History of Aegina
The island of Aegina is located in the middle of an area that hosted some of the most productive cultural centers of antiquity, and as such it flourished from the Neolithic to the Hellenistic eras of Greek civilization. Archaeological evidence puts the islands earliest habitation around the 4th millennium BCE.
The island was abandoned between the 12th and 10th centuries BCE but was colonized again around 950 BCE, probably by settlers from Epidaurus and by the end of the 6th c. BCE Aegina was a major commercial and cultural center. Strabo cited the ancient historian Ephorus as stating that Aegina was the fist Greek polis to mint coins. The Aeginetan coins were minted of silver, and are known as “turtles”* because their relief design resembled a turtle. These coins have been found in many places around the Mediterranean, a testament to Aegina’s formidable commercial prowess.
The beautiful Late Archaic temple of Aphaia is testament to Aegina’s contribution to the Arts. The temple, and the sculptures that adorned it is a prime example of the transition from the Archaic to the Classical ideals. Aegina also produced many local artists, most famous of which are Anaxagoras, Callon, and Onatas.
In the fifth century BCE Aegina took part in the Persian wars, and as a major naval power she contributed forces to the Greek defensce of Hellas. In the battle of Salamis the Aeginetans contributed a large contingent of triremes and fought next to the Athenians with valor.
The town of Aegina is the largest inhabited spot of the island and it's a relatively quiet spot to relax for a day, but its sightseeing is fairly ordinary by Greek Island standards.
The Ancient Kolonna and the archaeological museum on the northern end of town can keep a lover of ancient artifacts busy for a couple of hours, and the numerous cafes lining the colorful promenade are a nice place to relax while watching the lazy motions of the caiques at the colorful promenade.
The promenade of Aegina Town is by far the busiest place of the island with numerous ferries and hydrofoils docking every hour or so, and it is packed from end to end with tourist shops, restaurants and cafeterias. Several neo-classical buildings in various states of restoration are sandwiched between the commercial establishments, and horse carriages ferry transport tourists back and forth. Pistachio nuts are in plain view everywhere and given the island’s reputation for their quality a consumption of at least one bag is well advised.
Beyond the busy harbor, the town of Aegina is seemingly untouched by the tourist traffic that permeates the waterfront. Just a couple of blocks away from the sea you will find yourself immersed in authentic Greek town life. The streets beyond Aegina harbor are filled with local stores catering to the local population, and that is a pleasant surprise for those who crave a little normalcy in the course of a vacation.
Aegina is the closest island to Athens worth a visit, for a daylong trip from Athens or even a short stay. If you are in a hurry, you can combine three different islands on a day cruise from Piraeus.
Aegina is home to one of the most beautiful temples of late Archaic Greece, the temple of Aphaia. A volcanic island with plains of respectable fertility to the northern and southern parts. Aegina is also where the famous pistachio nuts can be found alongside the other main produce of the island, grain, vines, almonds and olives. The southern end of the island is rocky and barren. The highest peak of the island is Mt. Oros.
Aegina is a pleasant island with pine clad hills, small fertile valleys, and an interesting coast, but its biggest asset is its location at the center of the Saronic gulf.
As far as things to do in Aegina town, leisurely walks, reading, and visiting the ancient town and museum, or the waterpark just to the south of the town would exhaust most visitors’ options. A small beach of dubious quality is located just outside the archaeological site, five minutes to the north of the harbor, but for more enjoyable swimming a trip outside of Aegina town is the best option.