Home > Byzantium, Late Antiquity, Notes From Athens > Phyli, Panakton, Eleutherai, Aigosthena in the Rain

Phyli, Panakton, Eleutherai, Aigosthena in the Rain

The sites of Phyli, Panakton, Eleutherai, and Aigosthena are known for fortifying Attica’s Northwest border and forming part of the famous Fortress Attica of the Late Classical period.  Their imposing walls of ashlar masonry stand out in the winter against the green cover of the Attic mountains. 



While the ashlar walls of the Classical period are by far the most dramatic aspect of these sites, what is perhaps more interesting from an archaeological perspective is the evidence for their continued use and significance sometimes into the Late Medieval and Early Modern periods in Greece.  These sites do not simply reflect an interesting example of Classical architecture and strategy, but also represent dynamic places in the landscape.  The reasons for this vary.  In many cases the abundance of building material make these sites appealing quarries for subsequent settlements.  In other instances, the siting of a fortification is well suited for settlement.  Panakton, for example, makes use of the blocks from the earlier fortifications there and occupies a naturally advantageous spot about the Skorta plain (for the publication of the later remains at this site see S. Gerstel, et al., “A Late Medieval Settlement at Panakton,” Hesperia 72 (2003), 147-234).

Late Medieval Church at Panakton

The site of Aigosthena likewise shows a rather dynamic history of use.  It’s position at the head of the bay of Porto Germano gave it both a decent harbor but also access not only to Boeotia but to the passes south in the Megarid and further east in Attica.  It appears to have thrived as one of the communities of the Corinthian Gulf which probably benefits as the point of contact between East-West trade across the northern Isthmus.  Plus, the prosperity of Thebes and even perhaps Athens ensured that there were local markets for goods.  The long term vitality of certain trading patterns ensured that sites like Aigosthena represented the persistent nodes of wealth from exchange.

Aigosthena with its Middle Byzantine church on the foundations of an Early Christian basilica with its Hellenistic fortifications in the background

I have to lead the Regular Members on the tour of these sites at the end of the month.  The challenge will be to bring together the topography, architecture, archaeology, and history of these sites in a way that reinforces the importance of their later history, but does not diminish their specific place in the history of Classical Attica.


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