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Aegina is an island in the Saronic Gulf, south of Athens. It was one of Greece's early maritime powers, famous for minting the earliest coins in Greece which were accepted all over the Mediterranean region. According to the classical writer Ovid (43 BCE - 17 CE), the island was originally known as Oenone. As the myth explains, the god Zeus, in the shape of a great flame, carried off the nymph Aegina and kept her on the island. In time, she gave birth to a son, Aeacus, who renamed the island after his mother.

A Prosperous City

According to Herodotus, Aegina was a colony of the city of Epidaurus, a prosperous cult center for the demigod Asclepius, located on the coast of the Peloponnese. This city was an important Mycenaen stronghold, and artifacts discovered on Aegina have established that the Mycenaen culture survived on the island long after the Doric Invasion of c. 1200 BCE which supplanted it.

The standard of weights & measures developed by Aegina became the standard all over Greece.

The wealth of Epidaurus seems to have been put to good use by the citizens of Aegina in that the island flourished early on and, in time, came to rival Athens. The standard of weights and measures developed by Aegina became the standard all over Greece, they were the first to mint coins, and their fleet of ships carried on trade throughout the Mediterranean and the Aegean all the way to Egypt and the Persian Levant. While Herodotus (c. 484 – 425/413 BCE) claims that Athens and Aegina became enemies over a feud involving statues of two deities, it is more likely that the mainland city grew envious of the island city's prosperity and, further, concerned over their trade with Persia.

Foreign Affairs

The Ionian Greek colonies in Asia Minor, under Persian control, had been a source of conflict for the Persian Empire for years. After the Ionian Revolt of 499-493 BCE, in which the Greek colonies were defeated by the Persian forces and order restored, Aegina, which had not been involved in the conflict, sent Persia symbols of submission which amounted to a pact in the eyes of Athens. The Athenians had supported the Ionian Revolt (along with the city of Eretria) as far as supplying troops and arms to the colonies. Aegina's gesture of goodwill toward Athens' enemy would not have been taken well. In retaliation for Greek support of the Ionian Revolt, Darius I of Persia (c. 550-486 BCE) invaded Greece in 490 BCE but was beaten back at The Battle of Marathon.

Ten years later, Darius' son, Xerxes I (r. 486-465 BCE), invaded Greece to complete what his father had begun. After a series of battles (including the famous Battle of Thermopylae), he was defeated at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BCE by the combined naval forces of Athens and Aegina. As there is no evidence of warm relations between Athens and Aegina, nor any evidence of a breakdown in relations between Aegina and Persia between the pact in 491 BCE and the Battle of Salamis, it would seem as though Aegina was forced to fight against the Persians in the patriotic aftermath of Thermopylae. Whatever their motivation was, Aegina's ships played a crucial role in the destruction of the Persian fleet. Following this, however, Aegina fell under the shadow of Athenian naval and commercial supremacy and began to decline.

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Aegina fought against Athens in the First Peloponnesian War (460-445 BCE) where they were probably backed by the Persians who not only protected their trade interests but also supported the enemy of their enemy (Athens). With or without Persian support, however, Aegina's time of greatness was over. By the time Plato wrote his dialogue of the Phaedo (c.380-360 BCE) Aegina was considered little more than a pleasure resort. In the dialogue, when Echecrates asks Phaedo, "But Aristippus and Cleombrotus, were they present?" Phaedo answers, "No, they were not. They were said to be in Aegina." Aristippus was the founder of the Cyrenaic school of philosophy, which taught that pleasure is the only intrinsic good, and an informed ancient reader of Plato's dialogue would have understood these lines as a kind of `inside joke' equating the Cyrenaic's hedonism with the island of Aegina.

The History of The Temple of Aphaia

Just outside the capital city of Athens is the island of Aegina [Grk: Αίγινα], one of the Saronic Islands that are closest to the city in the Saronic Gulf. The quaint and quiet island is very easy to reach from Athens and is filled with history and many iconic historical sites.

Perhaps its most famous site is the marvelous ancient temple known as the Temple of Aphaia [Grk: Ναός Αφαίας] that still stands, albeit in a ruined form. The magnificent temple stands on a pine covered hill over 500 feet high. The Temple is aptly dedicated to the Greek goddess Aphaia, who was almost exclusively worshiped at this very temple on Aegina. However, from the middle of the fifth-century BC, the Athenians dominated the rival island of Aegina, and the Temple of Aphaia was linked with the goddess Athena.

