The elegant town of Poros is an architectural unity of prevailingly neoclassical style: the buildings cascade attractively down a steep hillside overlooking the channel, punctuated at the summit in the centre by the clock-tower of 1927. The buildings are cut and terraced into the native, trachitic rock—a stone of volcanic origin, whose col our varies from grey, to a deep maroon with something of the appearance of porphyry. The older houses are built in un-plastered stone, with a severe simplicity similar to the mansions of Hydra: the early 19th century Deimezis mansion set on a castellated parapet overlooking the waterfront from on top of a scarp of rock is a good example. With the accession of King Otto in 1832, a more explicitly classicising style became popular, and it is from the second half of the 19th century that the Syngrou school building (opposite the Galatas ferry quay)—thought to be based on a design by Ernst Ziller, a German architect who worked extensively also in Athens and in Syros— and many of the houses along the promenade, all date. Though similar in concept to one another, these houses vary considerably in their details—the often complex wrought-iron balcony closures and the carved marble volutes supporting them, the variety of acroteria and deco rated cornices, and the balustrades above the attic with variously shaped and moulded terracotta supports.
The town was founded in the 17th century by Orthodox Albanian refugees, moving out from the Peloponnese. The first area to be colonised was the plateau above and behind the waterfront, from which it is reached by steep flights of steps. Today it is an attractive network of narrow streets dominated by the island’s principal church of Aghios Giorgios. The church may well occupy the site of the ancient temple of Athena Apaturia, whose cult here and at Troezen on the mainland opposite was particularly associated with the enrolment of youths into phratries (quasi hereditary clans or fraternities). In the square behind the church is the large communal water-fountain and cistern, constructed in 1880 from local stone, furnished with marble spouts (now blocked). There are a number of interesting buildings in the area, most notably the custom-built neoclassical shop on the south side of the square, which is remarkably well-preserved both inside and out. The majority of the churches of Poros have been built in the last 200 years, and often fully decorated inside in the same period: one of the few that predates this period is the plain, 17th century chapel of Aghios Ioannis Prodromos at the summit of the town, 100m east of the clock tower.
The long, curving waterfront is punctuated with small squares: the Town Hall Square still preserves its marble water-fountain, whose design is inspired by the choregic monument of Lysicrates below the acropolis in Athens. To the east, also on the waterfront, is Korizis Square. Alexandros Korizis, born on Poros, was briefly prime minister of Greece through the difficult early months of 1941: when German forces finally invaded Greece in April 1941, the perceived failure led him to take his own life. On the west side of the square is the Poros Archaeological Museum—a small and interesting collection of material both from the island and from the wider area of Troezen and Methana. (Open daily except Mon 8.30–3.) Larger, stone items are exhibited in the ground-floor room; smaller items in the upper-floor room.
Ground floor: The collection of grave stelai of various periods is interspersed with a number of unusual items (to left on entering): a cast of the ‘Stele of Troezen’—the inscribed decree of Themistocles ordering the evacuation of Athens before the arrival of Xerxes in 480 bc: Troezen was the recipient of the majority of Athenian women and children. Beside it is a split limestone block with a fine Archaic, relief of a hunting dog, depicted with almost oriental stylisation. The case against the right wall displays a collection of fragments of a sima and other architectural elements which still preserve their vivid *painted decoration. These come from the Archaic temples of Aphrodite Akraia at Troezen and of Poseidon at Calauria, and give a good sense of the arresting decorative colours and designs on ancient sacred buildings. The stone architectural elements exhibited at the end of the room also illustrate the subtler chromatic variety of material which was used often in the same sanctuary or building: for example, the Doric capitals in both grey trachite, and in soft, beige poros stone, both from the sanctuary of Poseidon.
Upper Floor: The central case of Mycenaean votive offerings from Methana includes fine long-stem cups, figurines, terracotta oxen, riders on horses, and small models of thrones; many of these items were designed also to accompany the body of the deceased in the grave. A second case (immediately right against the wall) of Mycenaean gold jewellery, a bronze sword and arrow heads, includes miniature plaques of bone with incised designs of considerable fineness. A separate case by the stairs displays an example of a 7th century silver coin, known as the Hexagram (six Byzantine grams in weight), found on the fortress-island of Bourtzi in the channel to the east of Poros. The coin bears the two portraits on its obverse of a magnificently bearded Constans II and his son Constantine IV. Hexagram coins, equivalent in value to half of a gold solidus, were first issued by Heraclius in the early 7th century as an attempt to tackle the inflationary economic problems of the Byzantine Empire and were used for paying mercenaries and overseas administrators. The finding of the coin on Bourtzi indicates that the ample harbours which Poros offered were probably garrisoned in Byzantine times.
Detour: From the waterfront, close to the museum, water taxis ply constantly to and fro across the busy channel to Galatas. By crossing to the mainland, a visit to Ancient Troezen and the Sanctuary of Hippolytos can be easily made. Combined with the citrus groves of Galatas and the dramatic landscapes of the Methana peninsula, it constitutes an interesting excursion.
Poros Island is part of the Argosaronic Island Group, Greece.