History of Ermioni

Ermioni (Ancient Hermione) was originally founded by mythical hero Ermionas and the ancient Dryopian tribe, and dedicated to the 'messenger' god, Hermes. During the Mycenaean period, the city was honoured to Hermione, the only daughter of Helen and Menelaus, King of Sparta.  When Helen and Paris sailed together for Troy, Hermione was cared for by Helen's sister Clytemnestra, wife of Agamemnon, the foremost of all the Mycenaean kings.  Hermione married Neoptolemus, son of the Greek hero Achilles, later marrying Orestes.  In the Iliad, Homer described Ancient Hermione's involvement in the Trojan War, commanded by the Argive King Diomedes, also the number of warships that sailed to bring back the beautiful Helen of Troy, Queen of Sparta. Over a thousand years later, the Augustan Roman geographer Strabo wrote about Ancient Hermione as 'the town lying on the South-Eastern end of the Argolid, whereby its history goes far back in time', and stated clearly that 'it is not one of the lesser towns'

The Ermionida area of Argolida (Argolis) has been inhabited since the Paleolithic period, over 40,000 years ago.  Archaeological excavations at the Franchthi Cave, near Ermioni, showed that early humans first appeared around 38,000 BC and found it was last used around 3,000 BC in the Final Neolithic period.  Franchthi Cave is one of the most thoroughly studied sites from the European Stone Age.  As the sea levels are over 100m higher today than in the prehistoric period, the sea would have been up to 7kms away, so over thousands of years, the Franchthi Cave inhabitants would have had to evolve and adapt from being hunter-gatherers to fishermen-farmers in order to survive.  Explorations continue on a nearby submerged Neolithic settlement.

Just off the island of Dokos, opposite the Hermione peninsula, the oldest shipwreak in the whole world from the Proto-Helladic period, 2700-2200 BC, was discovered in 1975 at a depth of around 20 metres.  The ancient Greek name for Dokos was Aperopia

The Dryopians were one of the aboriginal tribes of ancient Greece and the future founders of ancient Hermione.  Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian and geographer, puts their earliest settlements as Mount Oeta and its adjacent valleys of Spercheius and Thermopylae, in a district called Dryopis (Doris) which extended as far South as Mount Parnassus.  The Malians, in conjuction with Heracles, are said to have driven the Dryopians out of their country and gave their land to the Dorians, a barbarian tribe originally from Macedonia and Epirus.  The expelled Dryopians then migrated South, resettled and founded Hermione and Asine in Argolida, Carystus in Euboea, and Dryopida on the Cycladic island of Kythnos.  Asine (Asini) was conquered at an early period by the Dorian Argives.  Hermione continued to exist as an independent Dryopian state which then developed into the ancient Hermionis kingdom.

The Late Greek Bronze Age, spanning the period from approximately 1700 BC to 1100 BC, was also known as the Helladic or Mycenaean age.  It represented the first advanced Hellenic civilization in mainland Greece with its kingdom states, urban organization, works of art and Linear B writing system.  Its contact and trade with Minoan Crete and other Mediterranean cultures allowed it to develop a more sophisticated culture of its own.  It was dominated by the monumental citadels of Mycenae, Tiryns, Argos, Pylos, Midea, Orchomenos, Thebes, Athens, Gla and Iolcos.  Smaller Mycenaean outposts such as Hermione, Asine and Kazarma had begun to expand and develop from citadels into small towns, linked with military highways and bridges.

Homer's epic Iliad and Odyssey poems of the legendary Trojan War describe the Mycenaean period at its height, with numerous cities and heroic warriors.  Twenty-nine allied Mycenaean Greek cities sent over a thousand ships to retrieve Helen, the Spartan queen, from Ilium-Troy in 1194 BC.  Hermione was included in the eighty Argive ships listed in the Iliad catalogue of ships, under the command of King Diomedes, that included Argos, Tiryns, Hermione, Asine, Troezen, Mases, Eiones, Epidavros and Aegina.  It took ten long years for the Greek allies to sack Troy.  Heroic kings and warriors that took part in the Trojan War are still remembered today, like Agamemnon, Menelaus, Achilles, Odysseus, Diomedes, Ajax, Priam, Hector, Paris and Aeneas. 

Following the destruction of Troy in 1184 BC and the return of the victorious Greeks, there is no satisfactory explanation for the collapse of the Myceanean world.  The two most common theories are population movement and internal conflict.  The first theory included the destruction of Mycenaean sites to invaders, probably the Dorians or even the mysterious Sea Peoples.  The second theory suggests warfare amongst the Mycenaean states or civil unrest, as a result of their very strict hierarchical social system.  Alternatively, it may have fallen to natural disasters, such as climate change, drought, famine or earthquakes.  What we do know is there was a dramatic population decline following the destruction and abandonment of most Mycenaean palacial cities in Greece.  

The Greek Dark Ages began as a result of the decline of the Mycenaean civilisation in the early to mid-12th century BC, following the epic Trojan War.  This left behind a political and cultural vacuum where the art of writing was lost, history was only passed on by oral tradition, with no written records for the next four centuries.  The migrating Dorians that replaced the Mycenaeans and Minoans on Crete were a less developed culture, their only contribution to world technology was the iron slashing sword.  Based on their traditions and language, historians believe the Dorians may have been distant relatives of Bronze Age Greeks, eventually becoming one of the four major ethnic groups of ancient Hellenes, the others being Aeolians, Achaeans and Ionians.

According to traditional Greek mythology, the migrating Dorians took possession of the Peloponnese during an event known as the 'Return of the Heracleidae'.  The Heracleidae were the descendants of the hero and demi-god Heracles, who upon his death, were exiled from the Peloponnese.  Following their return with the Dorians, the Heraclid tribal kings reclaimed all the lands granted to Heracles and divided the Southern part of the peninsula into three regions.  Temenos took NothEastern Argolida (Argos, Corinth, Megara, Mycenae, Tiryns, Epidavros), Kresphontes took Western Messenia (Pylos), and the twins Eurysthenes and Prokles took Southern Laconia (Sparta) becoming the first dual kings of Lacedaemon. This account is recorded by ancient historian, Herodotus.  No mention was made of Hermione, we must assume it continued as an independent Dryopian state, allied with Argos and Sparta. 

