(1900 Times Atlas of the World)
1204 Frankish (Catalan) occupation of the island
1451 Venetians replace the Catalans
1540 Venice surrenders Egina to the Ottoman Sultan
1654 Brief occupation by Francesco Morosini during the War of Candia
1687 Venetian permanent occupation
1714 Return of the Turks
1821 Revolt against the Turks.
1828 Egina was the capital of Greece for a short period.
There are many little Islands in this Gulph; but the principal are Aegina, Colouri, and Porus: and these only are inhabited. (..)
Aegina is now the chief Island, and giveth Name at present to the whole Gulph, as the River Saron did in times past. (..) Its highest Point from the Promontory Sunium, is seen West-North-West. (..) It is counted eighteen Miles from the nearest Shore of Attica, and twenty five from Porto-Lione, and about a dozen from the Morea; being about thirty Miles also in Circumference. It hath no Harbour for Ships about it: But towards the Morean Shore, the Venetian Armada often dropped Anchor, during the War of Candia.
A journey into Greece by George Wheler, Esq., in company of Dr. Spon of Lyons - 1682.
Egina (Aegina) is an island located at the centre of what today is called again Saronikos Gulf.
The Remains of its Antiquity, are the Ruins of two Temples: The one, situate North-West of the Town, ought to be that of Venus, mentioned by Pausanias. It hath but two Pillars now standing, and a piece of an Architrave on them, with some Rubbish below. Wheler
The coast was mostly abrupt and inaccessible; the land within, mountainous and woody. (..) Instead of the temples mentioned by Pausanias, we had in view thirteen lonely churches, all very mean, as usual; and two Doric columns supporting their architrave. (..) It has been supposed, they are a remnant of a temple of Venus, which was situated by the port principally frequented. (..) At the entrance of the mole is a small chapel of St. Nicholas; and opposite, a square tower with steps. (..) This structure was erected by the Venetians, while at war with the Turks, in 1693, as appears by an inscription cut in large characters on a piece of veined marble fixed in the wall. I copied it as exactly as its height and the powerful reflection of the sun would permit. FRANCISCI MAVROCENI DVCIS VENET ---- ALOYISIO MOCENICO C. GVLPHI CVRANTE ERECTA A. MDCXCIII
Richard Chandler - An account of a tour made at the expense of the Society of dilettanti - 1775
The ancient town of Egina was located on a low hill to the north of a small natural harbour. It was protected by walls by Attalus I, King of Pergamum, who acquired the island in 211 BC. In 133 BC Attalus III donated Pergamum (and Egina) to the Romans. Over time the harbour to the north of a cape was abandoned in favour of a location to the south of it. A medieval tower (strengthened by the Venetians during their second occupation) protected the harbour until it was pulled down to expand the port facilities. Its guns are still on the jetty and they are pointed towards the cape which was named after the only surviving column of a Temple to Apollo.
View of Paleo Chora (Old Town)
It hath no City, or Village now in it, save only that which is called by the same Name, with the Island Aegina: which, in the Year 1654 was almost ruined by the Venetians; who came hither with their Ships, and, as they say, took away no fewer than six hundred poor Christian Greeks, and put them to row in their Gallies. The Town consists of about eight hundred dwelling Houses, but now almost ruined. Wheler
The present town stands on the acclivity of a steep rock; which perhaps was preferred to the old site, as less exposed to the ravages of corsairs and other plunderers. It is in the way to the mountain Panhellenius, from which it is separated by a narrow valley, which winds and runs far into the island. It is distant about three quarters of an hour from the sea, where nearest, the track narrow and rough. The houses are mean, in number about four hundred, siding on the slope, with flat roofs and terraces of gravel. It is remarkably free from gnats and other troublesome insects. The wells afford good water, but the air is accounted unhealthy. Chandler
In the IXth century Saracen pirates raided Egina (at the time part of the Byzantine Empire) several times and the inhabitants abandoned the area around the harbour and built a new town on a hill inland. For nearly 1000 years this town was named Egina. It was protected by a small castle at the top of the hill. In the XVIIIth century its inhabitants slowly abandoned it to rebuild the town near the harbour, similar to what occurred on Kalymnos.
(left) Walls of the fortress; (right-above) the reconstructed twin churches of St. George and St. Demetrios; (right-below) a cistern
In this Castle are six Cisterns, and about fourscore Houses; two Churches, joyn'd near together; one for the Greeks, the other for the Latines: in which last remains a fine Sepulcher of Marble, made for a Venetian Proveditor; being a Mark of the Dominion they had over it. Wheler
On a summit above the town are some windmills, and cisterns or reservoirs, with the rubbish of a fortress erected by the Venetians. The houses have been demolished, with the two churches; one of which was for the Latin or Catholic Greeks, and had in it a monument of a Venetian governor, of marble. Chandler
The castle was strengthened by the Venetians during their second occupation, but in 1714 their small garrison surrendered without fighting. Its members were mainly mercenaries and the Ottoman army which invaded Egina was a very large one. The peace of Passarowitz in 1718 gave the Ottomans full control of the Aegean Sea, so they did not maintain the castle, of which today little is left.
