Ancient Aigeira was one of the most important towns of Achaia and
the Achaiko Confederation. It was located east of the present day community of
Aigeira, on the hill "Paliokastro", has an altitude of 650m and the
main settlement was fortified with strong walls.
Ancient Aigeira, which existed before the period of Homer has been
of concern to many writers who seemed to locate it between Sikionos and Aigiou.
Polivios referring to the location of Aigeira writes, "the town of Aigeira
is located between Aigio and Sikionos and is built in fortresses and impassable
hills, and looks towards Parnasso".
According to Alzinger, the first people settled there in 3 thousand
B.C, namely in the early Greek period. Evidence of their existence, are the fragments
of ceramics found in the excavations of the lower stratum. During the period of
Homer it was known as Iperisi and this was, the name referred to by Homer on the
list of ships that took part along with other Achaian towns in the Trojan expedition.
The name Iperisi, and according to Pausania Ipirisia, was maintained in Ancient
Aigeira for many centuries and according to the archeologist Otto Walter until
the 23rd Olympiad in 688 B.C.
As referred to by Pausania, Iperisia got its name Aigeira when it
was, inhabited by the Iones and they were, invaded by the Sikionioi. So as the
residents could defend themselves effectively and because there were few of them,
they gathered all the goats (aiges) in the area and lit torches which had been
placed in their horns and they let them loose against the Sikionion, who were
so frightened that they left. Therefore, the Iperisies were, saved by the goats
(aiges) and they changed the name of their town to Aigeira. There are those however
who claim that Ancient Aigeira got its name from a type of Poplar-tree, the aigeirous,
which was abundant in the area during ancient time. A third version as to the
origin of the name of Ancient Aigeira is that referred to by Nikolaos Papandreadis
in his book, "History and Folklore of Zaholis". He claims that it got
its name from a nobleman from Patra, named Aigeiro, who took over and ruled it,
therefore giving it his name.
Ancient Aigeira lived great periods of prosperity and was at its peak.
Due to the excellent location that it occupied on the east section of Aigialeias,
north of Mount Evrostina, it was visible not only by the neighboring towns of
Corinthos but also from across the sea, of Central Greece, towns of Aitolon. It
therefore suffered from many hostile invasions, the most familiar being that of
the Aitolon in 220 or 219 B.C and that of the Sikionion. As a result of their
victory against the Sikionion, they built the holy sanctuary of Agroteras Artemidos,
as they believed that the fabrication (with the goats already mentioned) against
the invaders was inspired by Artemis.
In Ancient Aigeira, according to descriptions of Pausania, there was
a statue of Zeus made of marble from Pendeli, a statue of Athina, temple of Artemidos,
with ancient statues of Agamemnona and Ifigeneias, statues of "Asklipiou"
of Serapidos and Isidos and a holy sanctuary dedicated to Apollon.
Coins of Ancient Aigeira
From the catalogue of coins of the monetary collection of Copenhagen,
it appears that approximately in the year 330 B.C, Aigeira cut copper coins with
Athina on the front side and on the other side, the front end of a goat inside
an olive wreath. They also cut coins with the head of a woman wearing a veil,
which on the front side there is the inscription ?Aigiaraton? and on the back,
a goat with a wreath. Also, in the years 193-221 A.D with the head and shoulders
of Plautillas, wife of the Roman emperor Karakala.
Olympic champions of Aigeira
Ancient Aigeira was distinguished for its many significant Olympic
champions. The most familiar of these were Kratinos the Aigeiratis and Ikaros.
Kratinos was a very significant wrestler and won the Olympic children?s wrestling
contest. Ikaros won the race of 1 stadium in the 23rd Olympiad.
The decline of Ancient Aigeira
The town of Aigeira must have been at its peak until the 4th century
A.D. We reach this conclusion from a decree by the Roman emperor Dioklitianou,
who determined the prices of different provisions which are bought by the Roman
soldiers so as to avoid exploitation by the merchants of that period. The decree
was written on marble plaques that were found in the excavations of Ancient Aigeira
and,believed to have been written in 303 A.D. It is claimed that it was destroyed
by a strong tidal wave, although it is considered more likely to have been destroyed
by a powerful earthquake.
The findings of the excavations in the area os Ancient Aigeira
The first excavations in the area of Ancient Aigeira began in 1916
by the Austrian Archeological Institute, which still continues its excavations.
The archeological findings of the investigations of the excavations
to this day cover a period of time from 3000 B.C, to the Imperial years of Rome
and almost to the 4th century A.D. From the first days, the investigation which,
was carried out by Otto Walter was crowned with amazing success. On the 31st of
August 1916, the head of the marble statue of Zeus was found. According to Pausania
the statue was the work of the famous creator Evklidi from Athens, and the height
exceeded three metres. In subsequent investigations the left arm and one finger
of the right hand of the same statue were found.
O. Walter's second stirring discovery was that of the "Pillar"
of the theatre of Ancient Aigeira. According to Wilhem Alzinger who continued
the investigation from 1972 onwards, the theatre was constructed during the 5th
towards the 4th century B.C.
The front part of the stage of the theatre was decorated with semi-pillars.
Still preserved is the orchestral drain and the north wall of the stage with a
central door which during the Roman years was transformed into venetian style.
The greater part of this evidence of the theatre was destroyed during the 2nd
century A.D, when the stage was transformed. With this transformation a three-storey
stage was created, where its architectural decor shows little evidence of relics.
The facade was divided into three storeys with a protective roof.
The lower was of Doric style, the middle was Ionic and the upper was Corinthian.
The building of the three-storey stage is dated back to the years of Andrianou,
At the location of the excavations there has also been found a part
of the wall of the town, a kiln for pots and pot fragments from 3000 B.C, marble
plaques on which is written the decree of the Roman emperor Dioklitianou, many
inscriptions and names. At the excavations of 1972, on the north side of the theatre
a part of the temple of Zeus was discovered as is believed by Alzinger. The floor
is covered with splendid mosaic and river pebbles, and is decorated with different
pictures such as vultures, beetles and an eagle attacking a snake and two vases.
From 1989 to this day, the excavations and investigation are carried
out by Antonio Faber, architect and professor at the University of Vienna, professor
O. Mous and the students of the university.