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The Cyclades, from the Greek Κυκλάδες, ("circular," modern Greek Kykl√°des) form an island group south-east of the mainland of Greece. They are a part of the vast number of islands which constitute the Greek archipelago in the Aegean Sea. The name was originally used to indicate those islands that formed a rough circle around the sacred island of Delos.

The Cyclades are comprised of around 220 islands, with the major ones being Amorgos, Anafi, Andros, Antiparos, Delos, Ios, Kea, Kimolos, Kythnos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Pholegandros, Serifos, Sifnos, Sikinos, Siros, Tinos and Santorini (Thira).

Ermoupolis, on Siros, is the chief town and administrative center of the group. The islands are peaks of a submerged mountainous terrain, with the exception of two volcanic islands, Melos and Santorini (Thera). The climate is generally dry and mild, but with the exception of Naxos the soil is not very fertile: agricultural produce includes wine, fruit, wheat, olive oil and tobacco. Cooler temperatures are in higher elevations and mainly do not receive wintry weather. In transportation, the Cyclades is the only prefecture in Greece that is not linked with a state-maintained highway or a highway number. All of its roads in the island complex are secondary or provincial.

The significant Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Cycladic culture is best known for its schematic flat female idols carved out of the islands' pure white marble centuries before the great Middle Bronze Age ("Minoan") culture arose in Crete, to the south: these figures have been looted from burials to satisfy a thriving Cycladic antiquities market since the early 20th century.

A distinctive Neolithic culture amalgamating Anatolian and mainland Greek elements arose in the western Aegean before 4000 BC, based on emmer wheat and wild-type barley, sheep and goats, pigs, and tuna that were apparently speared from small boats (Rutter). Excavated sites include Saliagos and Kephala (on Kea) with signs of copper-working, Each of the small Cycladic islands could support no more than a few thousand people, though Late Cycladic boat models show that fifty oarsmen could be assembled from the scattered communities (Rutter), and when the highly organized palace-culture of Crete arose, the islands faded into insignificance, with the exception of Delos, which retained its archaic reputation as a sanctuary through the period of Classical Greek civilization.

The first archaeological excavations of the 1880s were followed by systematic work by the British School at Athens and by Christos Tsountas, who investigated burial sites on several islands in 1898-99 and coined the term "Cycladic civilization" Interest lagged, then picked up in the mid-20th century, as collectors competed for the modern-looking figures that seemed so similar to sculpture by Jean Arp or Constantin Brancusi. Sites were looted and a brisk trade in forgeries arose, but more accurate archaeology revealed the broad outlines of a farming and seafaring culture that had immigrated from Asia Minor ca 5000 BC. Early Cycladic culture evolved in three phases, between ca 3300 - 2000 BC, when it was increasingly swamped in the rising influence of Minoan Crete. The culture of mainland Greece contemporary with Cycladic culture is termed Helladic.

In recent decades the Cyclades islands have become extremely popular with European and other tourists, and as a result there have been problems with erosion, pollution, and water shortages.


Area codes

22810 - Syros, including Kythnos, Serifos and Syros islands
22820 - Andros
22830 - Tinos
22840 - Paros and Sifnos islands
22850 - Amorgos and Naxos islands
22860 - Folegandros, Ios, Santorini and Sikinos islands
22870 - Kimolos and Milos
22880 - Kea
22890 - Mykonos


Municipality YPES code Seat Postal code Area code ((0)30-)
Amorgos - Amorgos 840 08 22850-2
Andros - Andros 845 00 22820-2
Ano Syros - Ano Syros 841 00 22810-8
Drymalia - Chalkio 843 02 22850
Ermoupoli - Ermoupoli 841 00 22810-2
Exomvourga - Xinara Naxou 842 00 22850-5
Idrousa - Gavrio 845 01 22820-7
Ios - Ios 840 01 22860-9
Kea - Kea 840 02 22880-2
Korthio - Ormos Korthiou 845 02 22820-6
Kythnos - Kythnos 840 06 22810-3
Milos - Milos 848 00 22870-2
Mykonos - Mykonos 846 00 22890-2
Naxos - Naxos 843 00 22850-2
Paros - Paros 844 00 22840-2
Poseidona - Episkopi Posidonias 841 00 22810-4
Serifos - Serifos 840 02 22810-5
Sifnos - Kamares 840 03 22840-3
Thira - Thira 847 00 22860-2
Tinos - Tinos 842 00 22830-2


Community YPES code Seat Postal code Area code ((0)30-)
Anafi - Anafi 840 09 22860-6
Antiparos - Antiparos 840 07 22840-6
Donoussa - Donoussa 843 00 22850-5
Folegandros - Folegandros 840 11 22860
Heraklia - Heraklia 843 00 22870-7
Kimolos - Kimolos 840 04 22870-5
Koufonissa - Koufonissa 843 00 22870-7
Oia - Oia 847 02 22860-7
Panormos - Panormos 842 01 22830-3
Schinoussa - Schinoussa 843 00 22870-7
Sikinos - Sikinos 840 10 22860-5

Further reading

  • J. A. MacGillivray and R. L. N. Barber, editors, The Prehistoric Cyclades (Edinburgh) 1984.
  • R. L. N. Barber, The Cyclades in the Bronze Age (Iowa City) 1987.

External links