Theran food and trade
The rural population living outside Akrotiri in a dense scatter of hamlets suggests Plato’s ‘many rich villages of country folk’ (Crit. 118B), though these may instead have been on Crete, since Plato says they were situated on the slopes of mountains of surpassing magnitude and beauty. The south-west of Thera would have been the area most favourable to agriculture. It was the lowest, flattest and easiest to cultivate; the volcanic peaks on the site of the North Bay sheltered it from cold northerly winds; the southerly aspect made it a sun-trap; it would have been amply watered by south-westerlies. Since this part of the island also offered two fine harbours it was destined to become the most dynamic area economically. Favoured for food production, a natural focus for trade and therefore also for settlement, the growth of the city further stimulated food production, so in and round Akrotiri there was an upward spiral of economic activity.1 Plato tells us that on Atlantis ‘[the Plain] faced towards the south and was sheltered from northern blasts’ (Crit. 118A-B), although this seems more likely to apply to the Plain of Mesara on Crete.