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The memorable profile of the island with its conical peak at Mount Oros to the south, becomes familiar long before you ever visit Aegina: it is visible from the Acropolis of Athens, from Piraeus, from the road to Corinth, and from virtually any side by land, air or sea, as you leave or arrive in Athens. That was Aegina’s problem: it was too near to Athens. And its early commercial strength, marine power and economic wealth—in some respects, greater than that of Athens in the 6th century bc—had to be eliminated if Athens were to grow as she wished to do. The island was, in Pericles’s memorable phrase, ‘the eyesore of the Piraeus’. Already by the middle of the 5th century bc Aegina had been reduced by Athens to a clerurchy with no independence and only the faint memory of its past pre eminence. In modernity—as if by an irony of destiny— Aegina once again preceded Athens as the capital city of a partially liberated Greece in 1826, minting the first coins of modern Greece, just as it may have been the first to mint silver coins in Ancient Greece in the 6th century bc.
That a place as lovely as Aegina should be so close to Athens (a little over 20km as the crow flies) comes as a surprise. And there is much on the island to detain the visitor. Its archaeological remains—the well-preserved Temple of Aphaia and the ancient site of Kolona—are amongst the most interesting and important in the Aegean; there are also impressive later remains of a sanctuary of Zeus below Mount Oros. Deliberately hidden from the unwanted attentions of piracy in the centre of the island is the deserted site of Palaiochora, which was the capital of the island during the Byzantine period; its many scattered churches with painted interiors constitute a treasure house of Byzantine painting. Equally hidden— this time in the outskirts of the main town—is the tiny painted church of the Aghii Theodori. Even the town centre of Aegina itself is lively and interesting, and has some elegant streets with neoclassical houses.
The cultivated landscape of the island is also quite particular—characterised by the many groves of pistachio trees for which the island is famous: in the valley of Kondos where they combine with olive trees and with dense pines above, the effect is of great beauty. A more rugged beauty is offered by the climb to the summit of Mount Oros (531 m) which provides the best all-round panorama anywhere of the Saronic Gulf and the mountainous coasts of Attica and of the Peloponnese. Aegina may be small, but it is full of variety. Communications are quick and easy between the island and Piraeus and Athens: the contrast with them could not be greater.
Aegina Island is part of the Argosaronic Island group