Two roads leave Aegina for the south of the island: one follows the coast, the other heads southeast on a plateau which crosses the centre of the island to the south. This latter rises quite sharply outside the town and offers wide views of the coast and of the sea towards Angistri and the Peloponnese. After 6.5km it passes the hamlet of Pachia Rachi, built as the name implies along a spur of the hill (‘rachi’ means a crest or ridge)—a charming and peaceful village of stone buildings, spread around the colour fulbell tower of its church. Immediately beyond the village to the east is the Hellenic Centre and Clinic for Wild Animals, dedicated to the care of stranded or wounded wild animals which are reintegrated into the wild, where possible, after cure and treatment. Less than 1km further down the road, a track signposted to the church of the Taxiarchis leads to the right towards the slopes of Mount Oros which dominates the landscape at this point. The small church with its red roof and octagonal drum is visible from afar, now totally isolated in the barren and rocky hillside, but once the centre of a monastic community. It is only as one begins to get nearer that the massive ashlar masonry retaining walls on which its stands, come into view.
   The terraces created by these impressive walls, and the monumental flight of steps which separates them, are what remains of the sanctuary and Temple of Zeus Hellanios, ‘Zeus, giver of rain’—a cult which was brought to the island by Dorian settlers around 1000 bc. The scale of the construction here and its imposing strength have a calculated appropriateness to the mightiest of the Olympian gods. What is visible today is the last phase of the site’s development—mostly Hellenistic construction of impressively dressed and cut stone (in particular on the left of the flight of steps), which dates from the 3rd century bc when, during the Pergamene domination of the island, the whole mountain was held sacred. A place of cult had already been here for a long time before, how ever.
   The 7m wide, processional staircase gives the site an unexpected monumentality. The building material here came from the cutting away of the hillside when the ter races were first levelled, and it may have been during that process that the springs behind the sanctuary were opened up. Today there is little more than a black Stygian rock-cut hole with standing water in it, just above the site; but the presence of neatly cut conduit channels for flowing water, along both the south and east sides of the terrace under and against the hill, suggests that the water here was once far from stagnant. Nothing remains of the temple which was here, and which a combination of earthquakes and early Christian zeal has deleted. But the massive quantity of rubble would suggest that the buildings were of imposing size. Many of these large, regular ly-cut blocks have been incorporated into the church of the Taxiarchis, which sits on the northwest corner of the temple’s crepis. The present church appears to be a 13th century structure, although it probably replaces an earlier foundation on the same site. The contemporaneous wall paintings in its interior are impressive, though damaged. Again, the iron-oxide reds and yellows predominate, as observed at the Omorphi Ekklesia on the edge of Chora: here, however, there is greater sophistication in the paint of the magnificently detailed armour of the Archangel Michael, and of an unusual and graceful scene depicting the dream of Jacob’s Ladder with angels flowing between Paradise and Earth, in the southwest segment of the drum of the dome.

Mount Oros, known as Panhellenion to the ancients, dominates the scene from behind. The barren, rocky mountain (531m) has a pure shape which was a conspicuous landmark for mariners in the Saronic Gulf. The gathering of clouds on its peak is said to be a sure sign of rain, a phenomenon noted in Antiquity. Legend also relates how Aiacus, the mythical early king of Aegina, successfully interceded with Zeus, on the advice of the Delphic Oracle, to bring rain to end a drought which had afflicted the island for many years. The summit is reached in 50 minutes by a path from the saddle on the western side of the mountain. At several points and levels just beneath the summit, to west and to east, there are outcrops of ancient wall which belong to a Mycenaean sanctuary of the 13th century bc. To the north of the chapel (dedicated to the Analipsi, or Ascension) on the peak is evidence of a podium (possibly for a temple or shrine) of later construction. The summit commands splendid *views over the whole of the island, which from here appears to be in the midst of a vast lake encircled by an almost continuous coast-line, formed by Attica, the Peloponnese and the islands of the northern Cyclades.
   The asphalt road descends through Anitsaiou, to the seaside village of Portes, and turns north up the coast to wards Aghia Marina. The pine trees on Aegina are generally very fine and full, but at Kilindras (2km north of Portes) they are at their best: their flowing volumes fill the valley.
   The coast road south from Aegina runs past many beaches and improvised ports for small boats. At Prophitis Elias Bay, water coming down from Mount Oros has irrigated the whole valley, and the shore is backed with stands of eucalyptus and cane. On the low projecting spit of land at the southwest end of the island, the town of Perdika has developed. There is a raised promenade of cafes and tavernas, where it is a pleasure to eat at sunset. From here it is possible in the summer months to take a boat across to the small island of Moni­, which is less than 1km offshore to the west. The island has particularly clear waters in its bays, and the north side — where the caiques land — is well forested with pines. There are a number of protected species of animal on the island.