From the 14th to 8th century BC, many settlements were established in the Southern Argolida region, as elsewhere in Greece.  By the 6th century BC some of these villages had grown into real towns and large cities, such as Hermione (Ermioni), Mases (Kilada) and Eileoi (Iliokastro). This laid the foundations for the Archaic Hermionis kingdom, ruled from the walled city of Hermione, located on the ancient Poseideon (Bisti) peninsula.  Today, this geographical area of the ancient Hermionis kingdom is called Ermionida, with Ermioni being the largest coastal town in the area.

At some point during the 6th century BC, a lyric poet named Lasus of Hermione was born.  He was to leave a truly significant mark on the world of ancient Greek poetry and music.  Lasus is believed to be one of the main personalities who transformed the dithyramb, a hymn that was sung by the Greeks and danced in honour of Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility.  The dithyramb was particularly loved and known for its wild and ecstatic nature, which stood in stark contrast to the much sober and restrained paean.  The paean was another widely used hymn sung in honour of Apollo, often sung by ancient Greek warriors before battle. 

The islands of Hydra, Dokos and Spetses had belonged to the Dryopians of Hermione since the 7th and 6th century BC.  However, in 525 BC Hermione sold the island of Hydra to a band of Samians who had been expelled by the powerful tyrant Polykrates, who had taken control of Samos following civil unrest.  During the Classical period, Hermione ceded land near today's modern coastal town of Poro Heli to Tirynthian refugees in 465 BC.  These Tirynthians had escaped the sacking of Mycenae and Tiryns in 468 BC by Dorian raiders from Argos, with a forced transfer of its inhabitants to their depopulated city-state of Argos.  These displaced Tirynthians refugees then founded and developed the new coastal town of Halieis, later becoming part of the Hermionis kingdom.

Ancient Hermione originally developed in two areas, with a fortified citadel and a separate trading district.  The earlier Mycenaean citadel was located on the present Bisti peninsula, originally called Poseideon.  This was an administrative, religious and cultural centre, which included a number of temples, including the temples to the sea-god Poseidon and the goddess Athena.  Early inhabitants would have lived close to their workshops outside the citadel and fishermen would have thrived along the surrounding coastline.  The Archaic 6th and 5th century BC town of Hermione expanded and developed around the ancient bay harbour and up the Eastern slopes of the Hill of Pronos, also referred to as the Hill of Pron by some later historians. 

On the central ridge of Pronos Hill, stood a temple to the goddess Hera.  Today, on those temple foundations, stands the mid-18th century church of Aghia Ermioni.  Throughout the Archaic period, the Poseideon defensive walls were enlarged and towers built, new temples replaced the original Mycenaean structures within the citadel, as the city continued to expand and develop.  On the present Bisti peninsula, you can still see and explore some of the stone ruins and foundations of the ancient Poseideon buildings, as other residential foundations can be found and examined under the sea along the Southern coastline of the present peninsula.

In the late-Archaic and throughout the Classical period, many other temples and sanctuaries were constructed on the Poseideon peninsula, including a small theatre and stadium.  A new Temple of Poseidon was built at the end of the 6th century BC, probably with the money the Dryopians of Hermione recieved from the sale of Hydra to the Samians in 525 BC.  We know the temple was hexastyle, with 12 Doric columns along its side, but we don't know how or when this temple was destroyed.  Plutarch writes that numerous temples of Poseidon were destroyed by pirates around 67 BC but does not name Hermione on his list.  Only the original foundation stone blocks remain in place today, irregular size blocks of local grey limestone with white veins.

The temple limestone blocks later served as the foundations of a Christian basilica, constructed during the Byzantine period.  This Medieval basilica was apparently demolished following the Turkish occupation of Kastri (Hermione) in 1537.  A British topographer, Colonel William Martin Leake, made no mention of any church when exploring the Poseideon in 1805, but noted that all the ancient and medieval structures on the Poseideon would have been a very convenient source of building material for the local inhabitants.

The Poseideon citadel was encircled with stone walls and a fortified tower entrance, for defence of the whole population in times of attack by rival cities or marauding pirates. The military fleet would have been stationed close to the citadel walls, on the Northern side of the Poseideon peninsula, in the present Limani Bay.  Archaeological excavations have discovered that the stone walls were extended beyond the Poseideon Bisti citadel area during the Byzantine, Frankish and Venetian periods and included most of the modern town. Excavations have proved that the outer Western perimeter wall of the city extended from the present school and market area at Limani, and arched across to the Mandrakia waterfront, enclosing the present 9th century Byzantine church of Agioi Taxiarches.  Large stone blocks of the city defences can still be seen behind today's tavernas, at the Western end of the Mandrakia waterfront.

Hermione continued to flourish in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, and during the Classical period it had become important due to its agriculture, ship-building and fishing.  The town grew during the Hellenistic and Roman periods and had a population of over 7,000 inhabitants (there are just over 3,000 permanent residents today).  Hermione gained a reputation for the wealth of its coastline, which was attributed to the rare species of murex seashells and the purple mollusc, porphyra, whereby the local inhabitants obtained a deep red and purple dye through a special process.  This deep red coloured dye was used for dyeing the military cloaks and tunics of Greek armies, such as the famous crimson red of King Leonidas and his Spartan warriors and the exclusive Tyrian purple dye used for the cloaks (palliums) of nobility and royalty, such as the elite Macedonian Companions and their supreme commander and King, Alexander the Great.  Archaeological finds in Hermione have included silver and bronze coins which show Demeter, goddess of the earth and agriculture, dating back to 550 BC, giving evidence to the importance and affluence of the old Hermionis Kingdom.  Many other ancient artifacts have been discovered during excavations of Hermione and the Poseideon peninsula by archeologist Alexandros Philadelpheas in 1908.  A bronze Corinthian style warriors helmet was discovered at the ancient necropolis in the early 1990s, it is now displayed with other interesting exhibits from Ancient Hermione, in the Archaeological Museum of the Peloponnese, in Nafplio.

Hermione had always been historically allied with Mycenae, Tiryns, Asine and Sparta, and member of the Peloponnesian League.  The city sent 3 trireme warships to fight the Persians at the naval Battle of Salamis in 480 BC and a year later sent 300 heavily-armed hoplite warriors, and an equal number of support troops, to fight the Persian invaders at the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC.  The following year, the Spartan General Pausanias, leader of the Hellenic League who had led the allied Greeks to victory over the Persians at Plataea, was accused of conspiring with the Persians and recalled to Sparta.  Although these accusations could not be proved, Pausanias (nephew of warrior King Leonidas) left Sparta on his own accord and sailed away in a trireme from Hermione. 

