Anafi (Greek: Ανάφη) is a Greek island community in the Cyclades. It lies east of the island of Thíra (Santorini). Anafi is part of the Thira regional unit.
According to mythology, the island was given the name Anafi because Apollo made it appear to the Argonauts as a shelter from a bad storm, using his bow to shed light upon it (i.e. the island name Ἀνάφη is derived from ἀνέφηνεν, “he made appear”). If the name of the island derives from this word, and means “revelation”, then Anafi is linked to Delos, an island whose name also derives from an ancient Greek word meaning “to reveal”. Others say that the name is due to the non-existence of snakes on the island: “an Ophis” (“without snakes”). Despite its small size, Anafi offers archaeological as well as mythological interest. At the monastery of Panagia Kalamiotisa there are ruins of a temple built as an offering to the god Apollo Aegletus. Some of the inscriptions from the island (Inscriptiones Graecae XII, 248 line 8) refer to the god Apollo as “asgelatos” ασγελατος, a unique usage, said by some scholars to be a variant of Aigletes, radiant.
In Roman times the island was used as a place of exile, and after 1204 when the Cyclades were taken over by Venetians, Anafi was granted by Marco Sanudo to Leonardo Foscolo. In 1307 the island was recovered from pirates by the Gozzadini, a Bolognese family settled in Greece. Much later the ruler of Anafi, William Crispo (1390-1463), became regent of the Duchy of the Archipelago, leaving Anafi under the control of his daughter Florence. William is said to have built the fortifications (kastro) above the present village. He is also claimed to have built a fortress, sometimes referred to as “Gibitroli”, on Mount Kalamos.
Under Turkish rule in the 16th and 17th centuries, Anafi was plagued by pirates and had difficulty in paying its taxes. The island was visited in 1700 by Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, botanist to the French court. He describes Mount Kalamos as “une des plus effroyables roches qui soit au monde”. Some of the ancient remains from the island were acquired by French and British antiquaries; one Hellenistic statue from Kastelli (of a woman holding an incense cup) can be found in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.
During the Greek War of Independence the Anafiots sent “two caiques of men” to join the struggle. Many men left the island to help in the building of Athens as capital city of Greece, and from then on there was both seasonal and permanent migration, and a migrant community grew up in the city (now with its own Migrants Association). They built houses for themselves on the slopes of the Acropolis rock, in an area still known as Anafiotika (see Caftanzoglou 2000). James Theodore Bent visited the island with his wife in the winter of 1880-81 and gives a vivid description of the island.
Mythology connects Anafi with the return of Argonaftes from Kolchida. Trying avoid the sudden dark and the intense bad weather in Cretan sea, Argonaytes resorted to Apollo, asking his help.
The great God corresponded throwing a intense beam of light, that revealed the nearest island, in which they hurried to disembark. Because of their salvation of appearance of this island, Argonaytes named the island Anafi.