Aegina Island is part of the Argosaronic Island group
Aegina - The South of the Island - Temple of Zeus Hellanios - Mount Oros

Random information you might what to know about Aegina Island
Ioannis Kapodistrias in Aegina
The pistachio of Aegina
General information

The *Temple of Aphaia is one of the most important and beautiful in Greece. Its site on a panoramic hill-top at the northeastern point of the island is magnificent, and its state of preservation (though reconstructed in certain areas) is excellent. It is a relatively early temple (late sixth century bc); it once displayed magnificent sculptural decorations which still exist (in Munich and Athens); and it still possesses many of the elements of an Ancient sanctuary which have generally been lost at other sites. Early in the day, it is a tranquil site, and there are few places in Greece where the feel and the entirety of a place of ancient cult can be better sensed. (Open 8.30–3.30, closed Mon.)

The dedication to ‘Aphaia’
There are no other temples dedicated to Aphaia and there is some uncertainty about who or what the name refers to. An important inscription (now in the museum on the site) found in 1901 and dating from the mid 6th century bc gives the dedication, while stating that: ‘When Theoitas was priest, the dwelling/temple was made for Aphaia, and the altar and the ivory were added, and the [?throne] was completed’. The name ‘Aphaia’ appears to be cognate with φαινειν ‘to make clear’ or ‘appear’, modified by the negative prefix ‘α’. Whoever Aphaia was, it seems she ‘did not appear’. Tradition, passed through later writers, links her with the Cretan goddess Britomartis who may have been honoured here under the local name, manifestation or epithet, ‘Aphaia’. This link is consonant with the Minoan Cretan trading pres ence clearly evident at Kolona (see above). Britomartis was a daughter of Zeus (note that Mount Oros, with its sanctuary sacred to Zeus Hellanios is directly visible from here), and she was therefore half-sister to Artemis, to whom her cult seems to be related and with whom she shared a love of hunting, solitude and chastity. It may have happened that, in fleeing from the unwanted sexual attentions of King Minos of Crete, Britomartis was made invisible (‘αφανης’) by Artemis and transported to the safety of Aegina. Artemis herself is also associated with the moon, which has phases of invisibility, and this may be a further element in the complex composition of Aphaia’s identity. Pindar is known to have composed a hymn in Aphaia’s honour, but its loss deprives of us of much valuable information. We can only guess at what Aphaia’s particular sphere of influence or protection might have been, though the nurturing of children appears to have been an important part of it: her temple, however, would have been a place principally of female cult.

Previous temples on the site
Traces of human presence on this site go as far back as c. 3000 bc, and a sanctuary appears to have been created in the Late Bronze Age. Indeed the cult of Aphaia may have been current already for over a millennium at the time the first stone temple was erected here. In historic times, however, the existing temple is the second or third such temple on the site. An altar is visible which belonged to a first temple that predates 570 bc. Of the second temple, which immediately precedes the present one, substantial foundations can still be seen: this temple was begun in 570 bc and is the one to which the Theoitas inscription, cited above, belonged. It burned down in around 510 bc and its sculptural fragments were, as was customary, buried in the earth movements necessary to prepare the platform of the new (third) temple, which was probably begun almost immediately after and completed shortly after 490 bc.

