Cruises to the Saronic islands
Aegina is an island in the Saronic Gulf, while the capital and main port of the island has the same name. In ancient times it was a settlement center for Peloponnesians, Aegeans and Myrmidons. Later, it participated with other maritime cities in the institution of the Amphictyony of Kalavria, took part in the naval battle of Salamis and during the classical period became a member of the Achaean League.
Aegina is located in the center of the Saronic Gulf, surrounded by Agistri, Methana, Troizina, Poros and the coast of mainland Attica. With a total area of 82.63 square kilometers it is the second largest island of the Saronic Gulf. The length of its coastline is 57 km and it has the shape of an almost equilateral triangle. Its NE end is 10.5 nautical miles from the mouth of the port of Piraeus, its NW end is 12 nautical miles from the Trachili of Epidaurus and its S end is 9 nautical miles from the northern entrance of Poros.
Its terrain is mainly volcanic with the northern areas consisting of sedimentary rocks and the southern areas of igneous rocks. It consists of low hills and some lowland areas. The highest mountain is Mount Oros with a height of 532 meters and has no rivers and generally no running water. The fauna of the island consists of turtles, hares, rabbits, wild rabbits and foxes while the flora consists of wild olive trees, holly, toadflax, rams and phylloxera.The climate is Mediterranean and dry with limited rainfall.
According to mythology, Aegina owes its name to the daughter of the god Asopos, Aegina, whom Zeus fell in love with and abducted to the island of Oenoni, which was renamed Aegina. According to Herodotus, Aegina was a colony of Epidaurus. Its strategic location in antiquity seems to be the reason why it was inhabited before 3,500 BC. In the area of Kolona, on a low hill, a settlement of the Early Helladic period (about 2500-1600 BC) has been found. Among the finds, administrative buildings stand out, such as the house on the rock and the slightly later White House. Then, around 2200-2050 BC, the settlement was expanded in a peripheral manner and fortified. In excavations that have been carried out, Minoan ceramics of about 2000 BC have been found, as well as gold jewelry belonging to the late period of Mycenaean art, which support the version of the preservation of the Mycenaean culture for a few generations after the descent of the Dorians, who seem to have conquered the island around 950 BC.
In the 7th century BC, Aegina participated in the political federation called the Amphictyony of Kalavria together with Athens, Orhomenos of Boeotia, Troizina, Hermione, Nafplia and Prasia, with the aim of suppressing the flourishing piracy in the Aegean due to the decline of the Mycenaeans. During the Archaic period (734 - 459 BC), Aegina flourished, becoming a major naval and commercial power of the time, developing an export trade in clay vessels and domestically produced perfumes. The Aeginans were the first to mint silver coins in Greece, a few decades after the Lydeans invented the coinage. It should be noted that the Aeginites had significant interests in Hellespont and were shareholders in the trading post of the Egyptian city of Naucratis.
The naval supremacy of Aegina and the consolidation of the oligarchic faction in power was an obstacle to the aspirations of Athens, so that already from the end of the 6th century BC there was tension in relations between them. Although they had supported Darius during the Median Wars, in the Persian Wars they joined forces with the other Greek cities and took the primacy together with the Athenians. After the end of the war, Aegina joined forces with Sparta and Corinth, resulting in a final conflict with Athens, which attacked Aegina in 458 BC. In the ensuing naval battle, the Aeginae were defeated and their capital was captured. As a result of the defeat, the walls of the city were torn down, the ships were surrendered and a tribute tax was imposed. During the Peloponnesian War (431 - 404 BC) the Aeginans were expelled to the Peloponnese, only to return after the end of the war.
In the years that followed, Aegina lost all its glory, falling successively to the Aetolians, the Pergamens and the Romans. According to Pausanias, who passed by the island in 150 AD, there was nothing of note in Aegina and its historic harbor had been completely abandoned. Due to the raids of the Goths and the Heruls in Central Greece and the Peloponnese, large populations moved to Aegina, which experienced a second prosperity. In the 10th century, pirate raids forced some of the inhabitants to emigrate and the capital was moved to the mainland, specifically to Paleochora. During the last decades of the 12th century, when piracy became widespread, due to the decision of John II Komnenos (on the recommendation of John of Proutzis) to cut off funds to the navy, Aegina became the main base for pirates, especially for their attacks on Attica, the inhabitants of which they terrorize by snatching material goods, animals, people for slaves or ransom, and of course they kill many inhabitants, often in a torturous way or simply mutilate them. And the Metropolitan of Athens Michael Choniatis, for this very reason, describes Aegina as a "nest of pirates''
Subsequently, Aegina was subdued by the Franks, the Catalans, the Venetians and the Ottomans, but the most important destruction was carried out by Hayreddin Barbarossa, who plundered the capital and captured around 4,000 to 7,000,000 Aeginans. At the end of the 18th century, the Aeginites abandoned the Old Town and settled in the site of the ancient city of Aegina.
