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Hill of Kolona with museum

About the archeological site of Kolona

Just north of Aegina town is the hill with one single column (kolona in Greek), last remnant of a Doric Temple of Apollo, which was torn down with others - because they were deemed idolatrous - in the 4th century AD. Built in 520 BC of the porous Aegina sandstone, it stood on the site of previous temples on the prehistoric acropolis. It had 11 columns on the longer sides and 6 on the shorter ones. The upper portion of the one that remains is gone, fallen (along with the architrave) some time after 1765. A second column lasted till 1802, when it toppled during a storm. The frontispieces of the temple were made of Parian marble and depicted Amazonian battles.

English architect Charles Robert Cockerell was the first to excavate the Hill of Kolona (1811). In 1903 a second excavation was carried out by Estonian O.M. von Stackelberg and German archaeologist A. Furtwangler, followed by still others in 1924 and 1966 - German archaeologist Gabriel Welter and German professor, Hans Walter, respectively. The latter was director of the Bavarian Academy. These last excavations brought to light the remains of 11 successive settlements on the same site which reflected the ongoing development of fortification systems in prehistoric times, as well as increasing sophistication of dwellings.

The area was inhabited from around 3000 BC, from which time it was occupied continuously for two millennia, during which it withstood many attacks. Fortification consisted of walls enclosing the eight oldest towns; the other three shared a wall with the city below. Most houses were built of sun-dried bricks with stone foundations, others of woven grass, rushes and clay, with flat roofs made of the same materials. The towns manifest successive development, each more sophisticated than the one that preceded it. When the temple of Apollo was pulled down, a large structure with a water tank replaced it. Foundations of other, smaller temples, have been found to its west, temples dedicated to Dionysos and Artemis. There was also a very impressive theatre, a parliament building (the Voulefterium), as well as a stadium, whose stone seats were re-used later, in the 3rd century AD, in the construction of fortifications. Another temple was dedicated to Delphinian Apollo, who protected sailors. Contests were held in his honor in which men raced one another with clay jugs full of water on their shoulders, this during the month called "Delphinium". According to Velter, Apollo was also named Delphinius and the Aegenetians honored him so intensely that they replaced their old coin, with its image of the turtle, with one depicting the dolphin.

There were other temples dedicated to Athena, Demeter, Heracles and Hecate, the moon goddess, who was honored in festivals lasting 16 days. A healing center (Asklipeio - named for the god of healing, Asklepius) was mentioned by Aristophanes. A synagogue with a mosaic floor is found in the Karantina area which was settled by Jews (near the military port). Rock tombs, dating to the 6th century BC, are also found near the ancient town. There was a commercial port as well as a military port (also called "the hidden port") where warships were concealed. During the 8th century BC, Aegina was a large nautical power. Guard towers studded the city walls by the sea. The city was destroyed by Saracen pirates during the 10th century, along with a good portion of the island, and the inhabitants took refuge in the inland fortified hill village of Paleachora, which became the island capital for about 1000 years.

Port complex
The port complex, which took advantage of the many tiny coves lining the coast in this area, was one of the most important technical projects of the era. It began at the cape of St Apostoloi, at Plakakia (northwest of the city), and ended up at the cove of Marathonas, with rows of constructed sea walls and breakwaters, the central portion consisting of the commercial and military/ Karantina ports below the Hill of Kolona. Fragments of the sea walls remain below the surface of the sea. The passages that led between the towers guarding the ports were closed off with chains.

The Museum
The Archaeological Museum of Aegina, now located on the site of Kolona, was established in 1828 by the first Governor of Greece - Ioannis Kapodistrias as The National Archeological Museum. A fine collection of artifacts was established here, including, by the end of 1830 (amongst other items) over 1,000 coloured vases, 108 lamps, 137 weapons, and 359 coins. Originally the museum was housed in the Orphanage (Filakes) and was moved a few times before it found its current site in 1981.

On visiting the museum you will find 3 main halls where you can while away an interesting hour or more viewing the surprising number of artifacts. In the entrance area you will be greeted by a marble Sphinx. This is a votive monument of the early classical period (460 BC) which was dedicated to the Temple of Apollo. It is an exceptional sculpture which has the head of a woman with a body that is half eagle and half lion. The Sphinx was excavated from the Kolona site in 1903. This will surely be one of the highlights of your visit to the museum, but there are many other interesting items to explore.

Text by Souzana Raphael

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Telephone: (+30) 22970 22248
Opening hours site: Tuesday - Sunday 08.30 - 15.00
Site closed: Monday
Admission: Full € 3 and reduced € 2

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