Layout of the sanctuary
Clearly visible at Aphaia (see plan) are many of the constituent elements of a temple complex which have tended to be obliterated in other sanctuaries: the foundations of the peribolos or perimeter-wall all round the temple, defining the sacred area; the propylaia, or monumental gateway, through which the suppliants entered; the dwellings on the edge of the area for the priests and the ritual baths they would have used. The form of the altar to the east is well conserved, too, with the bases for dedicatory sculptures in front of it. A ramp here (not a particularly common element in sanctuaries) joins the altar to the east entrance of the temple. Finally, in the northeast corner, a visible channel in the temple plat form leads the (sacred) rain-water from the roof to a cistern below. Together with the good state of conservation of the temple-structure itself and the setting which has been little altered through the centuries, this provides a uniquely complete picture of a Greek sanctuary of the Archaic and Classical eras.

Brilliant strong colour was an important feature of Archaic and early Classical sculpture and architecture. Later, as taste changed, the polychrome may have become less vibrant and less universal in later Antiquity. Not only were pedimental sculptures coloured and set against a coloured background to make them more life-like and easier to read from a distance, but the architectural elements of the area of the architrave and above were emphasised and picked out chromatically. In a case such as this temple, which is constructed out of a poor-quality local poros stone, by comparison with the fine Pentelic marble of the Parthenon across the bay, a layer of stucco plaster was applied to the columns and lower elements of the building. This was a common feature of Greek temples in Sicily, where there was poorer building stone and where vestiges of the stucco (esp. at Selinunte) still remain. The stucco gave the building a white colour very different from the more tender honey-colour of its bare stone which is visible today. Whether this stucco was a bright, intense white, or whether it was modified to become an ivory colour is hard to determine with certainty.

Pediment sculptures
The history of the sculptural decoration is complicated by the fact that the first two series for the pediments of the existing temple, produced between 510 and 500 bc, were re moved after what was less than a decade and replaced by two newer series, executed in c. 500 bc (west pediment) and c. 490 bc (east pediment). Were all of these ensembles still complete, they would provide one of the most revealing studies in the development of Greek sculpture at what is, in effect, the most important moment of transition in its long history. The reasons for this surprising replacement of the pediment may have a political origin: this was after all the period of Aegina’s greatest power and its bitterest confrontation with Athens. The first pediment sculptures commissioned for the new temple portrayed stories from Aegina’s legendary past: the fight of Telamon (son of Aiacus of Aegina) and Hercules against the Amazons in the presence of Athena (west pediment); and the abduction of the nymph Aegina by Zeus (east pediment). At the time it was decided to change this programme the east pediment was already in place, while the west pediment may possibly not yet have been fully completed and positioned. These were then removed and set up on display in the precinct in front of the east façade of the temple, since they remained the property of the goddess. New sculpture groups were then commissioned of the same workshop, probably under the same master. This time they were to show scenes, again in the presiding presence of Athena, of Aeginetan heroes during the campaigns against Troy: the west pediment showed the participation, in the siege of Troy, of Ajax—son of Telamon, protege of Hercules, and descendant of Aiacus and of Zeus—who was much honoured in Aegina; the east pediment showed a scene from an earlier Trojan campaign in which Aiacus himself—son of Zeus by Aegina—together with Hercules, stormed Troy and killed the king and all his sons, except one, the future King Priam. It appears that, at the climax of their struggles with Athens around 500 bc the Aeginetans wished to emphasise the heroic prowess of their forefathers in battles with an earlier enemy, Troy, over the blander legendary scenes which figured in the earlier pediments. The change is very revealing: but yet more fascinating is a subtle change in style between the two new pediments which substituted the old ones—the new west pediment of c. 500 bc and the new east pediment of ten years later. The first is a beautifully patterned arrangement of discrete elements and figures with the stylised faces and poses of high Archaic narrative art; the second is an integrated drama of related, more humanised figures, with softer lineaments. The pediment has ceased to be just a patterned design and is becoming a living stage for human drama in the last of the pediment groups.
   Although fragments of these pediments are exhibited in the museum at Kolona, and in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the great majority of the sculptures are in the Munich Glyptothek. They were first excavated on the site by Carl von Hallerstein and Charles Robert Cockerell in 1811: they were shipped via Athens, Zakynthos and Malta, to Rome, where they were purchased by Ludwig I of Bavaria. They were restored, arranged and completed according to a design by Thorvaldsen. Between 1962 and 1971, this (by now, much criticised) method of display was dismantled, all the additions removed, and a systematic and academic at tempt was made to exhibit only the original fragments in their most probable original arrangement. This is how they are seen today. The sculptures are executed in marble from the island of Paros.

