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SYROS or SYRUS (Σῦρος, also Συρίη, Hom. Od. 15.403, and Σύρα, D. L. 1.115; Hesych.; Suid.: Eth. Σύριος: Syra (Σύρα), and the present inhabitants call themselves Συριῶται or Συριανοί, not Σύριοι), an island in the Aegaean sea, one of the Cyclades, lying between Rheneia and Cythnus, and 20 miles in circumference, according to some ancient authorities. (Plin. Nat. 4.12. s. 22.) Syros produces good wine, but is upon the whole not fertile, and does not deserve the praises bestowed upon it by Homer (l.c.), who describes it as rich in pastures, cattle, wine, and wheat. It is usually stated upon the authority of Pliny (33.12. s. 56) that Syros produced: Sil or yellow ochre; but in Sillig's edition of Pliny, Scyros is substituted for Syros.

Syros had two cities even in the time of Homer (Hom. Od. 15.412), one on the eastern, and the other on the western side of the island. The one on the eastern side, which was called Syros (Ptol. 3.15.30), stood on the same site as the modern capital of the island, which is now one of the most flourishing cities in Greece, containing 11,000 inhabitants, and the centre of a flourishing trade. In consequence of the numerous new buildings almost all traces of the ancient city have disappeared; but there were considerable remains of it when Tournefort visited the island. At that time the ancient city was abandoned, and the inhabitants had built a town upon a lofty and steep hill about a mile from the shore: this town is now called Old Syra, to distinguish it from the modern town, which has arisen upon the site of the ancient city. The inhabitants of Old Syra, who are about 6000 in number, are chiefly Catholics, and, being under the protection of France and the Pope, they took no part in the Greek revolution during its earlier years. Their neutrality was the chief cause of the modern prosperity of the island, since numerous merchants settled there in consequence of the disturbed condition of the other parts of Greece.

There are ruins of the second ancient city on the western coast, at the harbour of Maria della Grazia. Ross conjectures that its name may have been Grynche or Gryncheia, since we find the Γρυγχῆς, who are otherwise unknown, mentioned three times in the inscriptions containing lists of the tributary allies of Athens. There was another ancient town in the island, named Eschatia. (Böckh, Inscr. no. 2347, c.) Pherecydes, one of the early Greek philosophers, was a native of Syros. (Comp. Strab. x. pp. 485, 487; Scylax, p. 22; Steph. B. sub voce Tournefort, Voyage, vol. i. p. 245, seq. Engl. tr.; Prokesch, Erinnerungen, vol. i. p. 55, seq.; Ross, Reisen auf den Griech. Inseln, vol. i. p. 5, seq., vol. ii. p. 24, seq.; Fiedler, Reise, vol. ii. p. 164, seq.)

hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Homer, Odyssey, 15.403
    • Homer, Odyssey, 15.412
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 33.12
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.12
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