Symi / Simi

Periphery: South Aegean
Prefecture : Dodecanese

Symi, Satellite image, See also Aerial View

Symi (Greek: Σύμη; or Syme or Simi) is a small but historic Greek island. Geographically, it is part of the Dodecanese island chain, located about 41 km from Rhodes (and 425 km from Piraeus, the port of Athens), with 57 km² of mountainous terrain. Its interior is dotted with small valleys, and its coastline alternates between rocky cliffs and sandy coves. Its main town, located on the northeast coast, is also named Symi, and the island has 2.606 inhabitants (2001), mostly engaged in fishing, trade, and tourism. In addition to its many historical sites, the island's isolated beaches—many reachable only with small boats—are popular with tourists.

In Greek mythology, Syimi is reputed to be the birthplace of the Three Graces, and it takes its name from Poseidon's wife, the nymph Syme (in antiquity the island was known as Aigli and Metapontis).


In Homer's Iliad the island is mentioned as the domain of King Nireus, who fought in the Trojan War on the side of the Greeks.

Homer, Iliad, Book 2:

Nireus brought three well-balanced ships from Syme. 
The son of Aglaea and lord Charopus, 
the handsomest of all Danaans who sailed across to Troy,  
after Achilles, who had no equal.

Thucydides writes that during the Peloponnesian War there was a Battle of Syme near the island in January, 411 BC, in which an unspecified number of Spartan ships defeated a squadron of Athenian vessels.

Little is known of the island until the 14th century, but archaeological evidence indicates it was continuously inhabited, and ruins of citadels suggest it was an important location. It was first part of the Roman Empire and then the Byzantine Empire, until its conquest by the Knights of St. John in 1373.

This conquest, fuelled by the Knights' interest in shipping and commerce, launched what was to be a period of several centuries of prosperity for Symi, as its location amidst the Dodecanese made it an important waypoint for trade until the advent of steam-powered shipping in the 19th century. The island was conquered from the Knights by the Ottoman Empire in 1522 (along with nearby Rhodes) but it was allowed to retain many of its privileges, so its prosperity continued virtually uninterrupted. It attained the height of its prosperity in the mid 19th century, and many of the peculiarly colorful neoclassical mansions covering the slopes near the main city date from that period.

The island, along with the rest of the Dodecanese, changed hands several times in the 20th century: in 1912 it was occupied by Italy, formally ceded to Italy in 1923, and finally rejoined with Greece in 1948 (see Dodecanese for details).

View of Symi

Notable Sites

Archangel Michael Panormitis

  • The Monastery of the Archangel Michael Panormitis is a Greek Orthodox monastery built on the southwest coast in the early 18th century. It overlooks a bay, and is still inhabited by monks.
  • The "Knight's Castle" overlooks the main town of Symi. It was built by the Knights of St. John as an expansion of a Byzantine castle on the same site, many parts of which are still visible. There are also remnants of an ancient citadel on which the two later castles were built.
  • There are two monuments at the main port that date back to the Classical era.
  • The town of Symi alone has thirteen major churches and dozens of chapels, some dating back to the Byzantine era.
  • The northern port of Emborios (also called Nimborio) has surviving ancient Pelasgian walls and a set of twelve domes remaining from workshops used by artists.


The municipality of Symi with population 2606 is divided in

  • Symi / Δ.δ. Σύμης [ 2.606 ]
    • Symi / η Σύμη [ 2.427 ]
    • Gialesino (island) / το Γιαλεσίνο (νησίδα) [ 0 ]
    • Diavates (island) / οι Διαβάτες (νησίδα) [ 0 ]
    • Emporeios / ο Εμπορειός [ 9 ]
    • Kouloundros (island) / ο Κουλούνδρος (νησίδα) [ 0 ]
    • Marathounta / η Μαραθούντα [ 0 ]
    • Marmaras (island) / ο Μαρμαράς (νησίδα) [ 0 ]
    • Nimos (island) / η Νίμος (νησίδα) [ 0 ]
    • Xisos / το Ξίσος [ 4 ]
    • Panormitis / ο Πανορμίτης [ 42 ]
    • Pedion / το Πέδιον [ 120 ]
    • Roukouniotis / ο Ρουκουνιώτης [ 3 ]
    • Sesklion (island) / το Σεσκλίον (νησίδα) [ 0 ]
    • Sykidi / το Συκίδι [ 1 ]
    • Chondros (island) / ο Χονδρός (νησίδα) [ 0 ]

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