The harbour of ancient Aigeira

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The ancient town of Aigeira is situated on the hill of Palaeokastro along the north coast of Peloponnesos. The harbour of the Roman town is situated in the cove of Mavra Litharia, at the foot of Palaeokastro and protected the ships against eastern and northeastern winds. The area is one of the few known that possesses the natural characteristics for the formation of a harbour (for the most part the coast is sandy and linear with few rocky areas that advance into the sea and belongs to a tectonically active area).

The harbour of ancient Aigeira is situated at the foot of the steep hill of Palaeokastro; its remains stretch for an area of approximately 100m along the coast and are better preserved in the eastern section. The installations, segments of breakwater and mole, are located today on land. The coastline of the time of the harbour’s construction is now to be found at a height of round 4m above the present sea level


Historical Development

Homer refers to the town with the name Hypersie. It is mentioned along with other Peloponnesian cities as forming part of Agamemnon’s kingdom, under whom the town took part in the Trojan war. Later on the name of the town changed to Aigeira (Pausanias VII, 26: 2-4). Aigeira flourished during the Hellenistic period and is one of the cities that played an important role both in the old and new Achaean League (Papachatzis 1980, 160). Important architectural remains that are preserved on the hill attest to its prosperity in Roman times as well. Some time during the late 3rd century the town was destroyed most probably by an earthquake and was thus abandoned.

The ruins of the ancient town were identified by several travelers of the 19th century (Curtius, 1851). In the site of ancient Aigeira are preserved segments of the fortification wall, a Hellenistic theatre, which was restored in Roman times, remains of a temple dedicated probably to Zeus and Artemis, as well as numerous graves that date to the Hellenistic, Roman and Mycenaean periods.


Selected Written Sources

The harbour of ancient Aigeira is mentioned by Pausanias (VII, 26: 1-9) and Polybius (IV, 57).

Selected Written Sources


Excavations in the town of ancient Aigeira have been carried out by the Austrian Archaeological Institute (1916, 1925 and 1971-1989). Leake was the first to identify the remains of the ancient harbour (1836: 396-387), but apart from isolated references it has never as yet formed object of systematic archaeological research. However due to the great interest that the area presents from a geological point of view, because of the great uplift of the coastline it has been studied by geologists and other scientists.



The topography of the ancient harbour of Aigeira has unfortunately been to a large extent altered due to geological factors, namely uplift and corrosion of the coastline, but mainly because of the extensive construction works along the coast. Because of the great uplift of the coastline it became possible to study and interpret the stratification of the harbour and to make some observations regarding its construction. Remnants of two breakwaters, or of a breakwater and a mole, are preserved on site, which stretch towards the north. Based on the prevailing winds of the area (NE and mainly NW) it is surmised that the mole-breakwaters were constructed running a. NW and b. NE. The entrance to the harbour should be placed in the area between the breakwater that runs NE and the rock that delineates and protects the harbour from the West.

The constructions are founded on the natural sandy seabed. The underwater part of the harbour was formed by a mixture of hydraulic concrete with rubble and stones from the area held in place by wooden containers after the well-known technique of the caissons. Above the sea surface level it consisted of large hewn blocks placed along the outer side as well as transversally at intervals. The interior part was filled with concrete (opus cimentitium).



The harbour of ancient Aigeira forms a typical example of a roman harbour as regards its construction technique and the extensive use of concrete. The port was dated with greater precision based on the results of the land excavations in the area of the ancient town. The construction of this rather expensive public work is dated round the period of the town’s floruit namely in the period of the reign of emperor Maximus Thrax (236-238 AD). Moreover on the basis of the research made in the area of the ancient theatre it was deduced that this was abandoned round 250 AD, a time when the restoration works are interrupted, never to be resumed after that. The desertion of the city along with the abandonment of the harbour was attributed based on geological studies to a big and destructive earthquake round the end of the 3rd century AD, from which the city most probably never recovered.

Any conclusion reached as yet for the topography and the construction of the ancient harbour is based on observations made on its visible remains. The fact that no excavation work has been carried out hinders significantly our understanding and any attempt to reconstruct the ancient site and the overall plan of the harbour. However, it still remains an important archaeological site, as it is one of the few roman harbours preserved in Greece and perhaps the only that is located in its entirety on dry land. Moreover it offers a very good case study for the impact that dramatic geological events can have on the topography and the history of an area.



Θεοδουλου, Θ. / Theodoulou. Th.



Alzinger, W. και Μητσοπούλου- Λεόν, ’., 1973

”Αιγείρα 1972”, Αρχαιολογικά Ανάλεκτα εξ Αθηνών, 6, 193-200.

(Alzinger, W. & Mitsopoulou-Leon, B., 1973, "Aigeira 1972", Archeologika Analekta ex Athenon, 6, 193-200.)

Alzinger, W., 1974

”Ανασκαφαί Αιγείρας”, Αρχαιολογικά Ανάλεκτα εξ Αθηνών, 7, 157-162.

(Alzinger, W., 1974, "Anaskafai Aigeiras", Archeologika Analekta ex Athenon, 7, 157-162.)

Alzinger, W., 1976,

”Αιγείρα”, Αρχαιολογικά Ανάλεκτα εξ Αθηνών, 9, 162-165.

(1976, "Aigeira", Archeologika Analekta ex Athenon, 9, 162-165.)

Gogos, 1992

"Das Theater von Aigeira. Ein Beitrag zum antiken Theaterbau", Sondeschriften des Österreichischen Archäologisches Institut in Wien, Band 21.

Leake, W.M., 1836

Travels in Morea, 3, London.

Papageorgiou, S., Arnold, M., Laborel, J. and Stiros, S., 1993

"Seismic uplift of the harbour of ancient Aigeira, Central Greece", International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 22.3, pp. 275-281.

Παπαχατζής, Ν., 1980

Παυσανίου Ελλάδος Περιήγησης, 4, Αθήνα, Εκδοτική Αθηνών.

(Papachatzis, N., 1980, Pausanias’ description of Greece, 4. Ekdotike Athenon. Athens.)

Verdelis, N., 1958

"Chronique des fouilles en 1957", Bulletin de Correspondance Hellenique, 726.

Walter, O., 1919

"Eine archäologische Voruntersuchung in Aigeira", Jahreshefte des Österreichischen Instituts in Wien, Beiblatt, 6-42.



Μίχα Παρασκευή / Micha Paraskevi


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