Cyclades (Gr. a circle), a group of nearly 60 small islands in the Grecian archipelago or Aegean sea, N. of Candia. With the exception of one island, Stampalia, which is under Turkish rule, they belong to Greece, and constitute one of the 13 nomarchies into which the kingdom is divided; area, 926 sq. m.; pop. in 1870, 123,299. It is. divided into seven eparchies. The ancient Greeks gave this name to these islands in the belief that they formed a circle around the holy island of De-los, while all the other islauds within the same sea were called Sporades, from their being scattered in every direction. In fact, these islands form three distinct, nearly straight and parallel lines running from N. W. to S. E., of which the first, comprising Zea (anc. Ceos), Thermia (Cythnus), Serpho (Seriphus), Siphan-to (Siphnus), and Polycandro (Pholegandros), seem to have formed in antediluvian times one mountain chain, connected with the mountains of Attica on the north, and by the island of Milo with the western mountains of Candia on the south; the second, comprising Andro (Andros), Tino (Tenos), Mycono (Myconus), Naxia (Naxos), Amorgo (Amorgos), and Stampalia (Astypalsea), another mountain chain connected with that of Euboea and the S. W. promontory of Asia Minor; the third, lying between the first and second, and comprising Giura (Gyarus), Syra (Syros), Paro (Paros), Antiparo (Antiparos), Nio (Ios), and Santorin (Thera), may have had a connection with the E. end of Candia. Santorin is still a very remarkable volcanic island.
Paro and Antiparo are renowned for their stalactite caves. These islands, once subject to Athens, and the basis of its maritime power, were among the first to shake off the Turkish yoke. Several of them have a fertile soil, producing barley, olive oil, and wine, while others are nearly sterile, yielding principally sulphur and alum. Silk is raised in the islands of Andro and Tino. Many of the inhabitants follow the sea. Syra, or Hermopolis, the capital (pop. 21,000), is a great emporium of the Levantine and Mediterranean trade.