The Temple was built in 500 BC and is made of porous limestone that was later coated with an outer layer of stucco and richly painted. Like the Parthenon and the Temple of Poseidon, the temple is built in the Doric order. Six columns form the front and back of the temple, while each side has twelve columns. 25 of the original 32 Doric Columns still stand to this day, a testament to its construction and subsequent restoration. Most fascinating is that all but three of the columns are monolithic, meaning that they consist of a single piece of limestone, as opposed to being built of stacked column drums, as is the case in several other famous Greek temples.

The current temple was built on top of a previous temple dating from 570 BC that was destroyed by a fire. The remains of the destroyed temple were used to fill in and create a large raised terrace that holds up the temple that still stands today. The buried remains of the destroyed temple contain many traces of the ancient paint that coated them.

The sculptures from the pediments (triangular shaped roofs at the ends of the temple) of the Temple of Aphaia are considered very important as they are thought to bridge the Archaic and Early Classical periods of ancient Greek history through sculptural technique. Unfortunately several of these priceless sculptures were removed and taken to Germany where they remain to this day. Some fragments do remain and are housed in the museums in Aegina, as well as at the site of the temple itself.

The temple is one point of the so-called Holy Triangle, where it is said that if lines were drawn connecting the sites, the Temple of Aphaia forms an equilateral triangle with the Acropolis in Athens, and the Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion.

Although the sanctuary was eventually abandoned the temple and its surrounding buildings remained imposing monumentally for centuries to come. To this day the remains, which include two story interior Doric colonnades, are monumentally impressive even in their ruined state. The extraordinary remnants of the Temple of Aphaia make any trip to Aegina well worth the visit.


The island of Aegina was the earliest state in European Greece to adopt the use of coined money. Ancient tradition, which ascribed to Pheidon, king of Argos, the credit of having been the first to strike coins in this island, is perhaps due to the undisputed priority over all other coins of European Greece of the oldest staters of the Turtle type (Rev. Num., 1903, 359, n. 2). Unfortunately, however, there is much doubt about the date of Pheidon (Th. Reinach, Rev. Num., 1894, 1). As to the earliest Aeginetic coins there can be little doubt that they belong to about the middle of the seventh century. The principal ancient writers who mention Pheidon as

Whether the Aeginetic or Pheidonian standard was derived from the Phoenician, as the weights of some of the heaviest Aeginetic coins would lead us to suspect (B. V. Head, ‘Ancient Systems of Weight,’ Journal of the Institute of Bankers, 1879), or from Egypt, with which country the Aeginetans were in close relations (Herod. ii. 178), is doubtful and Ridgeway’s solution of this problem is perhaps the true one, viz. that the Aeginetic silver standard was of independent origin, and based simply upon the relative value of gold and silver in Aegina when silver coins were first issued in that island. Supposing, as is highly probable, this relation to have been 15:1, a gold stater of Croesus or a daric of 130 grs. x 15 = 1,950 grs. of silver or 10 Aeginetic silver staters of 195 grs. (Ridgeway, Origin of Metallic Currency, p. 221). But the fact that the turtle, a creature sacred to Aphrodite (Frazer, Paus., vol. iv, p. 105), was chosen as the coin-type, lends some probability to the theory first advanced by E. Curtius (Num. Chron., 1870) that the Aeginetan mint was connected with the Temple of Aphrodite, which overlooked the great harbour of Aegina. The religious symbolism of the turtle as the &pi&alpha&rho&alpha&sigma&eta&mu&omicron&nu of Aegina is, however, disputed by Ridgeway (op. cit., p. 331).

From the weights of some exceptionally heavy specimens we gather that the Aeginetic stater originally weighed over 200 grs., and in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, is a unique electrum stater, obv. Turtle, rev. Inc. square divided into two parts, weighing 207 grs. The date of this remarkable coin can hardly be much later than about B.C. 700. It belongs to the class of early electrum money struck on the Phoenician standard somewhat reduced. its type seems to connect it with Aegina, although the form of the incuse reverse points to an Asiatic origin. It

Stater,194 grs.
Drachm,97 grs.
Triobol,48 grs.
Diobol,32 grs.
Trihemiobol,24 grs.
Obol,16 grs.
Hemiobol,8 grs.
Tetartemorion,4 grs.

