Moving on to the next stage of Evan’s and his companions journey, and accompanied by Plato no less. We are going to one of the busiest ports in the world, and perhaps the most ancient that is still in use. Those of you have read The Labyrinthine Journey will know exactly what port I am referring to, and for those who are ancient Greekophiles like me, will know too. It is Piraeus.
Today, ship liners and cruisers as well as naval vessels fill the three harbours, and there is constant traffic, with holiday makers visiting via big ships, or those who take the ferry to one of the many islands.
Prior to becoming part of the mainland of Attica, Piraeus was a small island, and over time the silt increased and the two lands became one. The name is stemmed from the word ‘peraio’, which means to ferry someone across. It has three natural harbours: Kantharos—the biggest, and housed merchant ships as well as the Athenian fleet, along at the ports of Zea and Mounychia. Initially, Piraeus was not the main port for Attica, it was Phaleron Bay. This was where Theseus set sail from to go to Crete as one of the youths to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, and also where Menestheus, son of Athenian king Peteus, left for Troy, for the war between the Greeks and the Trojans.
It was Themistocles, in the 5th century, who persuaded the ekklesia—an assembly of citizens, almost like a governing body—to use Piraeus as Athens main port and where the naval fleet was built to fight against the Persian king Xerxes. They had built sheds that stored triremes—three-tiered ships—and in 2016, marine archaeologists have found evidence of these sheds in the port of Zea.
Timeline (Ancient History Encyclopedia)
493 BCE: The first fortifications are constructed at Athens’ port of Piraeus.
c. 483 BCE: Themistocles persuades the Athenians to significantly expand their fleet, which saves them at Salamis and becomes their source of power.
480 BCE: The fortifications of Piraeus instigated by Themistocles are completed.
c. 465 BCE: Construction of the Long Walls fortifications joining Athens to the port of Piraeus are begun.
446 BCE: The Middle Wall fortifications are added to the Long Walls which connect Athens and the port of Piraeus.
429 BCE: Following attacks by Sparta, fortifications at the port of Piraeus are extended to reduce the width of the harbour entrances.
404 BCE: Spartan general Lysander attacks the Athenian port of Piraeus destroying parts of the Long Wall fortifications.
387 BCE: Sparta attacks the Athenian port of Piraeus.
86 BCE:The Roman general Sulla sacks Athens and the port of Piraeus.
Here’s an article you may want to read on the recent findings at Piraeus.
Thank you for your continued support and as always, I look forward to your comments and will respond.
Historical fiction novelist and a secondary teacher, Luciana Cavallaro, burnt out but not done… yet.