Municipality of Serifos

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22810 51210 - 22810 52311
Chora Serifou 84005, Serifos

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The History of Serifos


According to historical records, the first inhabitants of the island were Minyas (Aeolians) from Thessaly, while later Ionian settlers from Athens arrived. The inhabitants exploited the very rich copper and iron deposits that existed in the subsoil of Serifos as early as the Early Cycladic period (3rd millennium BC) and created systematic mining mines, mainly on its southern side, where the settlements of Mega Livadi, Abessalos and Koutalas are located today. In fact, at the Skouries site, near Abessalos, there are ancient traces of copper smelting, which prove systematic ore processing


Important findings of the period are Psaropyrgos (also known as the Cyclops' couch) southwest of Megalos Livadi and another circular tower at Kefalas, which probably belonged to a wider system of communication "fryktories" in the Aegean, which Homer mentions in his Homeric epics, and another one, the Aspropyrgos, which is of the Hellenistic period and served as an observation post in the bay of Koutalas. Also, the fact that the island had and still has drinking water and many springs that filter it naturally, helped a lot to establish settlements and the economy flourished. One of the most important early Cycladic settlements existed at Plakalona near Mega Livadi.


As far as religion is concerned, there is no archaeological finding that suggests that the ancient Seriphians worshipped any specific gods, but they did worship Perseus and proof of this are some coins that have been found that depict either Perseus, Medusa or the Seriphos frog and date back to around the 6th century BC, which proves that Seriphos was economically prosperous, as it was the only way it could mint its own currency, which was competitive. Serifos was an ally of the city of Athens and participated in the naval battle of Salamis in 480 BC with its own trireme and then became a member of the 1st Athenian Alliance until the defeat of the Athenians in the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC. In 377 BC it became a member of the 2nd Athenian Alliance, and in 363 BC it was conquered for the first time by the Macedonians. Later, Serifos participated, indirectly, in Alexander the Great's campaign against the Persians, since all his swords and those of his allies were made of Serifos metal. In 306 BC it was conquered by the Ptolemies of the kingdom of Egypt, until its reconquest by the Macedonians in 266 BC. In 146 BC, Serifos along with the rest of the lands of Greece fell into the hands of the Romans, but unfortunately found itself in a disadvantageous position because of its alliance with Mithridates VI against them. For this reason the Romans destroyed it completely in 88 BC and thus began a long period of decline for the Iron Isle, which was now used as a place of exile. The constant raids by pirates, who constantly plundered the coast and the mainland, contributed greatly to this decline. During Roman times the island was a place of exile. During the early Christian and Byzantine times there are no written historical sources that tell us what happened on the island.



During the medieval times, a monastery of nuns was erected in the current location of Panagia, in a cross-shaped style, with a dome, and later one of the small waves of settlers who settled near the monastery founded the settlement of Panagia. The church survives to this day and is the oldest on the island. After the first conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204 AD, a new period of cultural and economic prosperity began, as during the reign of the Venetian ruler Ermolaos Minotto, the island's mines began to reopen after 1,000 years. In 1207 the island was annexed to the Duchy of the Aegean under Marco Sanudo and half of it was ceded to the Gizi family (1207-1334 AD).


Then it was the "Apple of Discord" between many families (Bragadon, Minot, Adolphi, Michel or Pikelon, Justinian or Justinian) until the disastrous invasion of Hayredin Barbarossa in 1537 AD. To counter these raids, the Venetians, with the help of the Serifs, built the Venetian castle in Chora, the present capital of the island, the remains of which survive to this day. In 1566 AD, Serifos was conquered by the Ottomans and then administratively ceded to the Jew Joseph Nazi, remaining in the Ottoman Empire until the Greek Revolution of 1821 AD, with the sole exception of the period from 1770 to 1774 AD, when it was conquered by Tsarist Russia, only to be reoccupied by the Ottomans after the signing of the Treaty of Kiechuk-Kainarji in 1774 AD. In 1572 AD, the Holy Monastery of Taxiarches, which is both a monastery and a fortress (castle), was erected between the present-day settlements of Platys Gialos and Galani, when the icon of Taxiarches arrived from Cyprus. Around it there are high walls 10 meters high with battlements and within the walls are the “katholikon” and the monks' cells.


