Peiraieus

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Take a walk by the sea!
Ship-sheds

Tomb of Themistokles

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Description

At the beginning of the 5th century BC, Themistokles wanted to transform Athens into a major seapower. The installations in Phaleron Bay were not sufficient for this purpose. Therefore, Themistokles decided to build a new harbor from nothing at Peiraieus. Important works were required since the area was previously filled with marshes. The initial fortifications were completed by 476 BC.

Kimon and Perikles continued his work by linking the harbour to Athens with the Long Walls and by constructing the town of Peiraieus itself. The town was designed by Hippodamos of Miletus and adopted a very rational plan with a large central agora surrounded by a rectangular grid of streets. Initially, the Peiraieus counted an agora, an emporion of five stoas, a warehouse to store wheat, a theater and the sanctuary of Zeus Soter and Athena Soteria housing a Doric temple dedicated to these gods. It had three well protected harbours: Kantharos, Zea and Munykhia. Zea was the main naval harbour and Munikhia had a similar role while the harbour of Kantharos, the largest one, was devoted to commerce. Walls and towers narrowed and protected the entrance to each harbour.

The Peiraieus had a double vocations commercial and military. As a naval base, it housed some 372 triremes in ship-sheds. As a commercial harbour, it was so important that half the Athenian magistrates in charge of the market police, the weights and measures, and grain commissioning were assigned to Peiraieus.

Several ferries departed from the harbour of Kantharos. The harbour was also lined with the five stoas previously mentioned. A market place known as the deigma stood among these stoas were merchants and bankers offered their goods and services. Even though Kantharos was mostly a commercial harbour, it housed ship sheds for 94 triremes. The tomb of Themistokles, marked by an unfluted column, stood at the entrance of this harbour.

Zea, being the main naval harbour, had enough ship sheds to house 196 triremes. It stood near the Agora of Peiraieus. A quite unusual lawcourt, known as the "Court in Phreatto", was located to the south of this harbour. It was used to judge exiled citizens who had to plead from a boat...

The harbour of Munykhia was the smallest one. However, it housed ship sheds for 82 triremes. The aforementioned theatre stood near this harbour.

Later Features

The temple of Aphrodite Euploia, maritime goddes of Knidos, was erected in 394 BC by Konon after his naval victory over the Peloponnesians at Knidos.

Most of the walls of Peiraieus had been destroyed by the Spartans in 404/403 BC after the surrender of Athens. They were rebuilt by Konon between 394 and 391 BC.

The skeuotheke (arsenal) was built by Philon at the time of Lykurgos, around 346 BC.

References

Camp, John M.; The Archaeology of Athens, Yale University Press, 2001, pp. 6, 294-298

Connolly, Peter and Hazel Dodge; The Ancient City - Life in Classical Athens & Rome, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998

Flacelière, Robert, La vie quotidienne en Grèce au siècle de Périclès, Hachette, 1959

Martin, Jacques; Les voyages d'Alix - Athènes, Casterman, 2001

To do

  1. Find out if the sanctuary of Artemis Munykhia already stood on a hill to the southwest of the harbour of Munykhia.
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