In antiquity, the Hermionians of ancient Hermione, were still referred to as Dryopians at the time of the Greco-Persian Wars.  Following the defeat of the Persian invaders at Plataea, the Hellenic city-states experienced a brief Classical golden age of peace, trade and development.  Trade helped Hermione prosper as a coastal city, as well as helping to create friendly ties with other city-states.  However, by 464 BC the Dorian Argives from Argos had taken possession of Hermione and settled an Argive colony there, about the same time they had also subdued the citadels of Mycenae and Tiryns.  Hermione now became a Doric city but retained its ancient Dryopian customs, continuing as an independent city and firmly allied with Sparta-Lacedaemon. 

It is recorded that Hermione was abandoned for a short time in antiquity, with most of the city's inhabitants relocating to Tirynthian Halieis for safety.  Why and when this happened is not clear, but it is stated that the Dryopians of Hermione returned to resettle their city.  The Poseideon citadel on the Bisti was left abandoned, and a new city developed on the Eastern slopes of the Hill of Pronos, around the temple of Demeter Chthonia, located under the present Metropolitan church of Taxiarches in the Old Village.  Hermione finally got the chance to recover, rebuild and develop in peace, alongside her old allied city-states in the Peloponnese.

Hermione assisted Sparta and her allies in the Peloponnesian War, 431-387 BC, a lengthy civil war against Athens and her allies.  During this long drawn-out conflict, the Athenians based in Epidavros 'laid waste' the territories of Troezen, Helieis and Hermione.  This prolonged and bloody civil war finally resulted in the defeat of Athens and the destruction of the once mighty Athenian Empire.

After the Macedonian victory over a coalition Greek army at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC, King Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great) established a federation of Greek city-states allied against the Persian Empire, known today as the League of Corinth.  Philip II and Alexander explored the Peloponnese as far as Sparta, with all Southern city-states, including Hermione, agreeing to join the federation, apart from Sparta.  Upon the assassination of Philip II, Alexander became king of Macedon in 336 BC and immediately crushed a number of revolts, particularly from Thebes and Athens.  Alexander then set about creating a vast Hellenic Empire with his Macedonian and Allied Greek army, excluding Sparta from all his victorious conquests. 

In June 323 BC, King Alexander III of Macedon, better known as 'Alexander the Great', died in Babylon, aged 32.  In his lifetime he had forged one of the greatest empires the world had yet seen.  What followed his death was an imperial implosion.  Alexander's half-brother Philip III and his unborn son Alexander IV inherited his great empire.  Within weeks of his death, Athens had launched a revolt against their northern neighbours, but the revolt was quickly crushed.  Within two years of his death, the Hellenistic Empire Alexander had created was plunged into civil wars by his former Macedonian generals, fighting each other in the 'Successor Wars', each trying to take the most pieces of Alexander's crumbling empire and each claiming to be his successor.

The failure of Alexander the Great to name a successor or heir left his commanders to eventually divide the colossal empire among themselves.  Their petty jealousy led to four decades of war where alliances were made and broken between former friends and companions.  The four 'Successor Wars', also known as the 'Wars of the Diadochi', continued until 281 BC which then ushered in the Hellenistic period and brought into existance three Hellenic dynasties that would exist until the time of the Roman Republic.

During this turbulant period, Macedonia and Greece came under the control of Antipater, one of Alexander's most senior generals.  Upon his death, Antipater was succeeded by his son Cassander, who had married Alexander's young half-sister Thessalonike, who founded the city named after her.  Cassander later had Alexander the Great's young son, Alexander IV, and his widow, Roxana, murdered in 310 BC, bringing a brutal end to the royal Argead dynasty which had ruled Macedonia for centuries.  After Cassander's death in 297 BC, Thessalonike continued as queen of Macedon and mother to her sons, Philip IV, Antipater I and Alexander V.  However, by 294 BC, all Macedonia and Greece had come under the control of Demetrius I 'the Besieger'.

When Demetrius I died, all his Greek posessions, including the Peloponnese (apart from Sparta) passed to his son Antigonus, who took part in the defence of Greece against the invading/migrating Celtic tribes at Lysimacheia in 279 BC.  Antigonus II was finally acknowledged as king of Macedonia in 276 BC.  King Areus of Sparta and the city of Athens declared war for the liberation of the Peloponnese and central Greece, known as the Chremonidean War of 267-261 BC, resulting in total defeat for Sparta and Athens.  After a life of endless warfare, Antigonus II died in 239 BC, aged 80.  He was succeeded by Demetrius II, and then by Antigonus III.

The original League of Corinth developed to be known as the Achaean League, with Hermione coming under the control of its strategos Aratus of Sicyon in 229 BC.  The Spartan King Cleomenes III waged war against Aratus and the Achaean League and 'liberated' Hermione in 224 BC.  However, with the help of Antigonus III, a regent of Macedon, Aratus' Achaean and Macedonian army defeated Cleomenes' Spartans at the Battle of Sellasia in July 222 BC.  Antigonus III and his Macedonian troops then annexed Sparta, the very first time in history the Lacedaemonian city had ever been occupied by a different state.  Hermione, together with all the Peloponnesian city-states, then reverted back to being members of the Achaean League. 

Following Antigonus III, Macedon and Greece were ruled by Philip V who first clashed with Rome in 215 BC, however, his Hellenic phalanx army was defeated by Roman legions at Cynoscephalae in 197 BC.  Philip V's successor was Perseus, who reigned from 179 to 168 BC.  Perseus was recognised as a champion of Greek freedom against Rome, but was defeated at the Battle of Pydna, in Macedonia, in 168 BC, which signaled the end of the Macedonian Antigonid dynasty and start of Rome's influence in Greece. 

  The above historical paintings have been created by a local Ermioni artist, Mihalis Papafrangou.  The artists paintings depict scenes of ancient Hermione with the Poseideon citadel, beached warships and construction of the late 6th century BC temple of Poseidon on the present Bisti peninsula  

Hermione witnessed considerable prosperity during the Hellenistic and Republican Roman periods, particularly after the Romans had taken control of the Peloponnese following their victory against the Achaean Greeks at Loukapetra, and their total destruction of Corinth in 146 BC.  This dissolved the Achaean League, bringing an end to political freedom of Greek city-states, and elevated Sparta and her allies, including Hermione.  Greece and Macedon then became a mere province of the expanding Roman Empire.  However, the Romans loved and admired Greek art, philosophy and education.  Greek scholars and artists were celebrated in wealthy Roman homes and Greek philosophical works became essential in Roman education.  The destroyed Greek cities were rebuilt combining Roman engineering with Greek art.  'Pax Romana' brought a period of peace and stability, and opened up new trade routes and commerce opportunities for the Greeks.  Hermione's historical development continued to be influenced by Roman rule and the coastal city continued to prosper, despite suffering occasional destruction from repeated attacks by marauding pirates.

