Hermoupolis was born in the turbulent aftermath of the revolution
of 1821, when refugees from the regions destroyed by the Turks found a safe haven
on Syros and started to develop the town. Sailors and merchants from Chios,
Kasos and Psara
created this "economic miracle". In only a few short years, the deserted coast
of the island was turned into the most important port of the country with an active
economic and cultural life. Its creators named the town after the God of Commerce
and knowledge, Hermes. Hermoupolis literally means "the city of Hermes". This
name was suggested by Loukas Rallis from Chios, in 1826.
After the creation of the independent Greek state, the population of Hermoupolis reached 13.805. In 1833 it became the capital city of the Cyclades, and the seat of its administration and court authorities. The birth of the Greek state also coincided with the beginning of Hermoupolis's development as an international trade centre on the maritime crossroads between Western Europe, the Mediterranean countries and the Near-East. Ioannis Petritsis became its first mayor in 1835. Transit of goods, mostly to Turkey, developed into the island's major activity. It led to the opening of a free zone in its port in 1837.
Banks, shipbuilding companies, maritime agencies and printing houses appeared. In 1839, Neofitos Vamvas founded the first Secondary School. In 1845, a branch of the National Bank was opened in Ermoupolis. Simultaneously, we see the rapid development of industries such as tanneries, soap production and iron metallurgy. Efficiency in shipbuilding resulted in an increase of its production, reaching an annual total of 60 to 80 ships. About 2.000 people were employed in the shipbuilding industry in 1835. In 1835, four printing houses existed in Ermoupolis. In 1836, the newspapers "Ermis tis Sirou" and "Ermis ton Kikladon" were circulated in the city.
In 1853, there were only three cities in Greece with a population of over 10.000: Athens, Patras and Ermoupolis.
In 1854, the first Greek steamship was built by a private shipbuilding company. In 1856, Greece's first steamship-building company "I Eliniki Atmoplia" was founded on the island, with the participation of the municipality, the National Bank and 102 other shareholders. The Greek Steamship-building Company challenged the existing Austrian, Italian and French steamers and tradeships with rival ships of its own. In addition, docks, shipping wharves, drydocks, warehouses etc., were created.
A public dock was built in 1866. A great number of ships used the docks and piers of Ermoupolis for replenishment, transport of visitors and, in return, loading of goods for other destinations. At that time, Ermoupolis became the centre of Eastern Mediterranean and international trade with Western Europe, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries.
Later, a number of textile factories appeared, some of them still operational at the beginning of the 20th century. This was the scene of the first strike of 1879.
In 1866, Syros took in a large number of refugees from Crete. Among them was the family of Eleftherios Venizelos, who studied at the senior school of Syros. More schools were opened: girls' schools and religious colleges. Last but not least, we see the creation of the Greek Museum.
1864 is the year of the creation of the "ApollonTheatre" , a small-scale copy of the Scala of Milan. Numerous foreign and Greek troupes performed on its stage. Their plays always were important events in town. The Philharmonic Orchestra and the "Club "Ellas" made their appearance at that time.
This economic prosperity led to the development of an upper class of citizens who adopted a "European" life style. Entertainment and fashion also followed the "European" ways.
In the island's clubs, its high society danced to the tunes of the time, such as waltzes and polkas. They wore fashionable and expensive clothes provided by the "boutiques" of Syros, that were comparable to those in France.
Splendid neoclassical mansions, examples of Romantic Classicism, created the impression of a European city in the heart of the Aegean Sea. European as well as Greek architects and artists (Ziller, Sampo, Herlacher, Vlisidis, Elevtheriadis etc..), painters and sculptors made this city into a monument of architecture. The Town Hall, "Club Ellas", the church of Agios Nikolaos, the"Apollon Theatre" , and the shipowners' mansions in the Vaporia Quarter are some of the finest examples of this style.
Many eminent figures were born and raised here, unusual even for this period of intellectual flourishing.
Chr. Evangelidis, founder of the "Greek Senior School".
Emmanouil Roidis (1836 - 1904 ), the great novelist.
Dimitreos Vikelas (1835 - 1908 ), who contributed much to the revival of the Olympic Games.
Georgios Souris (1853 - 1919 ), the great poet.
This tradition of excellence was perpetrated by a new generation: a.o. Leon Koukoula, Kosti Bastia, Rita Boumpi-Papa, Mano Elevtherou.
In 1907, Ermoupolis, with a population of 18.100, was the 6th largest city in Greece after Athens, Piraeus, Patras, Kerkira (Corfou) and Volos.
At the end of the 19th century, the island's economic situation started its decline. The creation of Piraeus as the port of the country's capital and the opening of the Corinth Canal slowly drained the town of its vitality.
Inspite of this, Hermoupolis continued to be among the most important administrative and commercial centres of the Aegean region. Today, it is the seat of the Prefecture of the Cyclades and houses the administrative centre for the prefectures of the Northern Aegean. Neoclassical buildings, marble-paved streets and squares, all witness the golden age in which Hermoupolis flourished. To this day, it still is a centre of lively intellectual and cultural activity.
This text is cited Apr 2003 from the University of Patras' XENIOS DIAS website URL below.
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