Ermoupoli (or Hermoupolis) (Greek: Ερμούπολη - Ermoúpoli), also known as Syros is a town in eastern Greece. It is the capital and main town of the island of Syros and the Cyclades prefecture.
Close to Ermoupolis is Ano Syros. One of the oldest archaeological Museums of Greece is in Ermoupolis. Interesting buildings: The cityhall (build 1876-1881 , architect Ernst Moritz Theodor Ziller ) and the Apollo Theater
Hermoupolis, the "Queen of the Cyclades", stands on a naturally amphitheatrical site, with neo-classical buildings, old mansions and white houses cascading down to the harbour. The City Hall, where Miaoulis Square lies ringed with cafes and with seating areas under palm trees, has a grandeur all of its own. The "City of Hermes" has numerous magnificent churches, the most interesting of which are Metamorphosis, Koimisis, St Demetrius, Three Hierarchs, Anastasis, Evangelistria and St Nicolas. The Archaeological Museum has a collection of notable finds and the Municipal Library contains numerous interesting and rare editions. The quarter of the town known as Vaporia, where the sea captains lived, is of special interest. Along its narrow streets stand numerous neo-classical mansions.
Ano Syros is the second town of the Island and was built by the Venetians at the beggining of the 13th century on the hill of San Georgio, north-west of Hermoupolis. Ano Syros maintains its enchanting medieval atmosphere. Innumerable steps between narrow streets and houses with coloured doors lead you to the top of the town, which makes for some adventurous exploration. The medieval settlement of Ano Syros is not accessible by car, the town is serviced mostly by marble steps. The distance from the harbour up to the main entry point of the town is approximately 3500 metres. The catholic basilica of San Georgio dominates Ano Syros. The church was constructed during the 13th century. From here the visitor enjoys a panoramic view of the neighbouring islands of Tinos, Delos, Mykonos, Paros and Naxos.
During Roman times the capital of Syros was situated in the area of contemporary Hermoupolis. At the end of ancient times, the barbaric raids and the plague of piracy, which had scourged the Aegean for many centuries, led Syros to decline. In the Byzantine years Syros constituted together with the rest of the Cycladic islands, part of the Aegean Dominion. After the overthrow of the Byzantium by the Venetian/Francs in 1204, Syros came under Venetian domination and was included in the Ducat of the Aegean. Meanwhile amphitheatric Ano Syros was inhabited. During the Latin period, the majority of the local community were Roman Catholics, but maintained the Greek language. During the reign of almost three and a half centuries of the Ducat of the Aegean, Syros had a singular feudal regime. In the middle of the 16th century, the Ottoman fleet occupied the island and the Ducat fell apart. However the negotiations of the local authorities with the Ottoman Empire led to the offer of substantial privileges to the Cycladic islands such as the reduction of taxation and religious freedom.
At the same time, following an agreement between France and the Vatican with the Ottoman authorities, the Catholics of the island came under the protection of France and Rome. A privilege that was maintained for centuries. After the second half of the 17th century a period of economic recovery of the Aegean began, which reached its height during the transition from the 18th to the 19th century. The special regime of the islands allowed the development of local self-government. The decline of piracy since the beginning of the 19th century had as a result the gradual liberation of the sea routes of the Eastern Mediterranean. Due to its crucial geographical position Syros became known as a maritime way-point. Moreover the special social, religious, and institutional conditions prevailing on the island led the Syriots to neutrality at the beginning of the Greek Revolution in 1821. As a result, Syros became a secure shelter during the Revolution and attracted many Greek refugees from Asia Minor, Chios, Spetses, Psara, Aivali, Smyrna, Kydonia, Kassos and other places. The newcomers, mainly mariners and tradesmen, gave a new dynamism to the island which together with its demographic and economic development, was transformed into an administrative and cultural centre.
In 1822-1865 Hermoupolis was rebuilt in a Neoclassical style, merging Greek Classism with elements of the Renaissance. Many landmarks such as the City Hall (designed by the famous German architect Ernst Ziller),the theatre Apollon by the Italian architect Campo (a miniature version of La Scala di Milano), the main Library, the General Hospital of Syros (Vardakio-Proio), Miaoulis square and more.
Most public buildings, Churches, Schools, stadium and many mansions were built in the same elegant and neoclassical style,making Hermoupolis at the time, a very modern city with a unique character. As a result Syros changed almost overnight from a rather quiet island into a vigorous centre of crafts, industry and production. Also, due to its large excellent port at Hermoupolis it became a major centre for ship building and refitting. Neorion was the first shipyard of Greece. To this very day (2005) it remains a place where many ships are serviced and refitted.
There is a British Cemetary in Syros atHermoupolis where various people are burried including many seaman and servicemen who died in the Cyclades region, particularly during the Second World War. Many Embassies and Consulates of countries such as France, England, Italy, The Netherlands and the Scandinavian Countries connect Syros with other European Capitals.
Because of the Venetian domination from the Middle Ages onwards, the islanders were once exclusively Roman Catholic. However, due to immigration from other islands, Catholics now constitute some 40% of the population.The great majority of the population are Greek Orthodox. They live side by side very peacefully. Intermarriage between denominations is very common in Syros.
The DIOCESE OF SYRA (SYRENSIS).("The Pope's Island") was a Latin diocese, suffragan of Naxos, comprising the Island of Syros in the Aegean Sea. The island has an area of about thirty-one square miles and 32,000 inhabitants today. It was first called Syra ,then Syros or Siros, and appears in ancient times to have been inhabited by the Phoenicians. It was the country of the swineherd Eumaeus who described it at length (Odyssey, XV, 403 sq.) and of the philosopher Pherecydes, the teacher of Pythagoras. It possessed two leading cities, Syros (now the modern Hermoupolis) and another city on the western coast where stands to-day Maria della Grazia.