On approaching the temple from the entrance below, it is important always to recall the fact that there are the remains of two stone temples on this site, that the present one is the temple of 510 bc and that, at a slightly lower level, there are vestiges of the older preceding temple of 570 bc visible at many points. The latter was perhaps only a quarter of the size of the existing temple, had a much smaller sanctuary area and was—for what reason we can not be sure—oriented very slightly differently from the newer temple: its remains therefore are always going to be at an oblique angle to everything later. The early temple was oriented probably 20–25Β° north of a true east/west axis, while the later one was only c.10Β° north of the true axis.
   To the left, as you climb up towards the terrace, the ashlar-masonry base of the perimeter wall, or peribolos, of the existing temple-sanctuary is visible. This would have been higher and finished with an upper section in mud brick. To the right are the foundations of the propylaia, or monumental gate of entrance. Visible is the stump of one of its interior octagonal columns. This roofed gate way would have provided a moment of shade before emerging into the dazzling light of the temple’s sanctuary and would have framed a partial—and beautiful—view of the temple. Further to the right, beyond this area, are visible the plastered lustral basins used for ritual ablutions by those officiating. Yet further over to the right are the foundations of a series of rooms which constituted the quarters of the priests and the administrators of the sanctuary.

The upper terrace where the temple stands is artificially constructed; its consolidation would have been effected by burying the remains of the earlier burnt temple and flattening the top with dressed stone. Much of the stone for building both temples will, in turn, have come from substantial cutting of the irregular top of the hill in order to flatten it into a terrace: this excess stone will have been cut into architectural elements, which will have been further supplemented by stone quarried just below the site. A deep cut in the terrace in front of the south side of the temple reveals a piece of the perimeter-wall of the earlier temple sanctuary.
   The south face of the temple shows immediately the degree of conservation of the architectural detail on the temple. The perfectly clear fluting of the tapering columns, the minimal concentric decoration on the Doric capitals, the triglyphs (once painted dark blue, with their vertical grooves defined in black), the clear, hanging guttae below—all the variety of architectural elements which derive from an earlier age when temples were constructed, doweled and pegged out of wooden elements, and which the Greeks meticulously preserved when they began to construct in stone—are seen more clearly here than in many other temples. Grooves are visible in the sides of the triglyphs, into which the decorated metopes were slotted: given the width of the groove it seems likely that these were either made of wood or of terracotta. None has survived.

   The area to the east of the temple is extraordinarily complete in what it shows us of the working of the sanctuary. A clearly defined ramp runs axially between the east (front) door of the temple and the altar whose base is visible 25m east of the temple, almost at the edge of the sanctuary. The altar was a large, wide, stepped structure, running parallel to the east front of the temple, preceded by a paved rectangular area: the officiating priest would have faced the rising sun. Two square bases, in front of the paved area and to the south, were the bases for dedicatory statues, and would have been balanced by two others to the north.
   Two earlier altars are also visible: the roped-off area to the north of the paved way between the altar and temple is the base of the altar belonging to the first temple of around 600 bc; back nearer to the altar, the stone areas running at an obtuse angle to the temple axis and at a lower level, are the base of the altar of the second temple of 570 bc. All the foundations, oriented on the same axis, to the south date from this second temple: these were the administrative buildings for the sanctuary and its entrance gate. Also of the same period are the square pedestal and water cistern on the northern edge of the terrace. On the pedestal stood a 14m column crowned by a sculpted sphinx—the only monument to stand in the same place during the lifetime of both temples. The cistern collected the rainwater from the roof and the stylobate of the temple; a small channel (still visible) paved in the floor of the sanctuary terrace led from the temple down to a shallow basin and thence into the cistern. The water which fell on the temple had a sacred quality and could be collected in this manner to be used for ritual purposes. Further along the northern side, a deep cut in the terrace reveals the perimeter wall of the much smaller area of the sanctuary belonging to the earlier temple of 570 bc.
   The superstructure of the building has been reconstructed at various points and this is most visible at the western end, where the sharp-cut, smoother stone is modern and clearly distinguishable from the original material. The view inside from the western end is revealing of the construction of the building and of many of the classic ‘optical corrections’ used in temple construction. The slight rise towards the centre of the stylobate is visible; and the increased diameter of the corner columns, so as to give the impression of greater strength at the corners, is also perceptible. From here it can be seen that the architrave consists of two parallel blocks set side by side; and that the support of the roof of the naos, was on a double colonnade, with the entasis or tapering of the columns following through from the lower columns into the form of the upper ones. The exposed ends of the architrave of the lower colonnade in the interior, display U-shaped grooves cut into the perpendicular face of each piece: around these a rope could be run for lifting the blocks into place. This can be seen also on a number of pieces lying on the ground in the vicinity.
   The interior of the temple once contained two cult statues of Aphaia; one small, older image in wood with an ivory surface, which belonged to the earlier temple and was placed in the northwestern corner of the naos on a stone base which is still visible; the second, more than life-size, statue was made together with the construction of the existing temple around 505 bc (a fragment of its acrolithic arm is in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens). Its place was in the centre of the shrine; the holes for the posts which held a wooden barrier surrounding it can still be seen in the floor of the naos .