The following are approximately the chronological periods into which the money of Aegina falls (see Earle Fox in Corolla Num., pp. 34 sqq.).


Though the name Aegina betokens a goat-nymph, [1] such as was Cretan Amalthea, she was given a mainland identity as the daughter of the river-god Asopus and the nymph Metope [2] of their twelve or twenty daughters, many were ravished by Apollo or Zeus. Aegina bore at least two children: Menoetius by Actor, and Aeacus by Zeus, both of whom became kings. A certain Damocrateia, who married Menoetius, was also called her daughter by Zeus. [3]

The mortal son Menoetius was king of Opus, and was counted among the Argonauts. His son was Patroclus, Achilles' first cousin once removed through their paternal family connection to Aegina, and his intimate companion.

The son made immortal, Aeacus, was the king of Aegina, and was known to have contributed help to Poseidon and Apollo in building the walls of Troy. Through him Aegina was the great-grandmother of Achilles, who was son of Peleus, son of Aeacus.

In one account, Aegina was also called the mother of Sinope by Ares. [4] Otherwise, she was usually her sister for the two were daughters of Asopus. [5]

The Abduction of Aegina Edit

Legend has it that Zeus took the form of an eagle (or a great flame in Ovid's telling) and abducted Aegina, [6] taking her to an island near Attica, [7] then called Oenone [8] henceforth known by her name. Aegina's father Asopus chased after them his search took him to Corinth, where Sisyphus was king. Sisyphus, having chanced to see a great bird bearing a maiden away to a nearby island, informed Asopus. Though Asopus pursued them, Zeus threw down his thunderbolts sending Asopus back to his own waters. Aegina eventually gave birth to her son Aeacus, who became king of the island.

Myrmidons Edit

When the city of Aegina was depopulated by a plague sent by Hera in jealous reprisal for Zeus's love of Aegina, the king Aeacus prayed to Zeus for the ants that were currently infesting an oak tree to morph into humans to repopulate his kingdom. Thus the myrmidons were created.

Paul of Aegina

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Paul of Aegina, Latin Paulus Aegineta, (born c. 625, Aegina, Greece—died c. 690), Alexandrian physician and surgeon, the last major ancient Greek medical encyclopaedist, who wrote the Epitomēs iatrikēs biblio hepta, better known by its Latin title, Epitomae medicae libri septem (“Medical Compendium in Seven Books”), containing nearly everything known about the medical arts in the West in his time.

Based largely on the works of such earlier Greek physicians as Galen, Oribasius, and Aëtius, the Epitome greatly influenced the medical practice of the Arabs, who considered Paul among the most authoritative of Greek medical writers. The Persian master physician al-Rāzī ( Rhazes) drew extensively from the work in writing his Kitāb al-Manṣūrī (“Book to al-Manṣūr”) and Abū al-Qāsim, one of Islam’s foremost surgeons, borrowed heavily from the Epitome’s sixth, or surgical, book in compiling the 30th chapter (“On Surgery”) of his Al-Taṣrīf (“The Method”). Thus, Paul’s work exercised a lasting influence on Western medieval medicine when the Arabic works were adopted as primary references in medieval Europe.

Besides his descriptions of lithotomy (surgical removal of bladder stones), trephination (removal of a disc of bone from the skull), tonsillotomy (removal of part of the tonsil), paracentesis (puncture of a body cavity in order to drain fluid), and amputation of the breast, Paul also devoted much attention in the Epitome to pediatrics and obstetrics. He dealt extensively with apoplexy and epilepsy, distinguished 62 types of pulse associated with various diseases, and rendered one of the first known descriptions of lead poisoning.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.


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Aegina, Modern Greek Aíyina, island, one of the largest in the Saronic group of Greece, about 16 miles (26 km) south-southwest of Piraeus. With an area of about 32 square miles (83 square km), it is an eparkhía (eparchy) of the nomós (department) of Piraeus. The northern plains and hills are cultivated with vines and olive, fig, almond, and pistachio trees, while along the east coast stretches a ridge of light volcanic rock known as trachyte. The highest point is conical Mount Áyios Ilías (ancient Mount Pan Hellenion), at 1,745 feet (532 metres). On the west coast the chief town and port, Aegina, lies over part of the ancient town of the same name.