In the past it was particularly rich, as it possessed relics and very large real estate both on the island and in neighboring small islands, such as Serifopoula, and for this reason it was a target of pirates. In the monastery, an all-educational school operated, where any inhabitant of the island could acquire at least a rudimentary education and for many years until the foundation of the new Greek state, it was the spiritual, administrative, and economic center of the island. During the Greek revolution of 1821 AD, many Serifos participated in the battles against the Ottomans.



In 1830 AD, Serifos became part of Greece again, like the rest of the Cycladic islands. However, the island was in economic decline and after 1830, its inhabitants began to emigrate to Egypt and other areas of the Ottoman Empire and for this reason it was decided to reopen the mines, which remained dormant for many centuries. The opening was undertaken by the 'Hellenic Mining Company' in 1870, after securing from the newly established Greek state the exclusive right to extract iron and copper from the subsoil. The metals were exported raw to various European countries, but after a decade, and specifically in 1880, the reins of the exclusive exploitation of the island's deposits were taken over by the 'Serifos-Spiliazeza' company.


This company had been founded by wealthy Constantinopolitans with the help of the Ottoman bank and was of English, French and Ottoman interests. Through this company, the German metallurgist Emile Grohmann undertook the mining as a contractor, and the company's offices were housed in a neoclassical building which, although battered, survives to this day on the beach of Megalo Livadi. Many times, the owners of small estates were deceived by the company because of their low level of education and, thinking they were renting their land, they actually signed a cession of ownership. Many owners, if they refused, usually backed down because of the pressure exerted on them by the socio-economic establishment that was dependent on the company. In 1882 AD, 'Serifos-Spiliazeza' went through an economic crisis, which also had an impact on the wages of the workers, which led to minor unrest, but was soon overcome.


Of course, thanks to the mines, the economy of Serifos flourished and from 1885 to 1910 AD, iron ore was systematically mined at an ever-increasing rate of production, which helped to increase the population of the island, since the need for labor was great and the inhabitants of the surrounding islands moved to the island to work. Unfortunately, safety rules were not observed in the galleries, resulting in frequent accidents, which often led to the death of the workers. The working conditions were harsh, as the workers worked from sunrise to sunset and then had to cultivate their fields, while children from pre-teen age were forced to work to contribute financially to their families, working under conditions inappropriate for their age. In 1915 AD, a new crisis, this time in metal prices, led the company to financial collapse. In 1916 A.D. Emilio’s son, George Grohman, took over the mines, and since the working conditions did not change, the workers decided to go on strike in August of that year, at the urging of the anarcho-syndicalist Konstantinos Speras.


The strike was organized by Speras himself, who had organized other strikes in various parts of Greece, urging the workers to occupy the port of Megalo Livadi and forbid the ships to load ore. Because the miners did not change their attitude even after the company's threats, on 21 August the gendarmerie intervened and, on the orders of the head of the gendarmerie, after the five-minute deadline given to the workers to end the strike had expired, the gendarmes opened fire on the strikers, who were unruly and killed four. The workers then returned fire with stones and sticks and during the ensuing clash three gendarmes and their leader died. The workers then occupied the mines and raised the French flag asking for the help of the French army, an act for which Speras was later criticized by the C.C.E., as he was accused of serving French interests. This strike was the first strike in Greece for the eight-hour day. The workers' demands for an eight-hour day, better and safer working conditions and increased wages were partially met and the mines continued to operate. In 1925 AD, eight-hour work was introduced for the workers, but by 1934 AD the mines were closed due to the crash of 1929 AD.


Then a new period of systematic mining began, with exports mainly to Germany. In 1941 AD, Serifos came under Italian administration, in the context of the occupation of Greek territories by the Axis Powers, while after the capitulation of Italy in 1943 AD, the island came under German administration until its liberation. After the occupation, Georgios Grohman left Greece accused of being a dissident and finally the mines were finally closed in 1963 AD, as a consequence of the depletion of reserves, high mining costs, relatively small-scale exploitation, and mainly as a consequence of the collapse of iron ore prices worldwide. In recent decades, efforts have been made to preserve the memory of the events of 1916, and there is a memorial to those who died in the strike next to the company's office building. After the closure of the Serifos mines, there was a massive exodus of residents to urban centers, especially Athens and Piraeus, resulting in the abandonment of the land and, by extension, the primary sector. In the last three decades, the island's economy has been inextricably linked to tourism, as the primary sector has been in absolute decline.