The stone aqueduct that carried water to a number of rock-hewn cisterns, which were found across the populated town, was built and completed during this period, bringing fresh clean water from the mountains to a central water fountain.  Built during the reign of Hadrian, the aqueduct has the inscription Aquaeductum in Novis Athenis translated as 'Aqueduct of New Athens'.  When Pausanias visited Hermione in the 2nd century AD, he described with admiration the lavish temples, sanctuaries, stadium, theatre, festivals, music contests and swimming races 'that brought so much glory to the ancient Ermionis Kingdom and surrounding area'.  Pausanias was a Greek traveller, geographer and historian, who lived in the times of Roman Emperors Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius.  Born in the province of Lydia, he travelled extensively in Asia Minor, Palestine, Egypt, Italy and Greece.

In his detailed account of Ancient Hermione in the 2nd century AD, Pausanias distinguishes the former archaic city from the city of his day.  'The former city occupied the Eastern Bisti Poseideon peninsula, the later city was on the Western part and the slopes of the Hill of Pronos.  The city had good harbours on the North and South, the necropolis was below Pronos on the North'.  The Poseideon citadel was no longer inhabited at the time of his visit, however, Pausanias does go on to describe the stadium, theatre and numerous temples to Poseidon, Athena, Helios, the Graces, Sarapis and Isis within the 'former city'.  In the 'later city' he described the aqueduct, fountains, temples to Apollo, Aphrodite, Hera and Dyonisus with sanctuaries to Demeter Chthonia, Artemis, Tyche and Hestia.  'Passing into the sanctuary of Hestia, we see no image but only an alter, and they sacrifice to Hestia upon it'.  This temple of Hestia was quite unique, as the virgin goddess of the harvest, hearth and home was mostly worshipped in the prytaneum of other Greek cities, the only other temple to Hestia in Greece was found in ancient Lacedaemon, in Sparta.

Archaeological evidence from the Imperial Roman period confirms that Hermione flourished again during this era.  In later Christian times, the ancient city had became a Bishopric with a large three-aisled basilica, which remained in use at least until the 6th century AD.  A Roman tomb monument was discovered in archaeological excavations during 1988 and 1990 on the site of the old OTE building.  The marble lid, which features a reclining Roman couple (their faces not completed) was transferred and placed in front of the old Community Centre, which is the present Port Authority (Coast Guard) building, where it can still be seen today.

The Christian Roman Emperor Constantine the Great transfered his imperial court from Rome to Byzantium between AD 324-330.  What had been an ancient Greek colony, founded by Greeks from Megara in 667 BC, Byzantium became the imperial capital of the Eastern Roman Empire.  Constantine spent the rest of his life developing his new capital and gradually the city became to be known as Constantinople, 'City of Constantine', a Christian beacon for a further 1100 years.  Greek continued to be the main language of the city, though initially Latin remained the language of court and the military, but by the 7th century, Greek was the only language of administration and government in the Eastern Roman Empire, and Orthodox Christianity its new dominant faith.

Many churches and monasteries were built in the Peloponnese and throughout Greece during the Romano-Byzantine period.  An early 4th century AD Christian three-aisled basilica with impressive mosiac floors, excavated in the mid-1950s next to the old Ermioni Town Hall, provides the existence of early Christian worship in Hermione when the ancient city became a Bishopric.  The ancient temple of Poseidon on the Poseideon-Kastri-Bisti peninsula was also converted into a Christian basilica during this period.  The Metropolitan church of Agioi Taxiarches in the old village, built over the late-5th century BC Doric temple of Demeter Chthonia, and the church of Panaghia within the present monastery of Agioi Anargyroi, near Ermioni, were built during the 9th century AD.  Today's Agioi Anargyroi monastery was constructed in the mid-14th century, over the foundations of an ancient temple of Asclepios.

In AD 536 the whole world was plunged into semi-darkness by volcanic eruptions in Iceland.  Roman and Byzantine chroniclers recorded around 18 months of daytime darkness as a mysterious fog rolled over Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia, blocking out the sun, causing temperatures to drop, crops to fail, causing years of famine and millions of people to die throughout the Byzantine Empire.  This was followed in AD 541 by the bubonic plague pandemic, during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, that resulted in the death of more than fifty million people around the Mediterranian and contributed to the final demise of the Western Roman Empire.  It took about 300 years for the Byzantine Empire and Europe to recover from this climate and disease catastrophy. The Dark Ages then slowly became the Middle Ages.

The Peloponnese remained an important Byzantine territory, however, the Empire gradually lost possessions during raids by Slavic tribes living on its borders.  Eventually, Bulgar tribes captured most of Macedonia and Northern Greece.  In 1147, Norman King Roger II of Sicily, participating in the Second Crusade plundered Kerkyra, Euboea, Thebes and Corinth.  Latin knights of the Fourth Crusade even sacked and pillaged the sacred Christian city of Constantinople in 1204. 

Kastri - During the Norman and Frankish occupation of the Peloponnese (Medieval Morea) following the Crusades in the 12th and early 13th centuries, Ermioni was encircled by stone walls that were erected on the remains of ancient structures, acquiring the name Kastri (Castle) which remained the name of Ermioni until the end of the Greek Revolution in the 19th century.  Due to various Crusader factions vying to control the Morea during the medieval period, the defensive walls of Kastri were extended by the Frankish Crusaders, with more entrance gates being constructed in the outer walls.  These defensive walls can still be seen today, on the Northern side of the Bisti peninsula and at various points throughout the town.  Close to Ermioni/Kastri, on Lizard rock near Thermisia, the Crusaders built a hill-top castle in the late 12th century, which defended valuable salt-pans that were located in the lagoon area below.  Following Venetian rule, the castle surrendered to the Ottoman Kasim Pasha in 1537, the same year that Kastri was captured.  In 1689 the Venetians regained control of Thermisia castle from the Ottomans, finally destroying the castle when they left in 1715. The ruins of this castle can be visited today with a moderate 350m climb.