The soil of Egina is, as described by Strabo, very stony,
especially the bottoms, and naked, but in some places not
unfertile in grain. Besides corn, it produces olives, grapes, and plenty of almonds. (..) The Eginetans have a bishop, and so many churches, scattered over the
island, that, as they affirm, the number equals the days in the
Paleo Chora did have a lot of small churches, often twin churches because the population was made of Catholic and Orthodox believers. The piety of the inhabitants of the island has preserved some forty of them.
(left) Reliefs of the church of St. Macrino; (right) Venetian inscription in St. George the Catholic
The lintels of some churches are decorated with different kinds of crosses and other religious symbols. The church of St. George retains a 1533 inscription making reference to Antonio Barbaro, the Venetian governor of Napoli di Romania who had jurisdiction over Egina. Other members of his family were involved in the XVIIth century wars against the Ottomans.
Views from the fortress towards modern Egina and the Peloponnese (above) and Athens (below)
The Castle lieth above it, and is remarkable for little, but the fair Prospects it affords into all Parts round about it. For from hence many of the Islands of the Archipelago are discovered, and the whole Attick and Morean Shore. (..) The other temple is on the other side of the Isle towards Athens, four Miles from the Town, in a Wood, upon a Hill. Wheler
The ascent (to the Temple) was steep, rough, and stony, between bushes of mastic, young cedars, and fir-trees, which scented the air very agreeably. Some trails were quite bare. On the eminence our toil was rewarded by an extensive view of the Attic and Peloponnesian coasts, the remoter mountains inland, and the summits in the Aegean Sea; the bright surface, which intervened, being studded as it were with islands; many lying round Aegina, toward the continent. (..) We saw distinctly the acropolis of Athens, seated on a hill near the middle of a plain, and encompassed with mountains, except toward the sea; a portion of its territory, covered with dusky olive-groves, looking black, as if under a dark cloud. Chandler
Both the castle above Paleo Chora and a temple in the north-eastern part of the island enjoy commanding views of the coasts of Attica and Peloponnese.
This is thought to be that Temple, which Aeacus, the first King of the Island, dedicated to Jupiter. It hath yet twenty one Pillars standing, with their Architraves on them, and many others lying on the Ground. They are of the Dorick Order, chanelled, twenty two foot and an half long; the Architrave thirteen foot and an half long, and about three broad. By the Order of placing them, there ought to have been fifty in number, standing at a pace and an half distance from each other. Wheler
In the morning by sun-rise we had reached Egina, and were entering a bay; the mountain Panhellenius, covered with trees, sloping before us, and a temple on its summit, near an hour distant from the shore, appearing as in a wood. (..) We set out for the temple, which was dedicated to Jupiter Panhellenius. (..) The temple is of the Doric order, and had six columns in front. It has twenty one of the exterior columns yet standing; with the two in the front of the pronaos and of the porticum; and five of the number, which formed the ranges within the cell. The entablature, except the architrave, is fallen. (..) The temple was inclosed by a peribolus or wall, of which traces are extant. We considered this ruin as a very curious article, scarcely to be paralleled in its claim to remote antiquity. The situation on a lonely mountain, at a distance from the sea, has preserved it from total demolition amid all the changes and accidents of numerous centuries. Chandler
In 1903 the discovery of a votive inscription indicated that the temple was dedicated to Aphaea, which means the invisible/ the vanishing one, a name given to Britomartis, a daughter of Leto, who was pursued by Minos, King of Crete. Britomartis hid from Minos for nine months until, in desperation, she threw herself into the sea and she was hauled to safety by fishermen of Egina, where she found refuge in the woods.
Temple to Aphaea: southern side
The stone is of a light brownish colour, much eaten in many places, and by its decay witnessing a very great age. Some of the columns have been injured by boring to their centres for the metal. In several the junction of the parts is so exact, that each seems to consist of one piece. Digging by a column of the portico of the naos, we discovered a fragment of fine sculpture. It was the hind-part of a greyhound, of white marble, and belonged, it is probable, to the ornaments fixed on the freeze, which has a groove in it, as for their insertion. Chandler
British Museum: gold pendant found on Egina; it is dated XVIIIth century BC ca and it is believed to have been made on Crete
On the second day one of the excavators,
working in the interior portico, struck on a piece of
Parian marble. (..)
It was not to be expected that we should be
allowed to carry away what we had found without
opposition. However much people may neglect their
own possessions, as soon as they see them coveted by
others they begin to value them. The primates of the island came to us in a body and read a statement
made by the council of the island in which they begged
us to desist from our operations, for that heaven only
knew what misfortunes might not fall on the island in
general, and the immediately surrounding land in
particular, if we continued them. Such a rubbishy
pretence of superstitious fear was obviously a mere
excuse to extort money, and as we felt that it was only
fair that we should pay, we sent our dragoman with them
to the village to treat about the sum; and meanwhile a
boat which we had ordered from Athens having
arrived, we embarked the marbles without delay and
sent them off to the Piraeus. (..) The
marbles being gone, the primates came to be easier
to deal with. We completed our bargain with them
to pay them 800 piastres.
