Long before mere mortals inhabited ancient Greece, there was a great struggle for power between the Titans and their descendants, the Olympian gods. Upon their glorious victory, the three Olympian brothers—Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades—split the realms of the universe between them, as the Titans were imprisoned in Tartarus. But Gaia, the great goddess of Earth and mother of the Titans, was incensed by the defeat of her children and called on their siblings, the Giants, to rise up in revolt.
According to ancient Greek myth, there once was a great city on the edge of the Aegean Sea—a city in desperate need of a patron god. The people’s prayers made it all the way to Mt. Olympus, leading both Poseidon and Athena to appear before the city and ask for its favor. So the king, a half-man, half-serpent named Cecrops, declared a competition. The god who gave the city the greatest gift would become its patron.
As we sat at the water’s edge in Mykonos, crisping in the sun and waiting for our lunch to arrive, our waiter asked the inevitable question. “So, where else in Greece will you be traveling?” It was Katherine’s turn to answer. “We’ve already been to Athens and Santorini, and from here we go to Folegandros for a few days.” “Folegandros?” the waiter asked, outwardly amused. “I’ve never been there, but it’s …” He let out a small laugh. “… extreme.”
Sometime around 1600 B.C., the southern Aegean Sea was the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history. As ancient Thera ejected nearly 24 cubic miles of ash and debris, the sea flooded into the caldera of the collapsed island volcano, forming a great bay more than 1,300 feet deep. But towering above the water’s surface, portions of the volcanic rim remained—including a small crescent of rock that would become one of the most beloved islands in Greece.
In 324 A.D., mere months after becoming the sole ruler of the eastern and western Roman Empire, Constantine I began making plans for a new imperial residence on the Bosphorus Strait. Within six years, Constantine’s New Rome—or Constantinople—would become the capital of the eastern Roman Empire. And this flourishing epicenter of culture and Christianity would serve as one of the emperor’s most lasting accomplishments.