Hermoupolis (Syros). The incarnation of the Greek miracle (book)
The title of this article may seem exaggerated to you. However, you will change your mind if you learn the history of Hermoupolis.
Until 1822, Syros had only the settlement of Ano Syros, which was then called Chora or Apano (upper) Chora. All the inhabitants of the island have for centuries been hooked on the steep cliff to protect themselves from pirates (the article on Ano Syros, here http://culturehikes.com/en/ano-syros-centuries-history-culture-aegean/).
The area under the medieval settlement was empty, a wasteland, like the whole island.
In the background, Ano Syros, crowned with the Catholic cathedral of Saint George, was the only settlement on the island until 1822. Hermoupolis was then created at its foot.
Until 1822, when refugees from Chios who escaped the destruction of their island during the Revolution arrived here. The choice was not accidental. Syros, with an almost exclusively Catholic population, was under the protection of the King of France, as was Tinos, for the same reason.
In 1535, King Francis I of France and the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman, known as the Magnificent, signed a treaty. According to it, the Catholics of the Ottoman Empire would be under the protection of the King of France. That treaty was in force until the separation of state and church in France in 1905.
The reason, of course, for which King Francis wanted this treaty, was political. The treaty gave the French kings the opportunity to send French monks and nuns to staff the Catholic monasteries of the Ottoman Empire and, through French education, to penetrate the Empire culturally and thus also politically.
The refugees from Chios, therefore, benefited from this agreement and settled in the wasteland. They were followed in 1824 by the inhabitants of Psara and Kasos, when the respective islands were also destroyed by the Ottomans. To them were added others, from other areas where there were reprisals for the uprising or who were just looking for safer places: Asia Minor, Crete, Peloponnese, Hydra.
The hill of Anastasia, with the Orthodox church of the Resurrection (Anastasis) as a ‘counterweight’ to the Catholic Saint George of Ano Syros
All these brought the knowledge and specialities for which their regions were distinguished. Thus, Hermoupolis became a kaleidoscope and a miniature of all Hellenism: a concentrated Greece, which gathered in a small space all the characteristics of the most distinguished Greeks, since the most creative and those who fought the most for their survival arrived here.
Hermoupolis with its two characteristic hills
That’s why Hermoupolis embodies the modern Greek miracle of survival and creativity. Within a few years, and for many decades afterwards, Hermoupolis became the largest city of the Greek state, which was created in the meantime. Moreover, it was a candidate for capital, and the main reason for its rejection was the absence of a hinterland on such a small island.
But it was not just the largest city. Due to the special features of its settlers, it immediately became the largest commercial and cultural centre of Greece.
The rest of the article in this book
About the author
Hello! I am Denis, an architect based in Athens, Greece. I teach history of art and architecture in higher education. That’s one passion of mine. The other one is hiking, in and out of town. If you follow me, I’ll share my discoveries with you.
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