Inhabited since Neolithic times (c. 3000 bce ), the island became a leading maritime power after the 7th century bce because of its strategic position, and its silver coins became currency in most of the Dorian states. Aegina’s economic rivalry with Athens led to wars and to its close collaboration with Persia, but at the Battle of Salamis (480 bce ) the island sided with Athens and prevailed. The conspicuous bravery of the tiny Aeginetan contingent (only about 40 ships) was recognized by a prize for valour. Hostility with Athens was later resumed, and at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War the Athenians deported all of Aegina’s population and replaced them with Athenian settlers (431 bce ). The Spartans settled the refugees in the region of Thyreatis in northern Laconia. The remnants were allowed to return from exile in 404 bce after the defeat of Athens, but Aegina never recovered from the blow. It fell with the rest of Greece to Macedon and then to the Romans in 133 bce . It regained some prosperity under Venice (1451) but was eclipsed by a pirate raid in 1537. From that time, except for another Venetian interlude, the island remained in Turkish hands until 1826, by which time it was again a modestly successful commercial centre. It was chosen as the temporary capital of independent Greece (1826–28), but afterward the increasing concentration of business in Athens forced a gradual decay. Today it is a holiday and weekend resort for Athenians, and the ancient pottery trade is still carried on.

Aegina’s period of glory was the 5th century bce , as reflected by the legacy of sculpture and the poetry of Pindar. A well-preserved 5th-century- bce temple to Aphaea, the ancient Aeginetan deity related to the Cretan Britomartis (Artemis), is situated on a wooded crest in the east of the island. Its Doric peripheral construction (having columns surrounding the building) of local gray limestone has been partially restored.

The Byzantine Era

Aegina was seized by Venetian Doge Francesco Morosini in September 1687. In 1715, after the fall of Corinth, Aegina fell into Turkish hands almost without a struggle and was officially ceded to the Turks with the Treaty of Passarowitz (1718). It was then subjugated to the Russians for two years (1770-1772).

Aegina then became quite active during the 1821 War for Independence, and in 1826 became the seat of the Greek administration. In January 1828, the first government of modern Greece under Ioannis Kapodistrias was established here. Aegina thus achieved fame by becoming the first capital of the modern Greek state (1828-1829).


Burn, A.R. 1966. The Pelican History of Greece. Penguin. Harmondsworth.

Frame, Douglas. 2009. Hippota Nestor. Hellenic Studies Series 37. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies

Herodotus Histories. Herodotus, with an English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920.
Available online at Perseus

Homeric Odyssey, Translated by Samuel Butler, Revised by Soo-Young Kim, Kelly McCray, Gregory Nagy, and Timothy Power.
Online at the Center for Hellenic Studies

Pausanias A Description of Greece. Translation based on the original rendering by W. H. S. Jones, 1918 (Scroll 2 with H.A. Ormerod), containing some of the footnotes of Jones. Edited, with revisions, by Gregory Nagy. Online at CHS:

Polinskaya, Irene. 2013. A Local History of Greek Polytheism: Gods, People and the Land of Aigina, 800-400 BCE. Leiden, Boston. Brill.

Strabo Geography. Strabo. Jones, H. L. (ed). 1924. The Geography of Strabo. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. William Heinemann, Ltd. London.
Online at Perseus

Thucydides The Peloponnesian War. Jowett, Benjamin. 1881. Thucydides translated into English, Volume 1. Clarendon Press. Oxford.
Online at Perseus

How to get to Aegina

From Athens, take the suburban rail line to Pireaus, the major port town. From there you can take a ferry to Aegina. Several companies operate ferry services but the main difference is between fast ferries or catamarans which make the crossing in 40 mins, and slow ferries which take 1 hour. I chose the slow ferry and enjoyed my journey. The sea was smooth and the ferry comfortable and relaxing.

You can see timetables and book tickets online. It’s also easy to buy tickets in person at Pireaus and Aegina Town. At Pireaus, exit the station to the left and there’s a ticket office across the road. On Aegina, there are ticket booths at the quayside where the ferries dock.

About Aegina

Due to its proximity to Athens, Aegina island attracts many Athenians during the weekends, throughout the year and especially during summertime. Aegina is a beautiful, fertile and verdant island, full of pine trees and olive trees, picturesque villages, fine beaches and interesting archaeological monuments such as the beautiful Temple of Aphaia, built in the 5th century BC, and considered as the finest archaeological monument of the Saronic Gulf and the Aegean.

Aegina is also the land of pistachios. The island produces them since antiquity and offers a wide range of those excellent nuts, prepared and served in all the imaginable ways.

