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Siphanto, Sipheno

SIPHANTO, SIPHENO or SFPHNO (anc. Siphnos), an island of the Greek Archipelago, in the department of the Cyclades, 30 m. S.W. of Syra. It has an area of 28 sq. m., and the population of the commune is 3777 (1907). A ridge of limestone hills whose principal summits, Hagios Elias and Hagios Simeon, are crowned by old Byzantine churches runs through the island; for about 2 m. along the western slope stretches a series of villages, each white-washed house with its own garden and orchard. One of these, called after the name of an ancient town Apollonia, is the modern capital; Kastro is an " old-world Italian town " with medieval castle and fortifications, and an old town-hall bearing date 1365. Inscriptions found on the spot show that Kastro stands on the site of the ancient city of Siphnos; and Mr Bent identifies the other ancient town of Minoa with the place on the coast where a Hellenic white marble tower is distinguished as the Pharos or lighthouse, and another as the tower of St John. Churches and convents of Byzantine architecture are scattered about the island. One building of this class is especially interesting the school of the Holy Tomb or school of Siphnos, founded by Greek refugees from Byzantium at the time of the iconoclastic persecutions, and afterwards a great centre of intellectual culture for the Hellenic world. The endowments of the school are now made over to the gymnasium of Syra. In ancient times Siphnos was famous for its gold and silver mines, the site of which is still easily recognized by the excavations and refuse-heaps. As in antiquity so now the potters of the island are known throughout the Archipelago. Siphnos was said to have been colonized by lonians from Athens. It refused tribute to Xerxes, and sent one ship to fight on the Greek side at Salamis.

The wealth of the ancient Siphniotes was shown by their treasury at Delphi, where they deposited the tenth of their gold and silver; but, says the legend, they once failed to do this, and Apollo in his anger flooded their mines. That the mines were invaded by the sea is still evident; and by Strabo's time the inhabitants of the island were noted for their poverty. During the Venetian period it was ruled first by the Da Corogna family and after 1456 by the Gazzadinl, who were expelled by the Turks in 1617.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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