One of the most important islands of Athens one day cruise is Aegina. Mythology mentions that Aegina is named after the daughter of Aesop, who was abducted by Zeus. The god transported her to the then deserted island and fathered a son, Aiakos, who afterwards became one of the three judges of the underworld.
According to archaeological evidence, Aegina was inhabited from the Neolithic era and is considered to be the birthplace of Aristophanes. Pausanias writes that near the harbor there were temples dedicated to Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Dionysus and Asclepiads. Nothing of these remain but a single Doric column from the 6th Century, the Temple of Apollo on the small picturesque hillock, called “Kolona”.
Temple of Aphaia
The most important archaeological site lies to the east island near Agia Marina, where the Temple of Aphaia, a very ancient goddess once patroness of Aegina, is situated. The first temple was erected in 570 BC and destroyed some sixty years later. The temple whose remains we see today was built on the same spot out of limestone from the vicinity. Traces of the original temple can be seen in the foundations of this Doric building. On the same site there are also ruins of the Propylene Altar and parts of the Sanctuary.
Aphaia, a goddess little known to the Greeks, was subsequently replaced by Athena, to encourage them during the Trojan War. Scenes from that epic conflict are depicted on the temple pediments. This is why the temple is known today as Aphaia Athena. Finds excavated in the area, such as sculptures, pottery and the likes are ion display in the Archaeological Museum of Aegina.
The fine arts, and especially sculpture, blossomed on the island from earliest times and the Aeginetan workshop had an established reputation by the 6thand 5th Century. The Middle Ages also left their mark on Aegina. Just 6.5 km, from the port, opposite the Monastery of Agios Nektarios, there is a low hill covered with the ruins of the abandoned city of Palaiochora. This was the capital of the island from the 9th to early 19th Century.
The Castle of Palaiochora, Angistri and Moni
Crowning the summit are the remnants of the medieval castle where the population sought refuge during pirate raids. In the heyday, Palaiochora could survive, many with memorable wall paintings. South of the capital is the seaside village of Marathon, followed by the fishing port of Perdika (9 km). From Perdika small boats carry visitors to the picturesque islets of Angistri and Moni, ideal spots from enjoying nature, solitude and relaxing pursuits.
The famous pistachios of Aegina
The road to the northeast of the island cuts through pistachio and olive groves to the village of Kipseli and the small basilica of St. Theodore (1282). It then proceeds to the seaside hamlet of Souvala, winding up at Agia Marina (14), a village known for its long sandy beach, the biggest on Aegina; it is the most popular resort on the island.
The ceramics and the pistachio of Aegina
Nowadays Aegina is famous for its pistachios and its ceramics. Pistachio is cultivated in Aegina since 1860 and from here originally spread to Attica and then to the rest of Greece. Today 3,500 acres are cultivated on the island with 120,000 pisces producing the famous pistachio of Aegina.