The largest villages are Galissas, Phinicas, Vari, Mana, Kini and Possidonia. The island played no role in antiquity nor in the Christian epoch, it was not even a diocese at a time when even the smallest island possessed its bishop. Devastated several times during the Middle Ages with the other Cyclades by the Sicilians, Arabs, Turks, and Venetians, it was definitively conquered by these last in 1204 under the leadership of Marco Sanudo. They kept it until 1522 when the corsair Barbarossa took possession of it for the Turks. During the Othoman Empire Syros came under the protection of France and the Vatican. For that reason Syros was named in history "THE POPE'S ISLAND". After 1821 it was annexed to the Hellenic kingdom. The Venetians established there a Latin bishopric which was subject to the Archbishopric of Athens until 1525, afterwards to that of Naxos. The list of titulars may be found in Le Quien (Oriens christianus, III, 865-868) and in Eubel (Hierarchia catholica medii aevi, I, 492; II, 267; III, 324). The most celebrated among them is the Venerable John Andrew Carga, strangled by the Turks in 1617 because he refused to become a Muslim and because he was helping the Greek revolutionairies hiding on the Island (Pétridès in "Revue de l'Orient chrétien", V, 407-422). From the occupation of the island by the Turks in the sixteenth century, the Greeks established there a metropolitan: Joseph (Le Quien, op. cit., II, 233) is the earliest known, with Symeon who died in 1594 (Ampelas, "Histoire de Syros", 411) and Ignatius in 1596 (Miklosich and Mueller, "Acta patriarchatus constantinopolitani", V, 461). The island became for the most part Catholic (Ricaut, "Histoire de l'estat présent de l"Eglise grecque", 361; Hilaire de Barenton, "La France Catholique en Orient", 171-173).
Since 1870 the ports of Piraeus and Patras have taken greatly from its commercial importance. The diocese numbers 9000 Catholics, 21 secular priests and 8 regulars, 7 parishes, 7 churches with a resident priest, 3 without a priest, and 56 chapels. The Capuchins and Jesuits have each an establishment; the Sisters of Charity, 2 houses, one of which is a hospital; the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition have a boarding school and St George, a De La Salle boys Public School.
With the foundation of the Greek State the Catholic population of the island were Hellenized and changed their Latin family names to Greek. The family name Vuccino to Voutsinos, Russo to Roussos, Vacondio to Vakondios, Daleggio to Dalezios, Freri to Freris just to mention a few. However there was no problem of integration between the old residents of Syros, mostly Roman Catholics and the newly arrived refugees, mostly Greek Orthodox. The island returned to peace and tranquility, Syros became known as a cross-roads in the Aegean and as an international commercial center linking Western Europe and the Mediterranean sea to the East. In 1822 began the construction of the first buildings and in 1824 the first Orthodox Church Metamorphosis and the largest Greek Sanatorium was constructed.
Since 1830 the commerce of fabrics, silk, ship building, leather and iron developed on Syros and at the same time a powerful banking system was created. During 1831 Syros played a prominent role in the establishment of the new Greek Constitution. Under Ioannis Kapodistrias (Giovanni Capo D'Istria) the first President of the new state, the population of Hermoupolis had reached 13,805 residents and the city had evolved into a seat of Government. It had a Commercial Court of Law, a Post Office (one of Greece's fisrt), insurance brokerages, the first Public School, a branch of The National Bank, Art Gallery, Museum, Library, a Social Club for the elite society etc. However in 1854 cholera and a series of other epidemics unfortunately plunged Syros into mourning. A number of charitable institutions for Public Health and Social Services were established during this period: Orphanages, Poorhouses and a mental hospital. The tremendous growth and development of Hermoupolis continued and until 1860 Syros was the most important commercial harbour in Greece. Together with commerce and ship building, construction and public works were also developed. The European architects (mainly Germans and Italians) and also Greeks who participated in the design and planning of Hermoupolis respected the classical and ancient Greek architecture and harmonized it with the romanticism of the West. Hermoupolis enjoys the greatest density in the neoclassical history of architecture. The prosperity of Syros was connected with an important development of social and cultural life. The evolutionary cycle was completed with the creation of the first industrial units during the decade of 1860-1870. Then followed a period of decline, as sailing gave way to steam, the importance of the geographical situation of the island was reduced, and Piraeus harbor finally took the predominant position in Greece.
Dornier Flying boat over Ermoupolis, 1933
Beginning at the end of the 19th century and for several decades a temporary economic recovery took place, due to the development of the cotton industry. However decline and unemployment prevailed. The second world war dealt a serious blow to Syros, and economic decline was intensified during the postwar decades. However, already since the eighties, along with the generalized economic recovery and the rise of the living standards in Greece, elements of improvement appeared with tourism as its central axis. At the same time the reopening of the Neorion shipyards, as well as a number of other activities, indicate that Syros is on an upward trend. Hermoupolis today has 7 elementary schools, 4 Gymnasiums (high schools), 2 technical schools and the Aegean University with a department of fine Arts and system design, with a proposed future addition in Applied Arts and Visual Arts. The Syros airport, the Aegean casino, the frequent passenger boat transportation system and all other modern amenities are helping to atract many domestic and foreign tourists to the island year round. Economic recovery is back once again to this modern and cosmopolitan oasis, with two civilizations and two religions
Ano Syros and Ermoupolis
Emmanuel Rhoides (Εμμανουήλ Ροΐδης) (1836 Ermoupolis /Syros 7.1.1904 Athens), author
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