It was verified in 2020 that the flag of Medieval Kastri was the red cross on a white background.  This symbol was used by many Christian Crusaders from the late 11th to 13th century in their quest to reclaim the Holy Land, although later Crusades continued until the mid-15th century.  This iconic flag would have flown above the Kastri fortress during the early Medeival period, until the Venetian occupation of Morea.  Historians now believe that King Richard I the Lionheart adopted this flag, and the patron Saint George, from Genoa at some point during the Third Crusade, to become the distinct emblem of his English army.  

During the whole Medieval period, the Franks, Genoese, Byzantines and Venetians vyed for domination of the Greek mainland and her islands.  The Byzantines and Venetians built massive fortifications at nearby Nafplio, Argos, Acrocorinth, Monemvasia and Mystras, and would have influenced the whole of Morea.  The Venetians made their influence felt in Kastri and Thermisia with stronger fortifications.  In this period of political infighting, the Hellenic people kept a strong belief in their Orthodox Christian religion, language and cultural identity, as on the horizon decended a dark cloud in the shape of the Islamic Ottoman Empire.

With the capture of Thessaloniki in 1430, the Ottoman Turks eventually turned their eyes to the Imperial Byzantine city of Constantinople.  The city was beseiged on 6 April 1453 by the army of Sultan Mehmed II and assaulted for 53 days.  Constantinople was finally taken on 29 May 1453, with the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos, being killed in the final assault on his city, his royal standard of the Empire would fly no more.  The tragic Fall of Constantinople brought an end to the Byzantine Empire and the end of the late Medieval period. 

Kastri eventually came under the control of Ottoman Turks in 1537, when the Kastri fortress on the Bisti was laid under siege and finally overpowered by the numerically superior Ottoman Turk forces.  As Kastri was about to fall, the Byzantine Greeks, Arvanites, Venetians and their Christian allies who had heroically defended the fortress managed to escape to safety.  The Arvanites were Christians from todays Southern Albania, that Byzantine rulers brought to Greece in the 13th and 14th centuries to inhabit areas depopulated by war and famine.  Many Arvanites became soldiers and master builders and were at the forefront of resisting the Ottoman regime throughout the occupation.  Many of the iconic heroes of the 19th century War of Independence were Arvantines, including Lascarina Bouboulina, Andreas Miaoulis and Odysseas Androutsos.  What the besieging Ottoman army didn't know was that there were 17 secret escape points within the Kastri fortress, leading to an underground tunnel cut into the limestone rock, which the whole of Ermioni is built upon.  This tunnel led the defenders to three concealed escape points outside the fortress.  All three escape points have now been discovered, one being at the church of Aghios Athanasios, near the Bisti, another exit point was opposite the present Mandrakia slipway, and the third exit close to the Byzantine Agioi Taxiarches church in the Old Village.

The Franks had already surrendered most of the Argolida region to the Ottoman Turks in 1460, although Nafplio remained in Venetian hands until 1540.  During the following period of Ottoman occupation, the Christian basilica and most of the defensive walls of Medieval Kastri were dismantled and used for the reconstruction of Ermioni and Hydra.  This transfer of stone and marble also included the ancient temples and theatre, that had been constructed on the Poseideon peninsula in the 6th to 4th century BC. 

The flag of the Byzantine Empire which existed in the later centuries of the Empire, mostly as an Imperial emblem, survived the fall of Constantinople and has remained in use until the present time.  The black double headed eagle on yellow background, looking to the West and the East, was originally created by Emperor Komnenos to reflect both the Eastern and Western borders of the Empire, the crown was added later.  This flag was then adopted by the Greek Orthodox Church, perhaps the symbol of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and today can be seen flying next to all Greek churches and monasteries.

The Greek people continued living their everyday lives under harsh Ottoman oppression, but they never lost their will to be free.  Numerous revolts broke out against the Ottoman occupation, there were 123 revolts and uprisings between 1481 and 1821, generally supported by France and Russia, but these were quickly and ruthlessly supressed by the occupying Ottoman forces.  One such rebellion was the 'Orlov Revolt', an uprising in the Peloponnese that arose in February 1770.  This followed the arrival of Admiral Alexei Orlov, commander of the Russian Imperial Navy during the Russo-Turkish War, 1768-1774, to the Mani peninsula.  Greek rebel forces were organised, ready to fight the Ottomans and establish a pro-Russian Independent Greek State.  The rebels were initially successful and managed to defeat Ottoman forces in Laconia and Messenia.  With the assistance of Greek islanders from Chios, the Russian fleet destroyed the Ottoman Navy in the Battle of Chesme in July 1770, however, this did not help the Greek fighters in the Peloponnese.  As the Russians failed to bring the forces they had originally promised, the revolt was crushed.

Ottoman reaction to the 'Orlov Revolt' was instant, Muslim Albanian mercenaries were recruited in order to strangle the revolt in the Peloponnese, exterminating and enslaving the Hellenic population in all major cities, towns and villages.  Ottoman forces continued their vengance in other parts of Greece and Asia Minor.  Sultan Mustafa III was determined to punish the entire Greek Orthodox community of the Ottoman Empire, to make an example to other nationalities about any thoughts of freedom.  Political freedom was one reason for the numerous revolts, but it was the clash between Christian and Muslim faiths that was more important to most Greek people, who just wanted to worship their own God, in their native language, and to live in peace. 

The Greek War of Independence started in the Peloponnese on 17th March 1821.  Over 2,000 Hellenic revolutionaries met at the small village of Areopolis (Tsimova) in the Mani region and marched towards Kalamata.  The Ottoman garrison surrendered Kalamata and the city was liberated on 23rd March 1821, the victory was celebrated in the church of the Holy Apostles and the Hellenic Revolution was declared.  The revolution soon spread throughout the Peloponnese and Greece, the Ottoman adminastrative and military centre of Tripolitsa fell to the Greeks on 23rd September after a lengthy seige.  Ermioni/Kastri had survived the occupation due to its powerful shipping, and later took part in several land and sea battles, alongside Hydra and Spetses.  During this struggle for freedom, Ermioni/Kastri hosted the Third National Assembly of Greece, January to March 1827, on the upper floor of the building which has now become the History and Folklore Museum of Ermioni (ILME).  Prominent leaders of the Hellenic revolution attended this historic assembly, including the Greek General of all Peloponnesian forces, Theodoros Kolokotronis.

