Sifnos History I
3000 BC In early Bronze Age settlers from Asia Minor came to the island and fused
with earlier Neolithic occupants to develop what is known as the Early Cycladic culture. They worked in marble
and stone and traded over sea.
1600 BC During the Late Bronze Age Siphnos was under the cultural andcommercial
hegemony of the Minoans of Crete. It is believed that theCretans founded the town named Minoa but remains are as
In 1400 BC the explosion of Santorini destroyed the major centers of Minoan civilization
the Mycenaeans became the dominant power in the area and used the islands as relay staions to the near east, replacing
many of the indigenous people with Greeks.
At about 1100 BC during the dark days of the Dorian Invasion, Sifnos was colonized
by Ionians from Attika, led by their chieftan Alkenor who became the islands first sovereign.
In the 8th century BC Greeks began to think of themselves as an ethnic unity. City
States began to grow up on the mainland and the islands. Sifnos was under the domination of neighboring Milos.
It was then that Gold was discovered on the island and the inhabitants became quite rich, paving their capital
in Parian Marble and building a treasury in Delphi. It was said that every year the Sifniots would present a solid
golden egg to the God Apollo. One year out of guilt they gave him an egg that was merely plated in Gold. The angry
God destroyed their mines. It was also during this period that Samian pirates plundered the island. With the riches
they took, they aquired the island of Hydra for their home. When the mines of Sifnos brought forth no more precious
metal the island was reduced to poverty.
In the fifth century BC Sifnos was part of the Greek alliance of City states that
defeated the Persians at Marathon, Salamis and Platea. Sifnos became a part of the Delian League and came under
the authority of Athens. During the Peleponisian wars, Sifnos managed to stay out of the conflict. In 338 it fell
under the influence of Phillip of Macedonia. When Persians captured it in 332 Alexander the Great sent a squadron
to expell them. When Alexander died and the empire was devided among his generals, Sifnos fell under the influence
of the Ptolemies of Egypt until 146bc when they fell to the Romans.
By 395AD the Roman empire was split in two, with Sifnos under the influence of the
eastern half with it's capital in Constantinople. As Barbarians from the north attacked the country, the Greeks
lost control of the seas and Sifnos was raided by Arab, Venetian, Frank and Byzantine pirates.
In 1207 Sifnos was under the authority of Marco Sanudo, nephew of the Dodge of Venice,
who had declared himself Duke of Naxos. In 1261 they became part of the Greek empire of Nicea. In 1307 a Spaniard
named Antonio da Corogna declared himself Lord of Sifnos and ruled it from the town of Kastro. Later it was given
as a dowery to Nicolas Gozzadino of Bologna.
In 1537 Suleiman the Magnificant ordered Kapitan Pasha Khaireddin Barbarossa to
fight the Venitians in the Agean. He expelled the Gozzadini. The Sifniots arranged to buy their safety with an
anual tribute. In 1568 the Gozzadini once again took possesion of Sifnos. In 1617 the Turks took back Sifnos again
and ruled until 1830 except for a period during the Russo-Turkish War(1768-74) when it was occupied by the Russian
During the rebellion of 1821 when the Greeks rose to free themselves of Turkish
domination, the island sent a contingent of fighters under Nikolas Chrysogelas to join the rebellion. In response
the Turkish Pasha moored his fleet in Sifnos. The Turks were defeated by Greeks with the help of the great powers
in the Battle of Navarino.
In 1829 Greece became a sovereign state under the protection of the Great Powers.
Sifnos History 2: A Brief History Since 1972
I've been coming to Sifnos since the late seventies. My parents and brothers and
sister first came in 1972 during the summer while I was off in Mykonos. Back then Sifnos was primitive and totally
undiscovered. There was no dock and the ferry would pull into the bay and be met by the fishermen who would take
people back and forth in small boats. There were a few foreigners living in rented rooms or tents, mostly seasoned
travelers who would rather experience the real Greece of the time, than party with me and my decadent friends on
Ios or Mykonos.
By the time I made my first trip there was a ferry docking at a real dock and cars
were unloading and driving the newly paved roads. It was still untouristed compared to other places, but it was
on it's way to becoming what it is now, a charming island that loses much of that charm in July and August when
the hordes invade.
