Archaeological Site of Aigosthena, Porto Germeno, Municipality of Mandra-Eidyllia

Archaeological Site of Aigosthena, Porto Germeno, Municipality of Mandra-Eidyllia

The site chosen for the ancient city of Aigosthena is in a landscape of unique natural beauty. It is flanked by mountains that provide geographical remoteness and natural defenses, while its direct access to the sea opens up communication routes. The ancient city is built on the east side of the Gulf of Corinth, on the inlet of Aigosthena, and is flanked by the mountain ranges of Cithaeron to the north, Mytikas to the south, and Makron Oros to the southwest. The site was a strategically important one due to its proximity to a major military road, which ran through northern Megaris, connecting the Peloponnese to Boeotia.

The site of the ancient city of Aigosthena appears to have remained in use from the Geometric period to post-Byzantine times.

The fortress was constructed in the second half of the 4th century BC to defend the site. It consists of the acropolis citadel and the lower town.

The acropolis stands on a low hill, 450m from the sea. It is rectangular and surrounded by a circuit wall with towers. The east side is preserved to a great height and has four towers and a small postern gate. The impressive tower at the southeast corner of the acropolis is now fully restored and the interior, all three floors, is open to the public.

The acropolis was connected to the port by long walls. Only the north wall is visible today, which featured at least seven towers and two gates.

At Aigosthena there is evidence for the cult of the hero and soothsayer Melampus, whose sanctuary is thought to be below the acropolis in the area within the long walls.

Habitation continued into Early Christian times, as evidenced by the 5th-century five-aisled basilica in the lower town. In the 11th century, the chapel of the Virgin Maria or Agia Anna was built over the ruins of the basilica of ancient building material. In the Late Byzantine and post-Byzantine period, the acropolis was occupied by a monastery, of which the katholikon survives together with the ruins of monks’ cells.

In 1981, the great earthquake of the Alkyonides Islands in the Gulf of Corinth caused extensive damage to the whole fortress, with large sections collapsing.

The Ministry of Culture has been engaged in major restoration and consolidation works on the fortress since 2011.

 

Southeastern Tower (T1)

The Southeastern Tower forms part of the acropolis. It is the largest and tallest tower of the fortress. It is square, whose sides measure approximately 9m, 18m high with three floors and a pitched roof. The tower is one of the best examples of ancient defensive architecture in Greece, preserving many authentic elements of ancient tower form and construction. It has attracted travelers and researchers from all over the world since the early 19th century.

The tower is constructed of local brecciated limestone, with double walls. The outer face is built of large rectangular ashlars. The inner face, which extends up as far as the second floor, is of irregular masonry using smaller stones. The gap between the two faces is filled with earth and rubble.

The tower door is on the north side. There are arrow-slits on the first and second floors, and twelve catapult windows on the third floor, three on each side.

During the Byzantine period, the tower was modified and perhaps used by the monks of the Monastery of St George, which was established within the acropolis.

The entire south side of the tower was preserved up to the pedimental crown of the roof until 1981 when the powerful earthquake of the Alkyonides Islands damaged the monument severely.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, large parts of the exterior and inner walls of the tower collapsed. The stone blocks that fell inside the tower blocked the entrance and turned the interior of the building inaccessible. In addition, the monument was seriously deformed resulting in wall buckling, outward deflection of the walls at the corners, dislocation of stone blocks from their initial position, extensive cracking, disconnection of the inner walls, which leaned heavily towards the interior of the tower, etc that turned the monument highly susceptible to complete deterioration.

The Project “Restoration - Consolidation of the SE Tower of the Ancient Fortress of Aigosthena” was funded by the Regional Operational Programme “Attica 2007-2013” in the context of the National Strategic Reference Framework and was implemented with direct labor operations initiated by the Third Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities followed by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Athens.

The project was dictated by the need to tackle the serious problems caused by seismic activity and physical deterioration in regard to the stability of the tower. But, besides that, the tower stood as an outstanding case of an ancient fortification monument, which preserved a remarkably large percentage of its original building material and most elements of its authentic form and structure. On this basis, the project aimed at the restoration and complete reconstruction of the monument in the form it was originally in during antiquity.

Work involved the following:

  • Recovery and identification of blocks of stone that had crumbled inside and outside the monument (146 large stone blocks in total).
  • Installation of strong scaffolding around the exterior and interior perimeter of the tower.
  • Dismantling part of the monument in order to reverse the serious damages and deformations it suffered from.
  • Structural conservation and restoration of the ancient stones which were retrieved and dismantled.
  • Realignment of deformed sections of the interior walls, which had been detached from the exterior walls and leaned heavily towards the interior of the tower.
  • Fixing back in place the ancient building material.
  • Replacement of lost parts with new blocks of local brecciated limestone that resembles the original building material.
  • Reconstruction of wooden floors inside the edifice, as well as of a gable roof made of timber overlaid with tiles. Placement of a wooden door and wooden shutters for the windows.
  • Construction of metal staircases in the interior, and also of exterior metal staircases leading to the tower.

