Aegosthena and Porto Germeno
History and Archaeology
Aegosthena was an ancient Greek fortified port-city of northwestern Attica, situated at a sheltered bay at the eastern end of the Gulf of Corinth.
Surrounded by forested mountains, Kithaeron to the north and Pateras to the south, it commanded the ancient route from Boeotia to the Peloponnese. Its history spans over the Geometric, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods, however the fortifications themselves belong to the 5th and 4th centuries B.C.
Falling under the Megaraean sphere, Aegosthena formed part of the Achaean League in 244 BC, was subsequently ceded to Boeotia for a brief time and re-entered the League after the second Macedonian war.
The fortress was built sometime around the early 4th to the early 3rd century BC, most probably in 343 BC when the Athenians were helping the city-state of Megara to confront the threat of Thiva (Thebes). For this reason, the fort was manned by a guard of Athenians.
The Acropolis was connected to the harbour by long walls, of which only the northern one is visible today. It was reinforced by eight towers and bastions and had at least two gates. The town and its warehouses operated down into Roman times.
An inscription of c. 420 AD listed Aegosthena as a free city.
There is evidence at Aegosthena for the cult of the hero and soothsayer Melampus, whose sanctuary is thought to be below the Acropolis in the area inside the long walls. Inscriptions recovered on the site indicate that shrines of Melampus and Heracles (Hercules) are known to have existed in the area.
In Aegosthena is a sanctuary of Melampus, son of Amythaon, and a small figure of a man carved upon a slab. To Melampus they sacrifice and hold a festival every year. They say that he divines neither by dreams nor in any other way. Here is something else that I heard in Erenea, a village of the Megarians. Autonoe, daughter of Cadmus, left Thebes to live here owing to her great grief at the death of Actaeon, the manner of which is told in legend, and at the general misfortune of her father’s house. The tomb of Autonoe is in this village.
A five-aisled Christian basilica was erected in the lower fortified area in the medieval period, and there was a monastery complex within the citadel, whilst a small Byzantine church was built on an apsidal Early Christian basilica (25.15 x 20.38 m) with three large aisles. Against the southern side of the basilica was a quadrangular baptistery.
The Site today
The site has not been excavated but is considered one of the best surviving examples of Classical Greek military architecture, the ancient citadel retaining several of the tallest surviving towers of ancient Greece..
The hilltop includes the Acropolis, measuring 190 x 80 meters, which is enclosed by a circuit wall with towers. The eastern side is preserved to a great height; it is reinforced by four towers and has a sally port. The towers are constructed in the isodomic style, whereas the walls feature trapezoidal, polygonal, or irregular masonry styles.
The most impressive feature of the fortress is its southeast tower. It is square (sides 8.8m.) and some 20 meters in height. Joist-holes on the interior for supporting wooden floor beams provide evidence for three storeys. Archers’ slots can be seen on the three vulnerable sides and in the top storey, which would have had a double pitched roof, three catapult windows on both the south and north sides reinforce the defensive character of the tower.
In 1981, a powerful earthquake caused the partial collapse of the SE tower, which is currently being restored by the 3rd EPCA with funds from the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).
There are relics also from the Byzantine period, most notably, the ruins of a basilica church from the 5th century AD and of a post-Byzantine monastery. The little church of Aghios Georgios (St George) of the 12th century is found within the ancient citadel, whilst chruch of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) 11th century stands near the 5th century A.D. five-aisled basilica constructed of ancient building material.
Aegosthena are a short walk from the charming seaside modern village of Porto Germeno and its long beach. Tavernas, small shops and coffee shops dot this attractive, yet little-known to foreign visitors, locale.
All images copyright Eric CB Cauchi / Eternal Greece Ltd, unless otherwise stated.