My first time here was the fateful summer of hiding from the Greek army. I assumed
it would be the last Greek island I would ever go to but it didn't turn out that way.
The next time I came was in 1978 with my pal Leigh Sioris. We had been in Mykonos
and Ios and we were meeting up with some friends in Sifnos. We camped on a small beach near the community of Pharos.
There was one restaurant, one grocery store that served eggs for breakfast, and little else. There wasn't even
a bus. We had to take a bus to Platiyialos, get off above Chrissopigi and walk down the mountain and along the
coast. I don't think we went into town more then once in the ten days we spent there.
After a break of about 6 years where I didn't even come to Greece I finally returned
to Sifnos at the instigation of my friend Dorian who had opened a live music bar in Kamares. Dorian and I became
the live music, doing a two hour show every night from June to September. It was my favorite Sifnos summer, the
year that I bonded with the island and made most of the friends that I still have. It was a tumultuous time for
the Old Captain Bar. Because of the live music there was always a crowd while the few other bars remained empty.
This created some friction between the owners of these other bars, who were locals, and the Old Captain, whose
owners were from Athens. Every few days the rules of the game would change. One night we could play only until
midnight. A couple days later it was until eleven. Then we were told that we were not licensed for live music.
The next night one of the stereo systems had left the bar and taken up residency in the police station and we were
playing again. Finally towards the end of the season a policeman came up to me after the show and asked for my
passport. When I gave it to him he told me I could pick it up the next morning at the station.
The next day I took the bus up to Appolonia and found the police station. I was
sent in to speak to the Chief. He asked me if the day before I had been walking in the valley where the farmers
have their fields. I told him I had, that I liked to walk around there and look at the goats and sheep. He asked
me if I had stolen a watermelon. I hadn't. I had seen many watermelons but I hadn't taken any. He said that was
interesting because a watermelon had been stolen and that I was seen walking in the fields by a farmer.
"Did the farmer say I had a watermelon with me?" I asked innocently.
"He didn't mention it."
"Then why am I here" I asked.
"Because right now you are our only suspect", he said trying to crack
my cool facade with his stare. He changed the subject. "Can I see your working papers for playing music at
the Old Captain." I didn't have any.
"OK. Let me tell you this once. You are not to play at the Old Captain any
more. If you do I will send you to Syros (where the jail is) and then have you deported from this country and you
will never be able to come back."
I didn't know if he was bluffing or not but I wasn't about to test him. I agreed
not to play. When I returned to the club and told them, Dorian told me not to be ridiculous. Of course I would
continue to play. He was just a village cop. He couldn't deport me. Besides I'm Greek.
I argued that if the guy knew I was Greek I would be in even more trouble because
they would want to see my Greek identification papers and instead of kicking me out of the country they'd throw
me in the army.
Dorian's answer was "Don't worry about it. You're over-reacting." Easy
for him to say. All he was jeopardizing was one half of his live music show. It was my life. I refused to play.
The next day Dorian came up to me and said that it was all taken care of and I could play again. I told him the
only way I would play was if I had a note from the head cop telling me that it was OK. I was not convinced that
Dorian had my best interest at heart. That note was never written and that ended the best summer job of my life.
If islands could have human personalities then Sifnos would have that of the bumbling
well intentioned fool whose great plans seem to go astray. The year I arrived to play at the bar for example. They
had been planning all year to put in a sewage system before the tourists arrived in July. When I arrived on July
1st the roads were all dug up. There was a long trench the length of the harbor road with a pile of dirt just as
long. The tourists had to cross over plank bridges and the noise of the workmen did not make for a quiet holiday.
Finally by the beginning of AUGUST they had all the pipes in place and covered with concrete. That night around
two in the morning the Ferry Mykonos, which only carries trucks, arrived with two gas tanker trucks to refuel the
islands two gas stations. They raced through the sleeping town and shattered the newly installed pipes beneath
the newly cemented road. The next day and for the rest of that summer the stench was unbearable. It was a major
setback to Sifnos' plan to become one of the elite islands of the Aegean.
But now Sifnos has the finest waste-treatment and disposal plant in all of the Aegean.