also find there the busts of "Rethymnis" brothers, which were
the main benefactors for this monument.
• The Cemetery of Saint George is located in the Neapoli area. It is separate in 3 parts:
• One with the simple gravestones, the second which is still in use today and the third which boasts
a multitude of tomb monuments and vaults, small chapels, statues, busts and looks more like an
open museum rather than a cemetery. It is definitely worth a visit. If you decide to visit this
cemetery, you can also find the Catholic cemetery of Syros and the British cemetery of Syros
in walking distance.
• The church of Anastasi (Resurrection) is found on top of the Dili hill, which is the right one as
we look from the Syros port. The left hill, where Ano Syros lies, has the Catholic church of Saint
George on top.
• The Syros Karnagio (shipyard for small boats) and Tarsanas (shipyard for small boat
repairs) are places where wooden boats are being built and repaired and are located next to the
major shipyard of Syros, Neorion shipyards.
• The Quarantine House, is located at Lazareta area and is a huge building constructed in 1837 in
order to quarantine the travellers and shipmen that arrived to Syros at times when cholera and
other deadly diseases hit Europe. During the Cretan Revolution for Independence in 1866 it was
used as a shelter for the Crete refugees and in the end of the 19th century as a prison .
9. Possidonia, Syros Information
Homer mentions the existence of two towns in Syros. One of them
was located in the area of Possidonia - Finikas. It was the older of
the two, was early destroyed and it has also been considered as a
The specific location of this town is defined by the remaining of
constructions, graces, ancient objects and a necropolis of the
Ancient Possidonia, a place where Possidon (God of the sea) was
worshipped, was given the name Delagratsia during the Venetian
Era due to the small chapel of Madonna Della Grazia. The cave of
Rozos with the Mycenean foundings was - according to the legend -
a treasures hideout guarded by a fairy.
10. Ano Syros Information
The scenic "Ano Sira" as the locals call this unique village, features walls,
narrow streets and arches and preserves its medieval form almost intact
through the years.
Among the low ceiling houses we meet the traditional taverns where Markos
Vamvakaris and Vasilis Tsitsanis - figures of the folkloric music - used to
sing with the company of their bouzouki. Its alleys with the innumerable
steps give to the town the charm of a different era. From here you can
admire an outstanding view and the sight embraces the Aegean all the way
to neighboring Tinos and Mykonos Islands.
During the summer there are often folcloric exhibitions and every two years
the visitor enjoys the so-called Apanosyria, which include cultural events,
theatrical plays, concerts and lectures. In the numerous taverns you will
hear old local songs and taste wonderful appetizers while a bar will always
be open for you to enjoy a last drink!
11. Markos Vamvakaris
• Vamvakaris was born on May 10, 1905 in Ano Syros (aka Ano Chora), Syros, Greece.
His family belonged to the sizeable Roman Catholic community of the island, the
Frankosyrians, a name deriving from the common Greek reference to West Europeans
collectively as "Franks".
• At the age of twelve, believing he was wanted by the police, Vamvakaris left Syros and
went to Piraeus. He worked as a stevedore, employee at a pit-coal mine, polisher,
paperman, butcher and other jobs. He heard a bouzouki player playing, and swore that
if he did not learn to play the instrument in six months he would cut off his hand with a
cleaver (he was working in the Athens slaughterhouse at the time). He learned
bouzouki, becoming an innovative virtuoso player, and began to compose music, and
write songs. At first he often played in hashish smoking establishments known as
Tekes, later he and his band, which included Giorgos Batis, Anestis Delias and Stratos
Pagioumtzis played in more legitimate clubs. They were extremely popular, and
Markos made many recordings.
• Vamvakaris recorded his first rebetiko disc, Na 'Rchosouna Re Magka Mou in 1932.
Among other songs in that period, he wrote the classic love song "Frangkosyriani" .
• After the liberation of Greece from the occupation of Nazi Germany, difficult times
arrived, since his kind of music was no longer fashionable. He also suffered badly with
arthritis in his hands that crippled his bouzouki playing and asthma that hampered his
singing. The slump in his fortunes lasted until the early 1960s, when after initiatives by
Vassilis Tsitsanis, many of his old songs were revived, sung by modern singers
including Grigoris Bithikotsis, and Stratos Dionysiou. Vamvakaris died on February 8,
1972 at the age of 66.
• As the years pass, his towering contribution to Greek music emerges. All other laiko
composers, of his time and afterwards, revered him as their master teacher, and Mikis
Theodorakis remarked: "We all, we are but branches of a tree. Markos is that tree".