To the north of the centre
The low promontory just to the north of the town is occupied by the archaeological remains of more than five millennia of continuous habitation on the site now referred to as *‘Kolona’. By the early Bronze Age the settlement here had already grown to be an important centre in prehistoric Greece, and its well-preserved walls and habitations of the 3rd and 2nd millennia bc are amongst the most significant in the Aegean. At the other end of the time line, there are substantial Roman remains and evidence of Byzantine habitation following on thereafter. Excavation began in the late 19th century and continues today, mostly executed by German, Austrian and Greek archaeologists. The site is complex and dense, but a visit first to the museum beside the entrance helps to un-pick and make comprehensible the succession of strata on the site. (Open 8.30–3, closed Mon.)
In the first two rooms there are a number of useful reconstructions which give a con text to the smaller, fictile objects—in particular the model of the remarkable two-storey ‘White House’, so-called from the white plaster of its walls: it may well have been inhabited by someone of considerable power and wealth within the community. It dates from c. 2200 bc, but would not look out of place in a Cycladic town today. There are further explanatory models of the development of the fortifications through the 3rd and 2nd millennia, which compare interestingly with those uncovered at Palamari on Skyros. Around the walls in these rooms are the excavated artefacts, beginning with the very early Chalcolithic pieces (c. 3000 bc), including stylised human figurines in a dark red burnished clay; these are similar to others found across an area stretching from the eastern Peloponnese, through Attica, to Euboea in the east. As the first use of the potter’s wheel at the end of the 3rd millennium bc greatly enlarges the possibilities of shape, a variety of design is now found whose clarity and confidence is remarkable: designs which imitate basket-work, abstract forms, and concise images of ships, which are revealing of the vigorous maritime commerce and naval power of the island at the time—all dating from before 1800 bc. Many of these show a clear exchange of goods and ideas with Minoan Crete and the Cyclades; indeed some may be the pro duction of workshops supervised by Cretan settlers, such as the massive storage vase with perforated handle. Note also the low broad jug with a clear narrative scene showing Odysseus, skillfully depicted clinging to the underbelly of a ram while escaping from the cave of Polyphemus.
The long gallery (Room 5) takes the collection into the historical period. In the show case beside the door, the tiny fragment from the back of the head of an early Kouros, shows the vigorous and un-mechanical working of the stylised hair. The case also contains a stone mould for the serial production of the aryballos (a small water container). The centrepiece of the gallery is the lean and alert sphinx, a piece of the mid-5th century bc, whose haunches and tail are reminiscent of archaic design, but whose head with ineuncombed hair is notably more Classical in conception. A number of architectural elements, including a finely carved metope, line the walls; some of them preserve vestiges of colour. The final room (no. 6) has small fragments from the pedimental sculptures of the Temple of Aphaia—the greater parts of which are in the Glyptothek in Munich.
The courtyard displays grave reliefs from the large cemetery on the island of Rheneia, opposite Delos . Outside the museum, along the exterior of its east wall, are shelves of fragments and elements from the site, which are not on display in the museum. There are some fine capitals and architectural elements amongst them, and a notable irregularly shaped altar-top in dark stone with running inscription around its border. Between the museum and the exit is a large fragmentary floor mosaic of abstract design, from the ancient synagogue of Aegina, dating from the early 4th century ad and showing how—as on Delos —a substantial Jewish community had established itself on Aegina on the strength of the commercial importance which the island still must have possessed at that time. The inscription at its foot commemorates the building and furnishing of the synagogue, with funds provided by the community, during the stewardship of a certain Theodoros and, later, of his son. The synagogue lay inland to the east of the ancient military port.
As you stand in front of the first rise of the site, a basic distinction in building materials is immediately present to view, with the fine (occasionally plastered) archaic construction just above ground level and with the massive rectangular blocks of Classical and Hellenistic work on top of the field of vision; in between is the hastier in-filling with the smaller round stones of re-used prehistoric material. Climbing up, you pass a large, broken storage vase of the classical period in situ, and (to the left) vestiges of a clay lined water-tank and drainage-pipe.
Emerging at the top, the prehistoric structures, which have followed the rise of the hill, are now revealed to the right (east). The forms of well-heads, mill-stones, doorways, and ovens (under a lean-to roof) are visible, with the occasional parts of Archaic and Classical structures, at a higher level, above them. The site has good explanatory displays which are necessary for making sense of a complex superimposition of many layers—10 different levels in the prehistoric settlement alone, going back to the first human evidence of the 5th millennium bc. By about 2500 bc we find substantial dwellings whose external flights of steps suggests they possessed a second floor; by 2200 bc, there emerge the first clear fortifications. At this point development was interrupted by a conflagration in c. 2050 bc; but the town soon rose again with greater strength and renewed commercial activity indicated by the presence of Minoan and Cycladic pottery; the fortifications were extended towards the east. The burial place of a hero-warrior dating from the 17th century bc lies about 20m to the south east: when excavated it was found to contain finely crafted weapons, a helmet and gold diadem. Then, in common with all the Mycenaean sites on the main land, there is a clear break in habitation in 1200 bc.
