Channeling my inner Spartan, I hiked up the steep slopes of the saddle between Mesa Vouno and Mon Profitas Ilias, leading to Ancient Thera. The 1.39 mile uphill trek took a while, with a copious amount of breaks to drink water and to rest. The sun beat down on me with a pressure only intensified by the humidity of the area. I felt extremely accomplished once I reached the top, I was able to look down on a large expanse of land and ocean. This is what the Spartans did every day for water in 700 BC. I was not only amazed by the view, but by the geologic processes that brought this rock that I stood on, that the Spartans stood on, hundreds of feet above the sea.
Back in 8th century BC, the main island of Santorini, called Thera, looked much like it does today; a crescent shape with a few mountains rising up out of the hilly landscape. There are steep cliffs along the inner part of Thera that jut out of the deep blue water within the caldera. The outer edge of Thera is formed by mostly gradual drops in elevation down into the sea broken only by the steep sided Mesa Vouno and Mon Profitas Ilinas. (Figure 1)
Figure 1 (Santorini)
This island became inhabited by Dorian settlers around 700 BC, and was named Thera, after their leader, Theras. Their main settlement was built on Mesa Vouno, the second largest mountain in the area. (Figure 2)
Figure 2 (View of the mountains from the water near Kamari) 
Mesa Vouno towers 369 meters (1210 feet) above the sea below, with cliffs on its northern, eastern and southern sides. It’s southern side is formed by a more gently sloping saddle connecting it to the similar, taller mountain, Mon Profitas Ilinas.
The establishment of a town on the top of this mountain was of stratigic importance, because it was surrounded by step slopes on three sides, defense of the city would have been advantageous, especially against larger forces, because the enemy would be funneled into a small pathway rather than being able to overwhelm the Spartans. That is, if once the enemy makes it up the steep slopes of the saddle they are still able to fight.
The height of the mountain also provides vision miles off shore, and of Thera to the north and south. There is one blind area behind the taller Mon Profitas Ilinas to the west. In order for an enemy to sneak up on the settlement, they would have to climb up the nearby taller mountain, which before a battle, could be disastrous. Thera was built in a very superior position that would have made for brilliant defense, although the transportation of goods up to the city would have been grueling because although the saddle makes travel possible, it is still a very steep and long hike.
Limestones and marbles form the steep slopes of Mesa Vouno. Limestone is formed when calcium carbonate collects in shallow, warm water, and becomes compacted over time. So how did this limestone deposited anywhere from 245 to 65 million years ago rise 369 meters above the sea? The limestone and marble (limestone exposed to heat and pressure) were brought up by normal faulting caused by extension of the earths crust. (See Figure 3)
Figure 3 (Displaying the normal faulting that brought up the metamorphic rock)
This metamorphic rock is extremely strong, allowing the ancient Spartans to build their city high up on the mountain. Without the metamorphic rock and limestone, the Spartan town would have collapsed long ago, perhaps while people lived on it, from the erosion of more easily weathered material.
The saddle, shown in Figure 4 has a base of schist(a metamorphic rock) and an outer layer of ash and pumice from volcanic eruptions. Schist is an easily erodible metamorphic rock, which along with the crumbly ash and pumice, form the saddle, allowing the Spartans to climb to Ancient Thera. This material would have been disastrous to build on, because it is so easily eroded, and would have collapsed under the weight of the buildings.
Figure 4 (Mesa Vouno on the right, Mon Profitos Iliou on the left)
As the Spartans hiked the saddle in the past, many people hike it today, whether it be for amazing views, a good workout, or the feeling of hiking up the mountain in the same way that ancient people did 2,716 years ago. I enjoyed this experience for all of these reasons, most of all experiencing what the Spartans did in ancient times. The geology in this area made this ancient civilization possible, and it allowed the ancient city to be preserved through the centuries, and still allows people to traverse the trails and routes used by the ancient Spartans. Although the trails leading up to Ancient Thera may erode away, the buildings of the Spartans and the ground their town was built on will last centuries more.
 Kamari. (n.d.). Retrieved June 05, 2016, from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamari#/media/File:Kamari_sea_view.jpg
 Archaeology / Ancient Thira. (n.d.). Retrieved June 05, 2016, from https://www.santorini.com/archaeology/ancient_thira.htm