Sifnos, Greece


The Island

Sifnos is an island municipality in the Cyclades island group in Greece. The main town, near the center, known as Apollonia, is home of the island's folklore museum and library. The town's name is thought to come from an ancient temple of Apollo on the site of the church of Panayia Yeraniofora. The second-largest town is Artemonas, thought to be named after an ancient temple of Apollo's sister-goddess Artemis, located at the site of the church of Panayia Kokhi. The village of Kastro (118), was the capital of the island during ancient times until 1836. It is built on top of a high cliff on the island's east shore and today has extensive medieval remains and is the location of the island's archeological museum. The port settlement, on the west coast of the island is known as Kamares.


Greece has a very large number of islands and islets, with most of them being in the Aegean Sea and the rest in the Ionian Sea. Estimates of the number of islands vary between 1,200 and 6,000. A figure frequently cited in travel guides is 1,425 islands, of which 166 are said to be inhabited. The Greek islands amount for about 17% of the country's total territory, and vary greatly in size as well as in climate.

Sifnos lies in the Greek Cyclades Islands between Serifos and Milos, west of Delos and Paros, about 81 miles from Athens's port. It has an area 29 square miles and is 9 miles long and 4.7 miles wide with a shoreline of 43 miles. The permanent population of the island is 2,625. The island is reached mostly by ferry. There are also infrequent sailings to other islands in the Cyclades.

Early History
Sifnos was inhabited by human beings from at least 4000 BCE. Archeological evidence shows the island was within the mainstream of Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Cycladic civilization. The island was very wealthy in ancient times, due to its gold, silver, and lead.
Greek Expansion
During the extensive Greek migrations which occurred beginning as early as the 12th century BCE, Sifnos was mostly populated by Ionian Greeks from Athens. The island appears only rarely in the subsequent ancient history of Greece.
Persian Wars
In the 6th century BCE it was invaded by pirates from Samos. In the 5th century BCE, Sifnos was a member of the Greek defensive alliance formed to fight the Persian Wars. In the next century the island wastaken over by the Persians then liberated by Alexander the Great.
Ottoman Rule
Little is also known of Sifnos during the Ottoman rule of the Cyclades from 1537 on. It is likely that, as in most of the Cyclades, Ottoman rule on Sifnos was fairly loose, consisting mainly of the collection of taxes, with the islanders largely administering their own affairs.
Notable Figures
Notable figures from Sifnos in modern times include the educator and revolutionary leader Nikolaos Chrysogelos, who served as Greece's Minister of Education, and the chef Nikolaos Tselementes, who wrote a classic cookery book still used in Greece today.
Pottery Today
The island's rich clay veins, sunny weather and temperature have made Sifnos a capital of pottery in the Aegean, with unique jars and pots that are a trademark of the island. They are typical of the Sifnian everyday life, such as ashtrays, cooking vessels, and chimneys.

"We are all Greeks. Our laws, literature, our religion, our arts have their roots in Greece."
-Percy Bysshe Shelley