The visitor is given now the opportunity to enter the tower and go up to the top floor, from where he has a full view of the fortress and the wider area.

The restored tower, in its complete form, constitutes valuable evidence of ancient fortification.

It is to this day a unique example of a great ancient fortification monument, which has been completely restored in its original form and is now accessible to its interior on all three floors.

 

Church of Agios Georgios, Archaeological Site of Aigosthena, Porto Germeno, Municipality of Mandra-Eidyllia

The church of Agios Georgios is located in the acropolis of the fortress of Aigosthenes. This is a compact cruciform church with a low barrel-vaulted dome, a semicircular apse, and a narthex which was built later on the west with a wooden roof and a floor paved with large, irregular stone slabs.

The interior is richly decorated with fine wall paintings of at least three different periods. The oldest layer of paintings dates from the Byzantine era, as attested by a painting of the Pantocrator revealed on the dome. The second paint layer (17th c.) extends across the dome and the nave. It dates from the post-Byzantine phase when the church was the Katholikon of a monastery. The most recent layer (1833) covers the chancel barrier, the sanctuary and the east part of the north and south walls.

The narthex is a later addition. On the east side of the south door is an inscription set into the wall with the date 1789, which may be that of the construction of the narthex.

Of the modifications carried out to meet the needs of the monastic community, all that remains today is an L-shaped complex of cells.

 

Tower 2 (T2)

The second tower of the east fortification is 56m north of the Southeastern Tower, next to the postern gate leading to the citadel. It is almost square, whose sides measure 5.30-5.50m, preserved to a height of 10.50m, and originally had two floors. Attached to the west and south sides of the tower are the Byzantine cells of the Monastery of St George. The tower entrance, on its south side, is accessed via cell K1.4. There would originally have been an external stairway leading to the upper floor.

 

Northeastern Tower (T4)

The tower stands in the northeast corner of the citadel. It is quadrilateral, whose sides measure 7.40m, and originally had two floors. The entrance was on the south side, where a stone stairway led from the interior of the citadel to the wall-walk and the tower door on the same level. Access to the upper floor was probably via an external stairway from the wall walk.

Until 1981 the tower was remarkably preserved. In consequence of the earthquake, the southeast corner of the monument crumbled to the east cliff dragging a portion of the south and east walls of the tower. In addition, the upper blocks of the north and west sides collapsed. Since then, the tower suffered severe static problems and turned highly susceptible to further collapse.

The restoration project of the Northeastern tower was launched in 2013, funded by the National Strategic Reference Framework. It was implemented by the Directorate for the Restoration of Ancient Monuments, in collaboration with the Ephorate of Antiquities of Athens. The project aimed at reversing the static problems and partly restoring the monument. Nowadays, the tower's deformations have been reversed and the monument has been restored to some height that allows us to comprehend its original form.

 

Christian basilica and church of Virgin Maria or Agia Anna, Archaeological Site of Aigosthena, Porto Germeno, Municipality of Mandra-Eidyllia

In the gulf of today’s Porto Germeno, within the limits of the ancient acropolis of Aigosthena are the remains of an early Christian basilica.

This is a five-aisled rectangular basilica with projecting semicircular apse and a narthex on the west side, covering a total area of 25x20m. The basilica is of the Hellenistic type, not often found in Attica, and is dated to the early 5th century.

The outer walls are built of rough stones, interrupted by a single course of horizontal bricks. The wall dividing the narthex from the main church is more carefully built.

The narthex communicated with the five aisles of the main church via five doors. Four colonnades set on stylobates divide the nave into five aisles. Only one Ionic column base survives in situ. A door in the west end of the south wall led to the baptistery.

During the excavations conducted by prof. An. Orlandos in 1954, parts of mosaic floors were uncovered on the central aisle and the narthex of the basilica, as well as on the antechamber of the baptistery, dated to the late 5th – early 6th century. 

The basilica was probably destroyed in the 7th century. On its ruins was built a small triconch church with a cylindrical dome. The church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary or St Anne, is dated to the 11th or 12th century. It is constructed largely of reused ancient building material, including ancient inscriptions. A few fragments of wall paintings are also preserved inside.

The church was probably the katholikon of a monastery, as indicated by the remains of buildings nearby, while the area was later used as a cemetery.

 

Tower 6 of the north long wall and adjacent gate

Tower 6 is almost halfway between the northwest corner of the citadel and the shore. It is roughly square, with sides measuring approximately 6m, and its original height about 9m above ground.

The tower appears to have been constructed specifically to defend a gate leading to the lower town. The jambs of the gate survive.

 

Last tower of the north longwall

The tower stands at the western end of the north long wall and is now partly underwater. The

tower would have been built close to the sea, probably serving as the harbor guardhouse and

watchtower. Its better-preserved north side has a maximum visible length of 5.85m.

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