Aegina, in the centre of the Argosaronic, immediately conquers the visitor, as soon as the boat passes the lighthouse, the town and port of Aegina appear. A walk around the town will lead to many historical buildings dating from 19th c. Among them is the house of Capodistrias, the first Governor of Greece after the War of Independence in 1821. It has remained standing to remind us that Aegina was for two years the temporary capital city of Greece, before it was officially installed in Nafplion. A stroll near the port will bring you to the archaeological site of Kolonas. Here the ancient city was built, when Aegina, with its powerful fleet, ruled the seas, long before Athens began to make its presence felt.
The Archaeological site of Colona.
This is a very important Archaeological site, not simply because of the ruins of the famous temple of Apollo and other buildings but because it contains the remains of ten successive prehistoric settlements dating from late Neolithic period (5th millennium BC) until the Mycenaean period (1600 - 1100 BC). All the findings are gathered on a hill to the north of the port, at the peak of which stands a single column (kolona), from which the hill took its name. The column , which is part of the temple of Apollo, is the only one which has remained upright of the eleven which stood on each of the long sides and the six of the short sides.
The temple was built in the late 6th C. BC and has dominated the region due to its size and its beauty which was equal, it is said, to that of the Temple of Aphaia. The foundations of some other structures belonging to the temple have also survived, such as the altar to the east, the Temple of Artemis to the southeast ..etc. There also the remains of many walls from different eras, such as the Bronze Age fortress walls, the archaic acropolis walls the Roman sanctuary walls and the so-called port walls which run down towards the port.
The Museum of Kolona is located in front of the site in a new square one storey building with a large atrium in the centre. The atrium contains sculptures from the cemetery of Reneia, from the time that Capodistrias brought to Aegina. The halls of the museums contain some fine exhibits dating from the late Neolithic period until the Roman period. The archaic and early classical periods are also represented by the famous marble sphinx of Aegina (460 BC) as well as sculptures from the pediment of the Temple of Apollo. At the entrance to the museum are the impressive models of a house from the prehistoric city on the hill of Kolonas.
The Sanctuary of Aphaia on Aegina
The sanctuary of Aphaia on Aegina lies above the headland of Ayia Marina on a hill offering a panoramic view over the sea. Worship on the site of the sanctuary goes back to the prehistoric times, around 1300 BC, when it was associated with a female fertility deity, as is clear from finds brought to light by archaeological excavation. It was originally thought that the temple of Aphaia was built in honour of Athena, whose figure dominated the two pediments. During excavations by German archaeologists in 1901, however, an inscription was found referring to the name of the local goddess Apha (Aphaia), making it clear that the temple was dedicated to Aphaia and not to Athena. According to myth, Aphaia, who is identified with Britomartis daughter of Zeus and Karme, was loved by Minos and, to escape his attentions she jumped into the sea and emerged in Aegina, where she became "invisible" (Aphaia) in a grove. She hid in a cave, probably the one on the north-east cornel of the Archaic enclosure, in which have been found many terracotta figurines and other objects dating from the Mycenaean period. In historical times, three temples were built at different periods on the same site near the area associated with the prehistoric cult. Of the first temple, which is dated to the early 6th century BC, only traces of the foundations survive. The second temple was larger and had an altar in front of the east side. The surviving temple is the third, which was built about 500 BC. It is a Doric peripheral temple with 6 columns on the ends and 12 on the sides. There are two columns in antis in the plodomos and opisthodomos. and the roof is supported by two two-storey Doric colonnades inside the cella, each consisting of five columns. The columns, the walls of the cella, the architrave, and the other parts of the entablature are made of local limestone covered with plaster. The pedimental sculptures and akroteria, however, are made entirely of Parian marble and painted.
|A ramp of large, well-dressed stones on the east side of the temple leads up to the crepis This built ramp continues to the east as far as the altar, the foundations of which are preserved.|
The pediments of the temple of Aphaia. which are dated to 490-480 BC, were adorned with scenes from battles fought at Troy and watched by Athena. whose figure was the predominant one at the centre of both pediments. The east pediment depicted the campaign of Heracles against king Laomedon, and the west the Greek expedition under Agamemnon against Priam's Troy.
Part of the east pediment was destroyed during the Persian wars, possibly by a thunderbolt. The statues that survived were set up in the sanctuary enclosure, and those that were destroyed were buried, according to ancient custom. The old composition was replaced by a new one with a scene of a battle, again with Athena at the centre.
The pedimental sculptures were found during the 1811 excavation by Baron van Hallerstein and the architect C.R. Cockerell, puy up for auction in Italy, and purchased In 1813 by Ludwig I, king of Bavaria and father of Otto, the first king of Greece, they were taken to the Glyptotek in Munich, where they have been on display ever since. Parts of the destroyed east pediment were found during Furtwangler's excavation and are now displayed in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Around the sanctuary was an enclosure wall, at the southeast of which was erected a large propylon. Building remains (baths, a priests' house, etc.) have been discovered to the east of the propylon.
Temple of Zeus Hellanios
|At the foot of Oros, the tallest mountain on Aegina, you will discover the sanctuary of Zeus Hellanios founded, according to the myth, by Aiakos, son of Zeus and grandfather of the heroes of the Trojan War Achilles and Ajax. This is another route of great interest, centering on an archaeological site that is directly connected with the mythology and history of Aegina. the village of Pacheia Rachi, which looks out over the sea and the plain soon appears. The belfry and the blue dome of the church stand out.|
|Beyond the Centre, a dirt road to the right leads to the archaeological site with the sanctuary of Zeus Hellanios. From a distance one can see the grand stone staircase next to a Hellenistic wall. The wall was most probably built in order to fill it in so as to create a large flat square area upon which the sanctuary of Zeus Hellanios was built.|
|Today on the upper part of the staircase, to the left, is the Byzantine church of the Taxiarches, the Archangels, which used to be the cathedral church of a monastery. Tradition has it that no rain fell on Aegina for many years and the island suffered greatly. Aiakos, the mythical King of Aegina and son of Zeus, was advised by the oracle at Delphi, to plead with his father to bring rainfall. His plea was heard and in order to thank Zeus, Aiakos built the temple in the god's honour and established his cult here. Above the temple stands the mountain with the ancient name of Oros and which is directly associated with the cult of Zeus on the island. The view of the island and the whole of the Argosaronic from the peak of Mt Oros, today known as Profitis Ilias, is splendid.|
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