Museum (40m downhill of the west side of the temple)
The three rooms of the tiny museum on the site are well labelled and explained. There are two floors: the upper (ground) floor relates to the existing temple, the lower floor to the previous 6th century bc building. The first room, at entrance level, contains some building remains, reconstruction models and fragments with helpful reconstructions of the positioning of elements of sculptures in the pediments. There are marble pan-tiles and covers from the perimeter of the roof (the body of which was in terracotta tiles). The small collection’s most important exhibits are on the floor below, where some fragments of the triglyph/metope succession of the entablature still retain their brilliant and astonishing colouring in (Egyptian) blue, (iron oxide) red, (bistre) black and (malachite) green. The inscription mentioning the name of Aphaia can also be seen here, as well as a model and a partial reconstruction of the pediment and entablature of the 6th century temple, which was of a tetra style in antis design.

In spite of being a roofless skeleton today, the temple is a relic of great presence. Its decoration and colour, and the play of light and shade which would have been created by the roof and the eaves, are all gone. Nonetheless, the counterpoint of clear forms—rectangles, diagonals and cylinders—still gives immense satisfaction when seen against the backdrop of the sky and of the dark, irregular volumes of the Aleppo pines. Sadly, we cannot know what trees covered the surrounding hill in Antiquity—if any. Beyond Aphaia the road descends steeply to the coastal resort of Aghia Marina, grouped attractively around a small port amidst dense pine trees. There are direct connections with Piraeus from here during the summer period.


Aegina Island is part of the Argosaronic Island group
The Temple of Aphaia

Random information you might what to know about Aegina Island
Mount Oros

The north of the island is best explored by taking the road that heads east from the southern extremity of the waterfront, Phaneromenis Street. This is the main road to Aghios Nektarios and the Temple of Aphaia. The road passes, to the right, the former Orphanage built by Capodistrias for the children orphaned by the War of In dependence—subsequently converted into a prison and now standing empty. A further 500m down the road, is the ruined church of the Panaghia Phaneromeni—a large 18th century basilica-church, characterised by its wide, round-arched doors and windows, which are pleasingly framed in marble on the west front. There is a crypt below the church.
   To the east of the town, the road soon climbs into the varied and beautiful landscape of the centre of the island. The sparse foliage of the immaculate orchards of pistachio and olive trees against the pale terracotta-coloured earth beneath creates an effect characteristic of Aegina’s landscape: and the mature Aleppo pine-trees which form the dark backdrop to it all, complete what is a striking combination of colours and textures.

The angular and sparse growth of the pistachio tree gives it an appearance similar to the fig-tree; but its glossy and smaller foliage is quite different. The fruit forms in abundant clusters of lupin-shaped capsules which, although a yellowy green at first, soon acquire a beautiful pale red tinge which enlivens the whole tree: these are the forming nuts. They have adapted easily to the soil and very mild climate of Aegina, and have become its most famous product. They have a rounder form than other pistachio nuts. The pistachio tree is native to the hot dry climate of an area that stretches from southeastern Turkey to eastern Iran, but in the mild climate and clayey soil of Aegina it appears also to have found a congenial home. The progenitors of the pistacio vera trees on Aegina were first brought here from Syria in 1860.

