Thira (also spelled Thera) is the main island of Santorini. The fascinating ruins of Ancient Thira are located on a high rocky headland called Mesa Vouna, from which there are spectacular views down to the sea.
History of Ancient Thira
This hilltop on Thira was first inhabited by the Dorians, whose leader was Theras, in the 9th century BC. Thira was later occupied in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras. Most of the buildings that survive today date from the Hellenistic era (around the 4th century BC).
The ancient houses and larger part of the cemeteries of Ancient Thira were excavated by German archaeologists between 1895 and 1902, while the cemeteries on the northeast and northwest slopes of Sellada were excavated by N. Zapheiropoulos in 1961-1982.
What to See at Ancient Thira
The ruins of Ancient Thira are located on a headland called Mesa Vouna between the two popular beaches of Kamari and Perissa. In addition to its ancient ruins, the site offers spectacular views over cliffs that drop into the sea on three sides.
Most of the ruins of Ancient Thira date from the Hellenistic era, but there are also extensive Roman and Byzantine remains. Buildings from different periods are mixed together throughout the site along one main street, which is intersected by smaller streets.
The main street passes through two agoras, which include ruins of several Greek temples. The arc of the theater embraces the town of Kamari, Fira beyond, and the open Aegean. The extensive ruins also include Hellenistic shops, Roman baths, Byzantine walls, and the stone church of Agios Stefanos.
The Hellenistic Temple of Dionysos (3rd century BC) is a small Doric temple built on a man-made platform north of the Agora. The facade and roof were made of marble while the rest of the building was of local stone.
Founded by Artemidoros of Perge in the late 4th or early 3rd century BC, the Sanctuary of Artemidoros was entirely hewn from living rock. It includes various inscriptions and engravings of Artemidoros as well as the symbols of major gods: an eagle for Zeus, a lion for Apollo, a dolphin for Poseidon.
Part of the Sanctuary of Apollo Karneios (6th century BC) is hewn from rock, while the rest is constructed on a platform. It includes a temple with pronaos and cella, a square courtyard with six monolithic pillars and an underground cistern and a small building, probably a repository.
There is a fine view over the site from the large Terrace of the Festivals, where boys danced naked to honor Apollo (the performance was called the Gymnopaediae). This is likely related to the phallic-centered graffiti visible nearby, which dates from the Archaic to Roman period.
The cemeteries of Ancient Thira are on the slopes of the Sellada, either side of the roads that lead to the villages of Kamari and Perissa. The excavated graves span every period from the Geometric to the Roman.
Quick Facts on Ancient Thira
|Categories:||city ruins; ruins|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||36.362969° N, 25.479870° E|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Ancient Thira|
- Frommer's Greece, 5th ed. (2005).
- Ancient Thera - Hellenic Ministry of Culture
- Ancient Thira - Welcome to Santorini
- Photos of Ancient Thira - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Ancient Thira, Santorini
Below is a location map and aerial view of Ancient Thira. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.