During the period of the revolution, thousands of inhabitants of Central Greece, the Peloponnese and the Eastern Aegean, especially the regions of Galaxidi, Psara and Athens, fled to Aegina. It is estimated that about 400 Aeginites participated in the revolution. In the period 1826-1827 the Greek government settled on the island, since the designated capital city of Nafplio did not provide the necessary security at that time. In 1827, Aegina was officially designated as the first - temporary - capital of the newly established Greek state, a status it retained until 1829, when the capital was transferred to Nafplio. According to the historian Edgar Quinet, at the time of Kapodistrias the population amounted to ten thousand inhabitants including refugees (who came to make up 70% of the inhabitants), while according to government estimates the population was forty thousand. At that time the buildings of the Orphanage, which housed the mutual school and the national printing house, the archeological museum, the government building, which housed the country's first library, were constructed.
After the transfer of the capital, Aegina began to decline and its population halved.
During the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas, the construction of naval forts in Perdika and Tourlos was planned, which, together with the naval fort of Phlebes and the guns of Pounda and Keramos, formed part of the Greek coastal defense, In 1940 the Navy proceeded to lay mines in the sea areas of Turlou - Phlebes and Moni Aegina - Agios Georgios Methana, thus creating a protected front. In April 1941, German Stuka planes bombed the island of Aegina three times, destroying the two jetties in the harbour. In May of the same year German troops landed the forts of Turlou and Perdika In January 1942 the German submarine U 133 was sunk by a mine off Turlou.
The island presents important sights such as the Temple of Aphaia, Paleochora (the "island" Mystras), the remains of the temple of Hellenic Zeus, the prehistoric/historic settlement of Kolona, the Tower of Marcellus, the Cathedral, the Museum of Capralos, the Folklore Museum and the Archeological Museum. Very famous beaches of the island are Marathonas, Agia Marina, Perdika and Souvala. A popular tourist center is also the imposing Monastery of Agios Nektarios with its oversized holy church, as well as a multitude of churches that survived after the Turkish occupation.
The island is served by local coaches, has an organized bus network (KTEL) located at the National Energy Square opposite the port, while visitors can choose to tour the town on one of the traditional carriages.
In 1896 the doctor Nikolaos Peroglou started the systematic cultivation of pistachio, which soon became popular among the island's inhabitants. By 1950, the cultivation of pistachio had displaced to a considerable extent the rest of the agricultural activity due to the great profit it yielded and the phylloxera that threatened the vines. In the early 1960s, the first peanut peeling factory was set up in the area of Plakakakia by Gregorio Konidaris. The quality of 'Aegina pistachio', a designation registered as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in 1996, is internationally considered to be excellent and superior to that of many foreign varieties, due to the island's particular climatic conditions (drought) and the volcanic characteristics of the soil. The fruits of the pistachio tree have made Aegina famous throughout the world. Today, half of the pistachio growers are members of the Aegina Peanut Growers' Agricultural Cooperative. It is estimated that its pistachio trees cover 29,000 hectares and the total production reaches 2,700 tons annually. In recent years, in mid-September, the annual pistachio festival called 'Fistiki Fest' is organized every year.
Aegina attracts a lot of people due to its proximity to Athens and as a result, in recent decades, tourism has become the main economic activity of the locals. The island has a large number of hotels and rooms to let and is a classic passage for sailing boats. Religious tourism also plays an important role for the economy, which has increased due to the Agios Nektarios, as well as archeological tourism due to the temple of Aphaia and the Byzantine monuments.
On 29 April 1829, the first official dance in Greece took place at the house of Alexandros Kontostavlos in Perivola, followed by a second one at the house of Spyridon Trikoupis. Among the projects of Ioannis Kapodistrias in the new, temporary capital was the creation of the first archeological museum, which was housed either in the Eynardeion Didactic School or, initially, in the Orphanage complex. Its director was Andreas Moustoxidis. During the 20th century, Aegina provided inspiration to a number of literary and visual artists who settled there. Among them were Nikos Kazantzakis, Yannis Moralis, Nikos Nikolaou, Christos Capralos and many others.