Four kilometres from Aegina is the road junction at Kondos, with the huge pilgrimage church of Aghios Nektarios dominating the view to the north. The traveller, intent on the antiquities of Aphaia and the Byzantine churches of Palaiochora, may be tempted to pass by this piece of modernity; but a visit here is instructive and not without considerable reward. The main building, which is actually dedicated to the Aghia Triada (Holy Trinity), must be the largest church to be built in Greece in the last 100 years. Its octagonal form and shallow cupola are deliberately Constantinopolitan in design, and the mass of coloured marbles inside and carved, ‘basket’ capitals are surely a deliberate imitation of Justinian’s Haghia Sophia. The apsidal mosaic of the Virgin and Christ and the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, with all the islands of the Saronic Gulf laid out below their feet, is a work of surprising beauty. The church was begun in 1973, and the mosaic finished in 1999. The pre-existing monastery above, reached via a serpentine ramp, contains a highly decorated chapel enshrining the grave of Aghios Nektari os, who died in 1920 and was canonised in 1961.
   Almost opposite the entrance to the complex of Aghios Nektarios and a few metres to the west is a road which leads south across the valley and up the hillside opposite, to the isolated monastery of the Panaghia or Theotokos Chrysoleontissa (3km). This is everything that Aghios Nektarios is not—remote, old and peaceful, in a wild val ley of the interior where there is little sound beyond the wailing of peacocks and bleating of goats. The foundation of the monastery is much older than the buidlings: it was originally situated by the coast at Leonti, just west of Vathi­ in the north of the island and was moved, together with its holy icons, to this isolated site for greater protection in the first decade of the 17th century. The fine pre-existing 15th century machicolated tower at the centre of the monastery complex provided a focus and a safe treasury around which the monastery could be constructed. Although founded as a male community, it be came a nunnery in 1935 and currently has eleven resident nuns. The original catholicon burnt down and the present one dates from the late 17th century. The heavily carved wooden iconostasis is from 1670: much of it has been over-varnished, but its doors have escaped this treatment and possess fine, polychrome figures of Christ and St Peter with keys.


Aegina Island is part of the Argosaronic Island group
Aegina - The north of the Island - General

Random information you might what to know about Aegina Island
Mount Oros
Ioannis Kapodistrias in Aegina

The northward branch of the road at Kondos/Aghios Nektarios leads after 1km to the site of *Palaiochora, the Byzantine capital of the island for nearly 1,000 years between the 9th and 19th centuries. Now deserted, all that is left is its multitude of churches scattered over the barren hillside, robbed of the dense urban context that once en folded them on all sides. Comparable with Palaiochora on Kythera, and Kastro on Skiathos, many of these and other similar Byzantine sites were first chosen and inhabited in the 9th century when Saracen Arab raids forced the in habitants of the settlements of Antiquity to abandon and seek new and fortifiable refuges inland which would be inaccessible to raiders. This did not, however, protect the site here from the destructive attentions of Khaireddin Barbarossa in 1537 and of further pillaging when the city was re-taken by the Venetians under Morosini in 1654. Palaiochora itself was only abandoned after the safety of coastal habitation had become vouchsafed once again in the last two centuries. Although habitation dwindled during the Turkish occupation of the 18th century, in the 1820s there were still a good 400 habitations on this site: the speed with which they have all disappeared is remark able. (A visit to the site involves a pleasant ramble around the hill. In theory, most of the churches are open all the time, and the guardian at the Episkopi church will open any that happen to be closed on request: but there are no hard-and fast rules or times for his presence. Patience may be required by the dedicated Byzantinist who wishes to see everything inside and out. The following itinerary covers the site in roughly clockwise fashion, climbing to the left after entering.)

