06 July 2021

The Greek Mythology of… SANTORINI

The Greek Mythology of… SANTORINI

When you’re swimming around the beautiful islands of Greece, you’ll find hidden caves, untouched beaches and areas where only a small amount of people have visited. Greece is a wonderful country, rich in culture, history and timeless mythological tales. In this series of blog posts, we’ll take you through the interesting stories that have been told throughout generations, and up next is the island of Santorini, also known as the jewel of the Cyclades.

The Creation of Santorini

The island of Santorini has an incredible history. Santorini and the Caldera were formed around 3,600 years ago during a gigantic eruption which completely changed the landscape of the island and shaped many civilisations. To this day Santorini is still an active volcano, although it has laid dormant since 1950.

According to Mythology, Santorini was created from a lump of earth that was thrown into the sea by Euphemus, Poseidon’s son. Euphemus had a dream one evening that he had made love to a nymph who was the daughter of Triton (the son of Poseidon and Aphrodite). Within the dream, the nymph fell pregnant and fearing her father’s reaction asked Euphemus to collect a lump of earth from Anaphe (a nearby island) and to throw it to the sea so she can hide there and give birth to their child.

Now, although this was a dream, Euphemus in the realm of reality went ahead with the nymph’s request and as the earth landed into the sea the stunning island of Santorini (initially named Kallisti) appeared.

The island became the settlement of a great civilisation parallel to the Minoans until the volcanic eruption, which not only destroyed Santorini but also devastated the Minoan civilisation, burying the island under pumice and rocks.

The Aegean Sea

According to Greek Mythology, the Aegean Sea derives from the King of Athens, and his name, Aigeas (Aegeas). If you have read our most recent blog on the Greek Mythology of Crete, you’ll have seen us talk about King Minos and the Minotaur, this story has a direct correlation to the Aegean Sea.

King Minos’ son, Androgeo had been killed by Athenians and Minos had decided to take swift revenge by declaring war on Athens. The Athenians lost the battle and became subjects under the Minoan Empire. Unfortunately, King Minos did not stop there, he demanded that tributes of honour were to be paid every nine years in the form of seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls who would be sacrificed and devoured by the Minotaur who lived within the Labyrinth.

Thiseas (an Athenian), the son of Aigeas, decided to slaughter the Minotaur and put an end to the madness. He sailed to Crete, taking the place of one of the seven male sacrifices. He informed his father that black sails would be hoisted as a show of mourning if they were to be unsuccessful, but they would hoist white sails if they had managed to slay the Minotaur.

During his journey, Thiseas fell in love with Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos, who gave him a ball of string to unravel whilst in the labyrinth to help him find his way back to the entrance. Thiseas did indeed slay the Minotaur and found his way out using Ariadne’s string. Ariadne, Thiseas and the others escaped in the dead of night once the task had been completed and boarded the ship to return home.

Whilst on their way back they stopped at the island of Naxos. It is said that Thiseas abandoned Ariadne whilst she was sleeping and continued his journey home without her, and in so doing forgot to change the black sails to white. (In some retellings of this mythological tale it is said Ariadne found out she had been abandoned and laid a curse on Thiseas.)

Aigeas waiting for his son to return saw the ship had black sails, and believing his son had perished, he was so distraught he jumped off the cliffs into the sea from the temple of Poseidon.

From this story, the Aegean Sea was officially named, to commemorate and honour the Athenian’s fallen King.


Following the volcanic eruption mentioned earlier in this post, many believe the destruction of Santorini was the inspiration behind the lost continent of Atlantis, which is often described as, a ‘great civilisation disappearing beneath the waves.’

The more time you spend on the island, the more it is clear how much volcanic activity has shaped its appearance. You’ll find beautiful red and black sand along the coastline, and you can quite clearly see how the volcano imprinted upon the island, changing Santorini’s entire outline. There is also further proof to showcase that the volcanic eruption created a hole in the centre of ancient Santorini, which sank a portion of the island to the bottom of the sea.

This, in turn, shares elements of the mythical tale of Atlantis, which many believe is the portion of Santorini that sank. (You will also find a museum on the island which celebrates this possibility.)

There are varying suggestions of exactly who the Atlanteans were and how they vanished. By the Renaissance times, the story of the lost city had evolved ten-fold. Some versions state the Atlanteans had displeased the Gods, so Poseidon banished the whole city to the waters, other versions claim they were technologically advanced people who went into hiding. To this day Atlantis is an interesting talking point and has even been used across TV and film as main plot lines. Could Atlantis really be a part of Santorini?

Santorini is a glorious place to visit, with its quintessential beautiful blue and white buildings, many churches, the volcanic tours, and of course the crystal clear, warm waters. On your journey with us, you’ll be able to take in all the wonders of Santorini from the waters, whilst you soak up the glorious sunshine and set your eyes on the rugged beauty of the island.

We still have some spaces left for this summer (2021) but we have now opened up next year’s (2022) bookings, so you can take your pick as to when you’re ready to dive in and come with us on a trip of a lifetime. Come and join us on an unforgettable journey! www.thebigblueswim.com

We can’t wait to see you soon.

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