History and Legend
Aegina’s history is ancient and complex; the island has frequently been a protagonist in Greek history, both ancient and modern. In legend, Aegina was a daughter of the river-divinity Asopos; she was kidnapped by the enamoured Zeus, brought to the island and had a son, Aiacus or Aiakos, by him. Later Aiacus, as king, changed the name of the island from ‘Oenone’ (the name of a nymph) or ‘Oenopia’ (‘wine-producing’) to Aegina, in honour of his mother. In recognition of his unbending fairness, he was considered to be one of the three judges of the Underworld. Archaeological evidence shows that the island was inhabited from late Neolithic times (4th millennium bc), and was apparently subject to different invasions and colonisations throughout its prehistory: early Helladic invaders of Lycian origin at first, a Bronze Age people of Aeolian descent in the 2nd millennium bc, Achaean settlers in c. 1400 bc beginning a period of Mycenaean occupation, and Dorian invaders, at the end of the 2nd millennium bc, who brought the Thessalian cult of Zeus Hellanios to the island.
Herodotus (Bk. VIII, 46) states that Aegina was re-colonised from Epidauros on the mainland opposite, probably around 950 bc. The infertile soil combined with so strategic a geographical position spurred the inhabitants to maritime enterprise. At the end of the 8th century bc, Aegina enjoyed parity with its fellow members (who were seven of the largest cities in Greece) in the prestigious Calaurian League, centred at the nearby sanctuary of Calauria on Poros. By the 7th century bc, the Aeginetan navy held first place in the Hellenic world, plying trade from the Black Sea to Egypt, where the island participated in the founding (c. 630 bc) of the important Greek trading station of Naucratis in the Nile delta (Herodotus II, 178). According to Strabo (VIII, 6. 16) Aeginetans are said to have colonised Umbria in Italy, an assertion given some credibility by a 6th century bc dedication found at Gravisca in Etruria (the port of today’s Tarquinia) by Aegina’s wealthiest and most famous merchant, Sostratos. Thucydides (V, 53) describes the harbour of Aegina as being crowded with merchant ships. The island was noted for pottery and especially for the quality of its bronze-founing. It was probably the first city in Greece to mint its own coins in the mid 6th century: they were in silver, with the image of a turtle on the obverse.
The Persian invasions of Greece put the island in a difficult position because of the importance to it of its commercial relations with Asia Minor. But at the Battle of Salamis in 480 bc, where the Aeginetans were acknowledged to have fought the best of all the Greeks (Herodotus VIII, 93), they atoned for their ambiguity during the First Persian War: the battle marked the zenith of their power. Aegina’s wealth and naval strength had long excited the jealousy of Athens, whose own port of Piraeus was marked by the island’s blocking presence. Hostilities between the two, and a simmering naval war that had dragged on for nearly 50 years, ended with the forcible incorporation of Aegina into the Athenian Empire (paying a high 30 talent annual tribute) in 458/7 bc (Thucydides I, 108). Pindar (who may have been befriended by the aristocracy of the island) reproaches and warns Athens for her harsh treatment of Aegina in his Eighth Pythian ode; but Athens was to go further, and in 431 bc she expelled the Aeginetan rich and ruling classes from their island and settled it with Athenians—effectively terminating the island’s independent history. It passed with the rest of Greece to Macedon and afterwards to Attalos of Pergamon. In 133 bc it was bequeathed to Rome in the will of Attalos III. By 45 bc it was referred to as desolate and abandoned by Cicero (Epistolae ad familiares IV, 5).
Aegina was a joint bishopric with Keos (Kea) in Byzantine times. Paul of Aegina, celebrated for a treatise of medicine and surgery, was born on the island in the 7th century ad. Saracen raids in the 9th century forced the inhabitants to abandon Kolona and establish a new island capital inland at today’s Palaiochora. After 1204 the island was a personal fief of Venetian and Catalan (Fadrique and de Caopena) families, until it passed to the republic of Venice in 1451. It was captured and devastated by Khaireddin Barbarossa in 1537. The island was repopulated with Albanians. Again pillaged and recaptured for Venice by Morosini in 1654, it became one of the last Venetian strongholds in the east, being ceded to the Turks only in 1718. In 1826 the city of Aegina was the de facto seat of government of a partly liberated Greece, under the guidance of Ioannis Capodistrias; and between 1828 and 1829 (when the government moved subsequently to Nafplion) it was briefly recognised as the capital. It seemed as though history were repeating itself when the first modern Greek coins were minted on Aegina.”
Aegina Island is part of the Argosaronic Island group
Aegina – History and Legend