Hellenic General Theodoros Kolokotronis (1770-1843) is known as the ultimate symbol and leading figure of the Greek War of Independence.  Born in the mountains of Messenia, a son of a klepht leader who fought the Ottomans during the 'Orlov Revolt', Kolokotronis served in the British army during the Napoleonic Wars.  Kolokotronis' greatest success was the defeat of the Ottoman army at the Battle of Dervenakia in 1822.  In 1825, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of all Greek forces in the Peloponnese.  After his country's independence, Kolokotronis became a politician and national advisor, becoming known as the 'Elder of Morea'.

In the Perivolaki garden outside the History and Folklore Museum of Ermioni, there is a marble memorial to 'The Mitsas Heroes'.  Born in Ermioni/Kastri, these three family members played a great part in the liberation struggle for freedom of the Hellenic nation.  The front two busts represent the brothers Stamatis and Yiannis Mitsas, who fought in the War of Independence (1821-1829).  Yiannis gave his life during the revolution in 1827, whilst Stamatis survived and eventually became an admiral in the Hellenic Navy.  The central marble memorial bust is of the son of Stamatis, Colonel and MP Antonis Mitsas, who became a famous hero during the later Cretan Revolution (1866-1869). Their family home is located along the Mandrakia waterfront. 

The Third National Assembly of Greece was a long drawn-out affair, originally held at Nea Epidavros/Piada in April 1826, was soon dissolved due to the fall of the major Greek stronghold of Missolonghi.  The Assembly then reconvened separately in Aegina and Ermioni/Kastri from January to March 1827, due to rival revolutionary factions.  After much deliberation, the rival parties agreed to participate in a joint Assembly in Trizina/Damalas from 19th March until 5th May 1827, where the united Assembly adopted a new constitution, agreed to establish Nafplio as the future capital, and elected Ioannis Kapodistrias to become the Governor of Greece. 

The President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, visited the History and Folklore Museum of Ermioni on Sunday 12th March 2017, to celebrate the 190th Anniversary of the famous and historic Third National Assembly held in Ermioni/Kastri in 1827.     Images of visit: www.flickr.com/photos/ermioni-info/albums/72157677848151254 

To celebrate the Third National Assembly of Greece being held in Ermioni/Kastri in 1827, a Presidential Decree in March 2022 made the second Sunday of March an 'annual public holiday of local importance' for the community of Ermioni.   

     Some of the Hellenic flags used during the Greek War of Independence 1821-1829/32

Before the Revolt started in 1821, most Hellenic revolutionaries had used the blue cross flag from the 1770 'Orlov Revolt', and was the most widely used flag throughout Greece in the initial stages of the revolution.  The second flag was used by the fighters of the autonomous Mani peninsula in 1821 when they liberated Kalamata on 23rd March 1821 and declared the start of the revolution.  This flag had the words of 'Victory or Death' and the ancient Spartan motto 'With it or upon it' in reference to the Spartan shield.  Guerilla fighters used the third flag with the more common words of 'Freedom or Death' which is the motto of Hellenic forces today.  When the First National Assembly of Greece met in Nea Epidavros/Piada in 1822, they adopted the fourth flag to replace the multitude of local revolutionary flags in use, since 1828 this flag was flown within the new nation until 1970.  The fifth flag was also adopted by the First National Assembly as the Greek naval ensign, but has progressed to represent the modern Hellenic Republic.

The English poet, Lord George G. Byron, is one of the best-known Philhellenes who actively participated in Greece's War of Independence.  In his Mediterranean tour of 1809, Byron visited Greece for the first time and immediately fell in love with the country.  Lord Byron received an invitation to actively support the Hellenic struggle in 1823, spending most of his personal fortune on maintaining ships of the Greek fleet and forming his own military squad, the 'Byron Brigade'.  Whilst in Missolonghi, a major stronghold of the Greek rebels, he fell ill and died, aged just 36, on 19th April 1824.  He is commemorated in Missolonghi by a cenotaph containing his heart and a statue in the Garden of Heroes. 'Philhellenism Day' is now celebrated in Greece on 19th April. 

To add even more confusion and chaos to the revolution, the Greek War of Independence was marked by two Civil Wars, the first between Autumn 1823 and June 1824, and the second between October 1824 and February 1825.  The conflict had both political and regional dimensions as it pitted the Roumeliotes and Islanders, including Hydra (led by Alexandros Mavrokordatos) who had the financial and military support of Great Britain, against the Peloponnesians and Moreotes (led by Theodoros Kolokotronis) who had the 'promises' of help from the Orthodox Russian Empire.  These civil wars divided the young nation and seriously weakened the military capabilities of the Hellenic fighters in the face of the oncoming intervention of Egyptian Ottoman forces into the conflict.

In 1825, the Hellenic government led by egocentric Georgios Kountouriotis, who was firmly established as its leader, and the entire revolution were gravely threatened by the arrival of Egyptian forces, led by Ibrahim Pasha.  With the massive support of Egyptian sea power, the Ottoman forces successfully invaded the Peloponnese.  Under Ibrahim Pasha, the Ottomans defeated the Greek army at Kremmidi in April 1825 and Papaflessas' forces at Maniaki in May 1825, finally capturing Missolonghi in April 1826, the town of Athens in August 1826 and the Athenian acropolis in June 1827.  At this point, after six years of suffering and sacrifice, the Hellenic struggle for its independence looked to be over.  The remaining Greek warriors were no match to the vast numbers of Ottoman Turkish and Egyptian troops now on Greek soil.

As the long and bitter fight for independence continued, the Great Powers (Kingdom of France, United Kingdom and the Russian Empire) decided to intervene in the conflict.  When news came that a large powerful Ottoman and Egyptian fleet was preparing to attack the island of Hydra, the Great Powers combined their fleets to intercept.  The naval Battle of Navarino in October 1827 resulted in the total destruction of the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet.  It was the last naval battle in history to be fought entirely with sailing ships.  Although it was a great victory, Ottoman forces continued to operate in central and southern Greece.  In September 1829, after nine long years of conflict, the Ottomans' capitulated and the Hellenic people finally achieved their freedom.

Count Ioannis Kapodistrias, being a former Foreign Minister of Russia, was elected by the Third National Assemby of Greece in 1827 as the first Head of State of Independent Greece.  He was one of the most distinguished politicians and diplomats of 19th century Europe.  Arriving in Nafplio in 1828, he set about the mammoth task of trying to turn Greece from a poor backward tribal country into a modern new state with a civil society.  He started negotiations with the Great Powers over the territorial borders of Greece, re-organised the Hellenic military, created new hospitals, orphanages and schools, involved in establishing new national museums and libraries, introduced the population to the humble potato and new agricultural techniques, a health service that introduced the first modern quarantine system to the country and a new national currency called the pheonix.  Sadly, all his hard work came to an abrupt end when he was assassinated by two Mani tribal chiefs, outside the St Spyridon church in Nafplio on 27th September 1831.

