+ Cycladia Travel Guides | History

Serifos History

Serifos has always been known for its natural resources. Due to the large production of metals and the organized foundries, the island was the manufacturer of the swords Alexander the Great was using in his campaign. Remnants of these foundries still exist in the village of Avessalos.

The peculiar topogeography of the island and Hora’s location on top of the hill created a defense barrier against the Turkish attacks. Fortification was complemented with 6 heavy gates -loggias- that had embrasures all around. After the 1800s Serifos was incorporated in the Greek State and the habitants started immigrating in Egypt and other provinces of the Ottoman Empire. In 1941 the island was under the Italian Administration and in 1943 under the German one, until its liberation in 1944. 

Serifos’ history, however, is mainly connected with its mines and the famous 1916 workers’ strike. The island got its first official mineral extraction license in 1867 and in 1884 the renowned French company “Spiliaeza” assigned to the German Mineralogist Emil Groman the management of the island’s mines. The Gromans took control of the entire island and carried out extensive infrastructure works for extracting and loading ore on ships, which was then exported to the US, England, Sweden and Belgium. Due to this vast development, workers from Mykonos, Paros, Karpathos, Evia, Amorgos and other islands migrated to Serifos in order to work in the mines. In 1912, approximately half of the population was mine-workers.

August 21st 1916 was a red letter day, not just for Serifos, but also for Greece. The miners went on a mass strike, complaining about the working conditions and the lack of safety in the mines. It was also the first time ever workers were demanding the establishment of the 40 hour workweek. During the strike, there were violent incidents between the workers and the police, which resulted in the death of 4 workers and 2 police officers in the location of Megalo Livadi. After the end of the strike, the 40 hour workweek pact was officially agreed and signed in the Commanding Post, a neoclassical building of stunning architecture.  

When WW2 was over, the Gromans were ousted from Serifos after being accused of cooperating with the Germans. In 1951 the company ceased all activities and the mines were shut down in 1965. The mine-workers could no longer find work and left the island. Remnants of these days still exist, reminding us of Serifos’ long history. The loading ramps in Koutalas and Megalo Livadi, the Commanding Post in Megalo Livadi, the miners’ residences and the rest of the works with the equipment preserved (machinery, several objects) were declared as national heritage by the Ministry of Culture.

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