During the Classical times, the island was a major power in competition with Athens who, displeased by the great power of this little island, attacked in 459 BC, forcing Aegina to surrender its fleet. Since then, Aegina completely lost its hegemony and, except from another brief moment of glory when it became the capital of the partially liberated Greece (from 1827 to 1829), the island never recovered from the Athenian attack and remained in the shadow of Greece's capital.

The first Governor of Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias, emphasized the care of the orphans who were from the war. For that reason, he built an Orphanage that also used to operate as a school. After many years the orphanage was being used as a prison. Aegina is also well-known thanks to the famous Greek writer, Nikos Kazantzakis, who loved the island and was living there when he wrote his world-known book Zorba the Greek. Another important personality of the island is Paul of Aegina, the Greek physician of the 7th century.

The beauty of the landscape, the hospitality of the inhabitants, the rich archaeological material and the modern touristy facilities will please and charm every visitor who sets its foot on the bright, colorful little island of Aegina.

Aegina - History

Aegina is a Saronic island found in the Saronic Gulf. Tradition says that the island is named for Aegina, the mother of Aeacus, who was on the island and would become its king. Aegina herself was the daughter of the river-god Asopus and the nymph Metope. Zeus abducted Aegina, took her to the island, and there she gave birth to Aeacus. Aegina was where the Myrmidons would gather and train as Zeus thought the uninhabited island would be the perfect place. Eventually, the Myrmidons would be known as the most fearsome fighting unit in Greece.

During the ancient times, Aegina was a rival of Athens. The history of these relations was recorded by Herodotus, who traced the hostility between the two back to images of the goddesses Auxesia and Damia. It’s said that the images were taken by the Aeginetes from Epidauros, their parent state.

The Epidaurians had a custom of making offerings to annually to the Athenian deities Athena and Erechtheus as a sort of payment for the Athenian olive-wood that the statues were made of. The Aeginetes didn’t have interest in continuing on with this tradition, causing the Athenians to plan to take them away. But then a miraculous thing happened, according to the Aeginetes. The statues fell to their knees and only a single one would return to Athens.

Another consideration regarding this rivalry is that Athens may have become envious over Aegina’s growing prosperity and their trades with Persia.

It is thought that the Aeginetes introduced coinage to the western world approximately 30 – 40 years after coinage was invented in Asia Minor (either by the Ionian Greeks or the Lydians). Aeginetes would become the first to mint coins and the standards and weights that they created would become standard throughout Greece.

Administrative Region for Aegina Island, Greece

Area of Aegina Island, Greece

Population of Aegina Island, Greece

Top Attractions in Aegina Island, Greece

Temple of Aphaia – Located at the Agia Marina. The Doric temple was built in 420 BC. It is situated on top of a rock and dedicated to Athena Aphaia.
Archaeological Museum of Aegina – Filled with finds from excavations, this museum will help you piece together the different archaeological sites you might want to visit. Features artifacts from the Temple of Aphaia, a statue from the Temple of Apollo, and Neolithic pots. Located near the site of the Kolona.
Moni Island Beach – Take an eight minute boat ride to Moni Island to experience this unique beach. Clean waters and beautiful nature make this beach worth the trip. If you enjoy hiking, climb up a mountain and see two stone sheds used by Germans in World War II.
Agios Nektarios Monastery – 6 km from the center of Aegina Town. Founded by the Bishop of Pentapolis Nektarios between 1904 – 1910. The church has two high bell towers and a series of four windows. Fourteen nuns live at the monastery.
Village of Paleochora – Paleochora means “old town” in Greek. The village has ties to the Byzantine Empire. The village was abandoned in the 1820s, so visiting will take you back in time and allow you to see how a Byzantine village would look.
Marathon Beach – 5 km southeast of Aegina Town. A secluded beach where you can avoid the crowds. Partly organized and family friendly.
Temple of Apollo – The Temple of Apollo is also known as Kolona, which means column. Dates back to the 6th century. Located just to the north of Aegina Town on a small hill overlooking the port.
Panagitsa – A large church with a round dome. This church is considered the protector saint of sailors. Located in the port of Aegina Town.
Wildlife Hospital – A must-see for any animal lover. This is a rehabilitation center for wild animals. Located close to Pahia Rahi Village.
Perdika Beach – Located 10 km southeast of Aegina Town. A partly organized beach with tourist facilities. A number of fish taverns line the beach.