The Churches of Palaiochora
Below the road to the left as you arrive is the 16th century church of Aghios Charalambos, with a double nave—a common plan for several churches on this site. The path into the main part of the site begins beside the 15th century church of the Aghios Stavros Timios (‘The Holy Venerable Cross’) beside the road. The church is still in current use for liturgies, and has wall-paintings along its the north wall, which have been retouched, probably in the 19th century. The small scene of the bound and entombed Christ in the north niche of the prothesis, behind the templon screen, has an unexpected pathos: it is probably contemporary with the building of the church. The path to the left, passing the ruined church of the ‘Panaghia tou Gianouli’ (with carved Byzantine eagle on one of the supporting pillars) leads up to the important church of Aghios Giorgios Katholikos, which stood on the only square in the settlement, the so-called ‘foro’ (market place). The church contains a dramatic and beautiful, early 15th century painting in the apse of the Virgin and Child, both with extended arms and hands in blessing. An inscription over the door bears the date of a Venetian restoration of the church in 1533. The design of the interior is odd, and it represents a plan peculiar to this settlement—in which the long axis of the church is oriented transversely, and the sanctuary, with iconostasis and apse, is located (in this case) in the far northeastern corner, while the entrance to the church is in the southwestern corner. Although a little disorienting, this may simply be due to a need to have the space for a larger congregation in a church where the steep slope of the site did not permit any further extension along the normal longitudinal axis. There were once relics of St George in this church, but they were sold by the inhabitants to the Venetians in the 16th century and are now kept in the church of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice.
   A small white marble fragment is immured in the exterior wall of Aghios Giorgios Katholikos; in fact, there are marble columns, lintels and capitals scattered all around the area—some Byzantine, some ancient, indicating that the site may well also have seen an earlier, ancient presence. The 15th century church of Aghios Dionysios, called the ‘Episkopi’ church, a little higher up, is the principal church of the settlement. There are fine Byzantine Imperial eagles and a cross above the door, the whole of which was once brightly coloured. To its right, as you enter, are two carved stone steps leading to a stone seat or platform: this is an interesting detail, possibly the base of a marble canopy for the display of icons on feast days, or else a throne used on particular occasions by the bishop in the period when the area in front of the church was a completely covered portico. The domed interior has an aisle to the left which was added nearly 200 years later during the renovations of 1610 which are referred to in a painted inscription. The church can be seen in model-form, held by SS. Peter and Paul, in the paintings on the south wall—an unusual state of affairs, since such models are usually held by the saint to whom the church is dedicated, in this case St Dionysios. These paints are the work of one Demetrios of Athens, according to the inscription. The small church of Aghios Nikolaos, with carved lintel, is just above and to the east.
   Continuing from the church of the Episkopi, you pass the tiny hermitage of St Dionysios of Zakynthos to the right, with the church of St Anne below, and further along the ridge, the church of the Aghii Theodori: this has a number of wall-paintings, the best preserved being the Crucifixion scene on the west wall and the saints over the door arch. The path turns east and, climbing past a cluster of three churches, Aghii Makrina, Minas and Eleftherios, reaches the remains of the citadel on the summit, built in 1462 by the Venetians during their first occupation of the site. It is interesting how hidden the whole site is from the sea, and yet what excel lent views it commands of every approach from this vantage point. The walls are best preserved in the northeast sector. On the summit, however, only the remains of two cisterns and the foundations of magazines are visible, apart from the twin churches of Aghios Giorgios and Aghios Demetrios—the two soldier saints whom one might have expected to find honoured in the keep of a castle. The parallel and inter-communicating design of the two churches, which were built in the late 17th century, may have facilitated the celebration of both the Greek and Latin rite at the time of the Venetian occupation.
   Descending once again by the same path, past Aghia Makrina, will bring you to a corner of the site which gives some sense of the intimate and pleasingly irregular spaces of a Byzantine town: this is the monastery of Aghia Kyriaki, with the ruined remains of its monastic buildings around it. In effect, it is a double church, because it has a parallel nave to the north of comparable size dedicated to the Zoodochos Pigi (the Virgin as the ‘Fount of Life’): this has interesting wall-paintings from the 17th century, amongst which is a fine Second Coming of Christ. The last church, beyond the monastery at the end of the path, is the church of the Archangel Michael: on the exterior, around the arch above the door in its south wall, are some beautiful decorative de tails—a couple of them seem almost Celtic in inspiration.