At the Convention of London in 1830 the Great Powers insisted that Greece became a monarchy, but selecting a suitable monarch and agreeing territorial boundries became a problem.  For the long suffering Hellenic people, Greece was finally recognised as an Independent Kingdom following the London Protocol on 30th August 1832, which ratified the May 1832 Treaty of Constantinople.  Following the fight for Independence, Kastri reverted to its previous ancient name of Hermione, with its modern spelling of Ermioni.

The Great Powers eventually chose philhellene Otto, second son of King Ludwig of Bavaria, to become the very first King of Greece.  He arrived at Nafplio, his provisional capital, on 6th February 1833 on the British frigate HMS Madagascar. He Hellenised his name and started making plans to rule Greece from a new capital for his Kingdom, in Athens.  After 30 years as King of Greece, Othon and his wife Queen Amalia were deposed and expelled in 1862.  In 1863 the Greek National Assembly elected Prince Vilhelm of Denmark, as King of Hellenes, under the regnal name of George I. George's reign of almost 50 years was characterised by the building of the Corinth Canal, the first modern Olympiad and vast territorial gains as Greece established its place in pre-World War I Europe. 

At the beginning of the 20th century, Greece, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Serbia, countries that had all achieved independence from the Ottoman Empire, had formed the Balkan League.  In October 1912, the League declared war on the crumbling Ottoman Empire.  After five centuries of European occupation, the Ottoman Empire lost almost all of these territories within 7 months, as the First Balkan War ended with the Treaty of London.  The Second Balkan War broke out when Bulgaria attacked Serbia and Greece in June 1913, due to its dissatisfaction over the division of Macedonia.  The  combined Greek and Serbian armies repulsed the offensive and counter attacked into Bulgaria.  As the Second Balkan War ended with the Treaty of Bucharest in July 1913, Greece had increased her territories by 68% from the start of the conflict.  On 1st December 1913, the island of Crete was officially intergrated to the Greek State after 709 years of Venetian and Ottoman occupation, when Sultan Mehmet V finally relinquished all sovereignty over the island one month earlier.  The two Balkan Wars were ultimately one of the major causes that led to the start of the First World War in 1914. The Kingdom of Greece tried to stay neutral in the Great War, due to its past connections with the German royal family, however, Greece finally declared war against the Central Powers in June 1917.  Ever since the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the birth of the Kingdom of Greece, the dream of most Greek people was the return of the sacred city of Constantinople to Greece and Christianity, together with all the historic Greek coastal cities of Asia Minor.  When the Great War ended in victory for the Allied Nations, the Royal Hellenic army took part in the 14 July 1919 'Bastille Day' Victory Parade in Paris. 

The dream for a resurrected united Greek speaking empire, the Megali Idea, led to the Greco-Turkish War in 1919-1922.  The Triple Entente ordered the Royal Hellenic army to land at Smyrna, to protect the 2.5 million Greeks and Christians still living in the Ottoman Empire.  This was in response to the systematic killing of Ottoman Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians, instigated by the government of the Ottoman Empire and the new Turkish National Movement, which included massacres, death marches and executions.  Several hundred thousand Christian Ottoman Greeks, particularly from the Pontus region, were killed during this tragic period.  After securing Smyrna, the Royal Hellenic Army were given orders to march East into enemy territory. 

As the over-confident Hellenic army advanced from Smyrna into Western Anatolia towards Ankara, their advance was checked by Turkish forces at the Battle of Sakarya in 1921.  With their supply lines over-stretched and the Turkish counter-attack in August 1922, the Greek front collapsed and the defeated army retreated back to the coast.  This ill-fated military expedition which had started with so much confidence, led to the total defeat and final evacuation of the Royal Hellenic army from Asia Minor.  The last Greek troops were evacuated by sea from Smyrna on 8th September 1922.  The following day, the victorious Turkish army of Mustafa Kemal Pasha entered the city and the rampage of rape, looting and destruction began, systematically targeting the Armenian population, with all Ottoman Greeks and Christians at risk.

The 'Great Fire of Smyrna' broke out in the Armenian quarter on 13th September, spreading to the Greek quarter, causing a stampede of people to flee towards the quay.  Up to 400,000 Greek and Armenian refugees crammed the waterfront to escape the fire for over nine full days, with no shelter, food or water.  The fire was extinguished on 22nd September, with the Turkish and Jewish quarters of the city intact.  During this period, between 100,000 and 150,000 Greeks and Armenians were killed, between 35,000 and 100,000 Greek and Armenian men were deported to the Turkish interior, never to return.  Following the 'Smyrna Catastrophe', the city's sacred role as a bastion of Hellenic and Christian culture, going back thousands of years, came to an end.

Once hostilities ceased, a compulsory exchange of Greek and Turkish populations was agreed, culminating with a treaty at the Lausanne Convention in 1923, held by all major nations involved in the Asia Minor conflict.  The majority of the 1.6 million homeless Greek refugees from Asia Minor re-settled around Piraeus, Thessaloniki and the islands of Chios and Mitylene, with about 7,000 coming to the Ermionida area.  On Sunday 5th October 1922, 5,000 Greek refugees, mostly women, children and old people on the ocean liner IOANNIS ANDROU anchored off the main port of Ermioni, to the surprise of the 2,000 local inhabitants.  They were made welcome with warm food, blankets and a safe place to sleep.  The refugees repaid their hosts with hard work in the fields and orchards around the town.  Ermioni's town boundries expanded to accommodate this increase in population and dwellings, however, by 1928 only about 35 refugees from Attaleia and Smyrna remained in Ermioni, as most had relocated, seeking work in the Athens and Piraeus regions.  These Ionian, Aeolian and Anatolian refugees brought little with them, apart from their ancestral traditions, culture and music.  Many songs and dances performed in Ermioni today, have their roots from the old Greek coastal colonies and cities of Asia Minor (Turkey) like Smyrna (Izmir) Miletus (Milet) and Ephesus (Efes), which were originally founded by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists in the 11th-10th cen. BC, becoming greater and wealthier than most cities on the Greek mainland.

In Greece, the Julian calendar was replaced by the Gregorian on 16th February 1923, the date changing to 1st March on that day.   The pine forest we see and enjoy today in Ermioni was planted on the Bisti peninsula and completed in 1931.