Behind, to the west, are the remains of the Classical Temple of Apollo, which stood on a high platform and dominated the skyline. This is the third such temple on the site, and dates from c. 510 bc: the first was erected in around 600 bc, and the second, which appears to have been destroyed by fire, was built a half-century later. The last temple, to whose opisthodomos (the rear chamber behind the naos) the one standing column belonged, was a conventional Doric temple, facing east, with 6 x 11 monolithic columns in its peristyle. The path crosses the stone platform which surrounded the temple’s high podium: the platform is carefully crafted, with a fine upper edge to the stone and an irregular rustication of the vertical face. It is interesting that there is no overall organised plan of the exact size of the blocks: the construction appears to proceed by rule of thumb. A section of the temenos wall of the sanctuary is conserved just to the north; and the temple’s large altar can be seen some distance to the east.
From the northeast corner of the temple-platform can been seen the superimposition of fortifications of different epochs. In the vertical wall facing, the rougher stone work of the prehistoric (middle Bronze Age) walls below is surmounted by later Hellenistic fortifications in regular blocks—themselves re-used pieces from Archaic construction, some of which have the letters of inscriptions in their surface. To the left, the late Antique rectangular tower is built over a bastion of the prehistoric walls. But the imposing magnitude of the fortifications can only be appreciated by descending from the north side of the temple and going outside the walls. Towards the eastern end, it is possible to see three periods together: the irregular stones of the pre historic walls set back behind the clean lines of the Archaic fortifications added in front, with Roman additions stand even further out from the city. The view of the ramparts from here is impressive and gives a clear sense of the compact unity which a settlement of this period presented to the outside world.
To the west of the temple of Apollo, the city extends in a tight-knit web of prehistoric houses. Only the bases of two or three later Hellenistic constructions are clearly visible above them: these date from the period of Pergamon’s pos session of Aegina, and one may represent the remains of a monument to the Attalid dynasty.
The coast road beyond Kolona continues due north, passing a number of large villas with gardens—the four-square form of the Zaimis Tower and the more tradition al Venizelos House in a secluded garden of dense palms. At the point of Cape Plakakia, with its historic lighthouse built in 1881, the road begins to run east and after 1km passes, on the left, a large bronze statue of a barefooted slightly stooped woman in traditional dress: this is a work entitled My Mother—one of a series of sensitive studies of his mother, by the artist, Christos Kapralos. Opposite, across the road, is the Kapralos Museum. (Open June–Oct, daily except Mon 10–2, 6–8; Nov–May Fri, Sat, Sun 10–2)
The small collection here presents an overview of the work of Kapralos, both as sculptor and painter. He worked during the summers of the last 30 years of his life in this house, from 1963 until his death in 1993. There is considerable variety of styles and mediums in his work. The free-standing sculptures on show here are mostly in a polished eucalyptus wood, and are much influenced by early Cycladic sculpture forms, although the artist’s priority was to allow the natural shape and patterns of the wood itself to suggest and direct the creation. The pieces are often characterised by dramatic pose and tension. His narrative works owe more to Classical influences: the last room in the museum exhibits a cast of Kapralos’s epic work, completed in 1956, celebrating the Battle of Pindus. It is a long continuous frieze in low-relief—somewhat static in conception—which tells the story of Greece’s history since independence, the original of which, in local poros stone, is now displayed in one of the halls of the Parliament building in Athens. The artist’s paintings, predominantly of nude figures, which are on exhibition here clearly show how his natural medium of expression was through the volumes and tactile appeal of sculpture. In 1962, Kapralos represented Greece at the Venice Biennale.
Two hundred metres further east along the coast road, on the point of the peninsula, is a low, somewhat severe building where Nikos Kazantzakis wrote The Life and Times of Alexis Zorba.
The next, small promontory to the east, after a further 300m, is a flat apron of land jutting into the bay towards the north. It is the site of an ancient quarry of poros stone stone, which had easy access for shipping by barge. At the sea front, the cuts in the bed-rock are shallow but clear, reminiscent of Pouria in Skyros: further south however (i.e. closer to the road), the deeper cuts are not those of a quarry but the rectangular loculi of an ancient necropolis. It would seem that the quarry came first and, at a later date—perhaps as late as the 1st century ad—it was adapt ed to become a burial ground.”
Aegina Island is part of the Argosaronic Island group
Aegina town – The museum
Churches of Palaiochora