Piraeus (Attica) 569 Piraeus - Πειραιεύς

Πειραιεύς - Piraeus, Port and deme of ancient Athens, modern Piraeus in Attica

Modern description Archaeological Atlas of the Aegean

Piraeus was chosen as the military and mercantile port of Athens by Themistocles, shortly before the naval battle of Salamis (480 BC). He also supervised the fortification of certain parts of the Piraeus peninsula and its natural harbours. A little later, in the time of Kimon and Pericles (479-440 BC) construction of the two Long Walls, which linked Piraeus with Athens, was completed.
There are three natural harbours on the coast of the peninsula: the largest, Kantharos (central harbour) ends in the so-called 'Kophos Limen' (Akti Miaoulis) and lies to the W, while to the E are the circular Zea harbour (Pashalimani) and the smaller Mounychia (Tourkolimano or Mikrolimano). In all of them sections of the fortification with rectangular towers and small gateways have survived and are partly visible, close to the sea.
At the SW end of the seafront (Acte) (courtyard of the Naval Cadets Academy) a grave enclosure (4th century BC) with sarcophagus was found, which the ancient Greeks believed was the tomb of Themistocles. Next to it a tall column (9 m high) from another funerary monument has been set up.
Zea was the arsenal of the Athenian navy with ship sheds (neosoikoi, íåώóïéêïé), that is roofed stoas (traces of 196 stoas have been found, l. 32-35 m, w. 6.5 m) in which the ships were housed. On the NW side of this harbour part of one of the most important buildings in Piraeus, the Skeuotheke (Óêåõïèήêç) designed by the architect Philon (330 BC), has been excavated. This is an enormous structure in which the ships' equipment was stored. Nearby is the city's Hellenistic theatre (late 2nd century BC), a faithful copy of the Dionysiac theatre in Athens. The large agora of Piraeus, the Hippodameios, was probably situated more or less at the centre of the peninsula.
The Mounychia harbour had 82 ship sheds. There was a sanctuary of Artemis Mounychia on the site of the modern Yacht Club. A section of the fortification with a circular tower (4th century BC) can be seen. A short distance inland, on the summit of Profitis Ilias hill (Kastella), there was a sanctuary of the Thracian goddess Bendis (from the mid-5th century BC).
Piraeus was the first city in which the Hippodamian system of town planning was implemented, in the 5th century BC. To date, 16 streets and 12 houses of identical dimensions and ground plan have been investigated.
The main exhibits in the Piraeus Archaeological Museum are sculptures and inscriptions from the city.


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