Lesser known archaeological sites in eastern Attica
Located about an hour from Athens, the archaeological sites of eastern Attica may not be as famous as the Parthenon, the Erechtheum, the temple of Poseidon in Sounio or the ancient agora under the rock of the Acropolis, but they still majestically convey a piece of ancient Greek history to the modern visitor.
These are places of worship of the 12 Olympian gods (the Dodecatheon), praised by great playwrights of antiquity, with one of them serving as a refuge for one of the most tragic heroines of Euripides, and where nature and the sea are in perfect harmony with the ancient architecture.
These four archeological sites on the east side of Attica should be visited at least once.
Situated in the Limikos valley, with a view of the straits of Evia, the ruins of the ancient settlement of Ramnounta still recall the fierce vindictiveness of the goddess Nemesis, as this was the largest place of her worship in all of ancient Hellas. The temple was built at the beginning of the 6th century BC at a location of great strategic importance for the Athenian army, mainly because of its excellent connection to the sea. Moreover, its two small ports were the arrival points of the grain that fed the city of Athens throughout the Peloponnesian War. The sanctuary of Nemesis, as well as the fortress that fortified the settlement of Ramnounta, remains covered in greenery as it was in antiquity. They were discovered by archaeologists during excavations between 1880 and 1892. A walk there today can be ideally combined with a nature hike or with a dip in the beautiful beaches weather permitting.
Temple of Artemis and Archaeological Museum - Vravrona
The ancient sanctuary of the goddess Artemis, queen of mountains and forests, and protector of the hunt, young children and animals, was built in the area of Vravrona in the 5th century BC. This beautiful place of worship by the sea is associated with one of the most tragic characters of ancient drama, Iphigenia, a young princess of Mycenae.
She was led by her father Agamemnon to Avlida to be sacrificed at the altar of the goddess, in exchange for favorable winds that the Achaean Greeks needed to sail to Troy. At the last moment, however, Artemis took pity on Iphigenia and made her a priestess in her temple. The temple of Artemis was built in Doric style, as was the pi(π)-shaped stoa, which encloses the place of worship. Unfortunately, not much of the temple has survived. However, a visit to the archaeological museum of Vravrona provides a better understanding of the sanctuary’s ruins. Among the important finds on display at the museum are the many so-called bear (arktoi) statuettes of little girls who, from the age of 5 to 10 years, were in the service of Artemis.
In the 2nd century AD, Herod Atticus, one of the most powerful men of the time, built a temple dedicated to the gods of Ancient Egypt. Inside, the goddess Isis, which the Greeks usually equated with Demeter, Hera and even the Moon, stood imposingly beside Osiris, the deity who corresponded with Dionysus or Hades, the ancient Greek god of the dead and the king of the underworld. The Sanctuary of the Egyptian Gods in the locality of Mikro Elos (Small Marsh) of Brexiza in Nea Makri is perfectly square-shaped, with dimensions measuring 50 x 50 meters. According to archaeologists, it was located on a small island that was connected to the mainland by a canal. The huge statues that once stood inside the large temple are unfortunately not completely preserved. However, parts of these statues can be viewed at the Archaeological Museum of Marathon. Copies of the ancient statues stand in the sanctuary, giving a sense of the temple’s original size, as well as the sculptures that adorned it, conveying the compelling allure of this Egyptian sanctuary in Greece.
The archaeological site of Amphiareion is located in a valley covered in pine trees by a spring, on the road to Kalamos. From the 5th century BC it functioned as an oracle and, unlike the other important ones in antiquity, it was not dedicated to any of the 12 Olympian Gods but to the famous hero of mythology Amphiaraos, who was forced, after being deceived by his wife Eriphyle and her brother Adrastos, to take part in the campaign known as the Seven Against Thebes. The tale was narrated by the ancient playwright Aeschylus in the eponymous tragedy, the third play of his Oedipus-themed trilogy. The archaeological excavation of the site lasted from 1884 to 1929 and unearthed columns of a Doric-style temple, most of which has not survived.
However, the huge stoa, a long narrow building with a colonnaded facade, measured 11x110 meters, remains impressive. It served as a resting place for visitors and travelers who arrived at the oracle and the theater, a later 2nd century building made of stone and wood.