Travels in southern Europe and the Levant, 1810-1817. The journal of Charles Robert Cockerell
The site was excavated in 1811 and many statues and reliefs were found which were eventually bought by the King of Bavaria (they are now in Munich).
Let's continue the journey with Chandler ....
In the morning we set sail from Egina for Poro, a small island near the coast of the Morea, distant about sixteen miles. The island Poro was antiently named Calaurea, and reckoned thirty stadia or three miles and three quarters in circumference. It stretches along before the coast of the Morea in a lower ridge, and is separated from it by a canal only four stadia or half a mile wide. This, which is called Poro or the Ferry, in still weather may be passed on foot, as the water is not deep. It has given its name to the island, and to the town, which consists of about two hundred houses, mean and low, with flat roofs rising on the slope of a bare disagreeable rock. The inhabitants are supplied with wood for fuel chiefly from the continent. In a church is a Latin inscription, with two in the Italian language, recording a young Venetian, who died of the plague in 1688 and was buried there. Chandler
Hydre or Hydrea is on the coast of the Peloponnesus. (..) The inhabitants are maintained wholly by the sea, to which the males are bred from their childhood. They now possessed, as we were told, above an hundred and twenty boats of various sizes, some better armed for defence than several English vessels frequenting the Archipelago. They are accounted the best sailors in the Levant, boldly navigating in rough weather, and venturing to sea at night, if in danger of being intercepted by an enemy or by pirates. They pay to the Grand Signior two purses yearly, as caratch or tribute-money; which sum, with expenses, fees, and presents, amounting nearly to two more, is assessed, at the rate of three piasters a house. The captain-pasha sends a galeote from Paros with officers, who receive it, and are entertained by a papas or Greek priest: at the monastery by the sea-side, below the town. No Turk resides among them, and they enjoy the use of bells to their churches, without controul; a privilege on which they enlarge, as if alike pregnant with profit and delight. (..) The Hydriote fleet, which had sailed out of the gulf when we arrived, returned on the following day, laden with corn from Cea, purchased for a Venetian armed ship, captain Alexander, who was then come to an anchor within the cape. This being a contraband cargo, was to be delivered clandestinely, and we were informed the boats had given to the commander of a Turkish cruiser, which appeared in the offing, the sum of fifteen piasters each for his permission to fulfil their contract without molestation. Chandler
From Hydra you can easily reach Spezzia (Spetse).
You may refresh your knowledge of the history of Venice in the Levant by reading an abstract from the History of Venice by Thomas Salmon, published in 1754 (the Italian text is accompanied by an English summary) or you may wish to read excerpts (in Italian) from Memorie Istoriografiche del Regno della Morea Riacquistato dall'armi della Sereniss. Repubblica di Venezia printed in Venice in 1692 and related to this page.
Introductory page on the Venetian Fortresses in Greece
List of the fortresses
|Geographic area||Location||Ionian Islands||Corfų (Kerkyra) Paxo (Paxi) Santa Maura (Lefkadas) Cefalonia (Kephallonia) Asso (Assos) Itaca (Ithaki) Zante (Zachintos) Cerigo (Kythera)||Greek Mainland||Butrinto (Butrint) Parga Preveza and Azio (Aktion) Vonizza (Vonitsa) Lepanto (Nafpaktos) Atene (Athens)||Peloponnese (Morea)||Castel di Morea (Rio), Castel di Rumelia (Antirio) and Patrasso (Patra) Castel Tornese (Hlemoutsi) and Glarenza Navarino (Pilo) and Calamata Modon (Methoni) Corone (Koroni) Braccio di Maina, Zarnata, Passavā and Chielefā Mistrā Corinto (Korinthos) Argo (Argos) Napoli di Romania (Nafplio) Malvasia (Monemvassia)||Aegean Islands||Negroponte (Chalki) Castelrosso (Karistos) Oreo Lemno (Limnos) Schiatto (Skiathos) Scopello (Skopelos) Alonisso Schiro (Skyros) Andro (Andros) Tino (Tinos) Micono (Mykonos) Siro (Syros) Egina (Aegina) Spezzia (Spetse) Paris (Paros) Antiparis (Andiparos) Nasso (Naxos) Serifo (Serifos) Sifno (Syphnos) Milo (Milos) Argentiera (Kimolos) Santorino (Thira) Folegandro (Folegandros) Stampalia (Astipalea)||Crete||Grambusa (Granvousa) Castello (Kasteli/Kissamos) La Canea (Xania) Souda Candia (Iraklion) Rettimo (Rethymno) Spinalonga and Castel Mirabello Castles on the southern coast Sittia and Paleocastro|