   Taking the lower path back westwards towards the en trance, you pass a number of churches with decorative inter est. Aghios Ioannis Theologos, with 14th century paintings (in poor condition) in the apse, cupola and walls of the nave; perhaps best preserved is the St George on the south wall by the door. Outside the door is part of a finely carved early Byzantine column with palm motif.
   Aghios Nikolaos, a little further to the west, confronts the visitor on entering the church with the large depiction of Four Saints in ivory-coloured tunics (15th century), painted almost in monochrome. The church has the lateral-axis de sign observed already in Aghios Giorgios Katholikos, which makes the confrontation with the four martyrs even more dramatic. The other wall paintings have been re-touched in the course of the 19th century.
   Further west again lies the church of the Aghii Anargyri, with (largely fragmentary) paintings of considerable inter est. Around the west door is a fine Christ in Majesty, and on the south wall (by the west door) an uncommon depiction of Abraham in Paradise. The greatest delight lies in a tiny fragment above, which shows a ship at sea beside a mountainous island: the boat is sustained by ‘Saintly Piety’, while capricious winds blow through their trumpets to either side and the ocean pullulates with octopi, sea-serpents, crabs, and many-headed monsters, below the terrified mariners. Note also the Antique column fragment with small Ionic capital embedded in the south wall.
   After the churches of Aghios Dimitrios, and of the Koimisis tis Theotokou (Dormition of the Virgin), whose paintings have unfortunately suffered whitewashing and over-painting in the 20th century, the path, turning north again, comes to the early 14th century church of the Metamorphosis, or Transfiguration, which has paintings—perhaps con temporary with the building—in the sanctuary and apse. Above the Virgin and Child in the apse, there is a scene of the Old Testament Trinity of angels seated at the table of Sarah and Abraham: this sets a theme for many of the other New Testament ‘table’ scenes nearby—most notably, and best preserved of all, the Last Supper on the right side. Almost directly up the steep slope from the Metamorphosis is the domed church of the Taxiarchis (currently closed for restoration): this has 14th century wall-paintings inside and an antique column incorporated into the templon.
   The other churches on this slope have paintings that are less well-preserved. Those in Aghios Ioannis Prodromos (below the path) are possibly of the early 13th century, but have been partially repainted in recent times. The church of Aghios Euthymios (further below) has later murals of the 16th century, showing SS. Constantine and Helen with the True Cross. Many of the churches on this slope have widely varying orientations, ranging from northeast (Aghios Euthymios) to almost due south (the Koimisis tis Theotokou and the Metamorphosis): this is often dictated by the lie of the land and the space available. The two remaining church es are no exception to this: just above the path, the church of Aghios Giorgios is oriented to the south: on its nave wall (here on the west side) is an interesting representation of the Prophet Elijah, with the raven and its gift of bread. Across the path and below is another lateral-axis church, Aghios Stephanos, with a boxed apse in the northeast corner.
   The road beyond Palaiochora to the north winds rapidly down to the sea offering wide views across the water to Athens and the Attic peninsula. It joins the coast near to the attractive harbour of Souvala (which has summer connections with Piraeus). In the bay, 1km east of the village, there are radioactive springs (the Thermal Station on the shore is currently closed). From here it is a pleas ant drive eastwards along the coast to the small port of Vaghi­a, where the road turns inland and rejoins the central route of the island just before it climbs the pine-clad hill up to Aphaia.


Aegina Island is part of the Argosaronic Island group
Aegina - Palaiochora

Random information you might what to know about Aegina Island
Ioannis Kapodistrias in Aegina
The temple of Zeus Hellanios
The pistachio of Aegina

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.)

The museum
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.

The site
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 {tip id="6339" position="below"} poros stone {/tip} 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

Random information you might what to know about Aegina Island
Churches of Palaiochora
General information

On their way: Athens, Thessaloniki, Delphi, Mycenae, Olympia, Epidaurus, Monemvasia, Meteora, Korinth, Bassai, Knossos.

To make this Greek Travel Guide website better coo kies are used. By continuing to use our site you agree to this.

SPONSORS & CONTRIBUTORS:  hotelchambergr          Viking Yacht Cruises