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SIPHNOS or SIPHNUS (Σίφνος: Eth. Σίφνιος: Siphno Gr., Siphsanto Ital.), an island in the Aegaean sea, one of the Cyclades, lying SE. of Seriphos, and NE. of Melos. Pliny (4.12. s. 22.66) describes it as 28 miles in circuit, but it is considerably larger. The same writer says that the island was originally called Merope and Acts; its ancient name of Merope is also mentioned by Stephanus B. (s. v.). Siphnos was colonised by Ionians from Athens (Hdt. 8.48), whence it was said to have derived its name from Siphnos, the son of Sunius. (Steph. B. sub voce In consequence of their gold and silver mines, of which remains are still seen, the Siphnians attained great prosperity, and were regarded, in the time of Polycrates (B.C. 520), as the wealthiest of all the islanders. Their treasury at Delphi, in which they deposited the tenth of the produce of their mines (Paus. 10.11.2), was equal in wealth to the treasuries of the most opulent states; and their public buildings were decorated with Parian marble. Their riches, however, exposed them to pillage; and a party of Samian exiles, in the time of Polycrates, invaded the island, and levied a contribution of 100 talents. (Hdt. 3.57, 58.) The Siphnians were among the few islanders in the Aegaean who refused tribute to Xerxes, and they fought with a single ship on the side of the Greeks at Salamis. (Hdt. 8.46, 48.) Under the Athenian supremacy the Siphnians paid an annual tribute of 3600 drachmae. (Franz, Elem. Epigr. Gr. n. 52.) Their mines were afterwards less productive; and Pausanias (l.c.) relates that in consequence of the Siphnians neglecting to send the tenth of their treasure to Delphi, the gods destroyed their mines by an inundation of the sea. In the time of Strabo the Siphnians had become so poor that Σίφνιον ἀστράγαλον became a proverbial expression. (Strab. x. p.448; comp. Eustath. ad Dionys. Per. 525; Hesych. sub voce Σίφνιος ἀρραβών.) The moral character of the Siphnians stood low; and hence to act like a Siphnian (Σιφνιάζειν) was used as a term of reproach. (Steph. B. sub voce Suid.; Hesych.) The Siphnians were celebrated in antiquity, as they are in the present day, for their skill in pottery. Pliny (36.22.159, Sillig) mentions a particular kind of stone, of which drinking cups were made. This, according to Fiedler, was a species of talc. and is probably intended by [p. 2.1011]Stephanus B. when he speaks of Σίφνιον ποτήριον.

Siphnos possessed a city of the same name (Ptol. 3.15.31), and also two other towns, Apollonia and Minoa, mentioned only by Stephanus B. The ancient city occupied the same site as the modern town, called Kastron or Seraglio, which lies upon the eastern side of the island. There are some remains of the ancient walls; and fragments of marble are found, with which, as we have already seen, the public buildings in antiquity were decorated. A range of mountains, about 3000 feet in height, runs across Siphnos from SE. to NW.; and on the high ground between this mountain and the eastern side of the island, about 1000 feet above the sea, lie five neat villages, of which Stavri is the principal. These villages contain from 4000 to 5000 inhabitants; and the town of Kastron about another 1000. The climate is healthy, and many of the inhabitants live to a great age. The island is well cultivated, but does not produce sufficient food for its population, and accordingly many Siphnians are obliged to emigrate, and are found in considerable numbers in Athens, Smyrna, and Constantinople. (Tournefort, Voyage, &c. vol. i. p. 134, seq. transl.; Fiedler, Reise, vol. ii. p. 125, seq.; Ross, Reise auf den Griech. Inseln, vol. i. p. 138, seq.)


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