Simi (Greek: Σύμη; also
transliterated Syme or Symi) is a small but historic
Greek island. Geographically, it is part of the
Dodecanese island chain, located about 41 km from
Rhodes (and 425 km from Piraeus, the port of
Athens), with 57 kmē of mountainous terrain. Its
interior is dotted with small valleys, and its
coastline alternates between rocky cliffs and sandy
coves. Its main town, located on the northeast
coast, is also named Simi, and the island has around
2,500 inhabitants, mostly engaged in fishing, trade,
and tourism. In addition to its many historical
sites, the island's isolated beaches—many reachable
only with small boats—are popular with tourists.
In Greek mythology, Simi is reputed to be the
birthplace of the Three Graces, and it takes its
name from Poseidon's wife, the nymph Syme (in
antiquity the island was known as Aigli and
In Homer's Iliad the island is
mentioned as the domain of King Nireus, who fought
in the Trojan War on the side of the Greeks.
Thucydides writes that during the Peloponnesian War
there was a Battle of Syme near the island in
January, 411 BC, in which an unspecified number of
Spartan ships defeated a squadron of Athenian
Little is known of the island until the 14th
century, but archaeological evidence indicates it
was continuously inhabited, and ruins of citadels
suggest it was an important location. It was first
part of the Roman Empire and then the Byzantine
Empire, until its conquest by the Knights of St.
John in 1373.
This conquest, fuelled by the Knights' interest in
shipping and commerce, launched what was to be a
period of several centuries of prosperity for Simi,
as its location amidst the Dodecanese made it an
important waypoint for trade until the advent of
steam-powered shipping in the 19th century. The
island was conquered from the Knights by the Ottoman
Empire in 1522 (along with nearby Rhodes) but it was
allowed to retain many of its privileges, so its
prosperity continued virtually uninterrupted. It
attained the height of its prosperity in the mid
19th century, and many of the peculiarly colorful
neoclassical mansions covering the slopes near the
main city date from that period.
The island, along with the rest of the Dodecanese,
changed hands several times in the 20th century: in
1912 it was occupied by Italy, formally ceded to
Italy in 1923, and finally rejoined with Greece in
1948 (see Dodecanese for details).
The Monastery of the Archangel
Michael Panormitis is a Greek Orthodox monastery
built on the southwest coast in the early 18th
century. It overlooks a bay, and is still inhabited
The "Knight's Castle" overlooks
the main town of Simi. It was built by the Knights
of St. John as an expansion of a Byzantine castle on
the same site, many parts of which are still
visible. There are also remnants of an ancient
citadel on which the two later castles were built.
There are two monuments at the main port that date
back to the Classical era.
The town of Simi alone has thirteen major churches
and dozens of chapels, some dating back to the
The northern port of Emborios
(also called Nimborio) has surviving ancient
Pelasgian walls and a set of twelve domes remaining
from workshops used by artists.
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