The name of the island, Sýros, derives from the word “Sour” or “Osoúra” which in the ancient Phoenician language means rocky, whereas Homer in his epic poem “Odyssey” refers to the island as “Syríi”.
At the end of the previous century, excavations on the NE side of the island revealed findings dating from 2800 BC. These findings were mainly graves, vases and tools, which are today exhibited in the National Museum of Athens.
In the 6th century BC., there were only two settlements in Sýros, the first where today’s Ermoúpoli lies and the other in Galissá, at the SW part of the island. At that time lived the famous philosopher, physicist and astronomer Ferekídis, the teacher of the (even more renowned) mathematician Pythagóras the Samian.
During the 5th and 4th century BC., Sýros was part of the Athenian Allience and later, in 338 BC. subdued to the Macedonians, together with the rest of the Cyclades islands.
At the dawn of the Byzantine Empire, the settlement of Áno Sýros begins to be built, in order to protect the people, against the piratic raids, who could not live on the coasts any more. The failure of the Byzantine Empire to protect the islands, led gradually to the almost complete depopulation of Sýros, as the centuries went by.
In 1207, the island was captured by the Venetians. During their rule, almost all of the islanders become Catholics.
Sýros fell on Turkish hands in 1566 and in 1617, the Turks destroyed the island. However, the island remained under the protection of the Pope of Rome, due to the many Catholics (it is indicatively mentioned that the ration between Catholics and Orthodox was at the time 15 to 1), and thus managed to gain back its prosperity by remaining neutral and enjoying some privileges from the Sultan.
During the Hellenic Wars of Indpendence in 1821, Sýros was under the command of the French and did not take part. However, it supported the cause secretly, by funding and offering shelter to the fighters.
Ermoúpoli is the largest city in Sýros, the capital of the island but also of all the Cyclades. In essence, it is the centre of all the public life of the islands. It is situated on the eastern side of Sýros and is known for its shipyards and its commercial harbour. In the last two centuries, it has been an industrial, nautical and cultural centre of Greece, whereas today it is an authentic and picturesque city of 11407 inhabitants. It is a real joy to walk on its streets. Also, there are a lot of places to visit like the public library, thetres, museums, squares and parks.
Foínikas is a settlement on the SW side of Sýros, with a marina for yachts. It attracts many tourists and also many yachts, as it is a natural harbour.