After the start of the Second World War, Greece was invaded by Mussolini's Italian forces on 28th October 1940.  Although the smaller Greek army threw the Italians back into Albania, this resulted in Nazi Germany coming to the Italians aid in April 1941, bringing with them the full force of the 'blitzkrieg' and occupation of Athens on 27th April 1941.  Following many battles against the Axis Italian and German forces, praise was given by friend and foe alike to the courage shown by the defiant Royal Hellenic army.  The Nazi Fuhrer Adolf Hitler personally gave general praise to "the Greek soldier, who of all the adversaries that confronted us, fought with the highest courage and disregard of death" and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who said "Hence we will not say that Greeks fought like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks".  By the 1st of June, the battle and conquest of Greece was completed following the fall of Crete at the end of May, the country was then brutaly occupied for over three years by Nazi German, Italian and Bulgarian troops.  The allied armies finally liberated Athens, and Greece, from Nazi occupation on 12th October 1944.  Today, the Ermioni fallen from all these 20th century conflicts are remembered by name on the white marble war memorial, with the mythical Phoenix at its crest, that stands at the centre of the Limani waterfront.  This war monument is the focal point for many of Ermioni's present day civic occasions and religious festivals.

The horrors and suffering inflicted on the Greek population during WW2 (especially the civilian massacres commited by Nazi forces in villages in and around Kalavrita on 13th December 1943) continued after the liberation of mainland Greece, with the Greek Civil War, 1946-1949.  Ermioni escaped the brutality of this conflict as the Ermionida area was predominantly loyal to the King and government, initially supported by Great Britain and eventually by the United States of America, and did not endure the horrific hostilities against the smaller KKE and DSE partisan army in Northern Greece, funded by Yugoslavia, Albania and Bulgaria.  Following a bitter split between old communist allies Tito and Stalin, the insurgents lacked the resources to carry on. 

The end of the Civil War in 1949 left Greece in ruins and even greater economic distress that it had been following the end of German occupation.  It divided the people for ensuing decades, with both sides vilifying their opponents.  The sad polarization and instability of Greek politics throughout the 1950s until the mid-60s was a direct result of the Civil War and the deep divide between the leftist and rightist sections of Greek society.  On 21 April 1967, a group of right-wing and anti-communist army officers executed a military coup d'etat and seized power from the government, using the political instability and tension of the time as a pretext.  This military junta, later referred to as the 'Regime of the Colonels', lasted until its dramatic downfall in mid-1974.

17th November 1973 and 24th July 1974 have become two of the most important dates in modern Greek history, as they marked the restoration of democracy after seven years of brutal military dictatorship under the Colonel's regime.  Starting with the crushed student uprising at the Athens Polytechnic early on Saturday morning 17th November 1973, to the disastrous overthrow of the Cypriot President, the Turkish invasion of Northern Cyprus and the collapse of the Greek military dictatorship in July 1974.  This led to the transitional period known in Greece as Metapolitefsi which eventually led to the establishment of the Third Hellenic Republic.

The military dictatorship collapsed following its involvement in overthrowing the Cypriot President, Archbishop Makarios, resulting in the 20th July 1974 invasion and occupation of Northern Cyprus by Turkish armed forces.  In November, a newly elected democratic Greek government abolished the monarchy, making Greece's official name the Hellenic Republic.  The new government then legalised the KKE communist party and introduced a constitution that guaranteed political freedom, individual rights and free elections.  Constantine II (1940-2023) became the last King of Greece, sent into exile, he spent many years living in the United Kingdom.  The former King was finally allowed to return to Greece in 2002 and acquired a couple of private estates in Ermionida. 

During the late 1960s and turbulent 1970s period under the hated 'Colonel's junta', Ermioni had started to develop its tourism industry with new hotel and apartment facilities, speciality shops, tavernas, cafes and bars, to welcome local and foreign visitors seeking the 'authentic' Greece.  Sadly, many traditional stone buildings were torn down to make way for new concrete matchboxes, which most local residents now regret, especially when they saw the result of old buildings being renovated by foreign investors.  The waterfronts of Limani and Mandrakia were paved and the old dirt roads around the peninsula were resurfaced and completed during the mid-1990s.  For a more detailed description of the development of Ermioni during the 20th century, please click here.  

Accession negotiations for Greece to join the European Economic Community, EEC (predecessor of the European Union) finally concluded in May 1979 with Greece becoming a member state of the EEC on the 1st January 1981.  EEC/EC/EU membership has helped Greece modernize its state and infrastructure, strengthen its economy and accelerate social progress.  Being a member state of the European Union has given Greece an uninterrupted period of political stability, peace, democracy and prosperity, despite the economic crisis, austerity measures, I.M.F. bailouts, first communist government and potential 'Grexit'.

On 1st January 2002, Greece became the 12th European country to adopt the single euro currency, discarding its former drachma.

Some Greek highlights at the turn of the new millennium included: The unfancied Greek national football team winning the UEFA European Championship at the June/July Euro 2004 held in Portugal, where they beat the tournament favourite hosts in the final.  Athens hosting the successful Summer Olympic Games in August 2004, the first time that the Games had returned to Greece since she had resurrected the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.  Greece winning the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest, Helena Paparizou performing the song 'My Number One'.  These social events gave the Greek people a sense of pride and acheivement in their country, as very soon after, Greece slid into an economic crisis that would last for more than a decade.

The new Municipality of Ermionida was established on 1st January 2011, created by merging the two pre-existing municipalities of Kranidi and Ermioni.  The seat of the Municipality of Ermionida was designated to Kranidi, with the office of the Regional Mayor and Councellors, with the newly established boundries of the municipality corresponding to the historic ancient kingdom of Ermionis. 

Ermioni and its citizens survived the difficult economic times, then, just as life seemed to be improving, the 2020/21 Covid-19 lockdowns began.  The historic coastal town then experienced a moderate resurgence, with a gradual return of local and foreign visitors that enjoy Ermioni's authentic traditional charm.  We hope Ermioni continues to be there for us all, to enjoy the past, today.  

Having taken part in all the significant historical moments of the country, Ermioni has managed to preserve its past heritage into the present, and remains one of a few Hellenic settlments to be continually inhabited from pre-Mycenaean times to the present period.  

 

It is worth walking up to the Old Village, to see the restored 9th century Byzantine Metropolitan church of Taxiarches, dedicated to the two Archangels, Michael and Gabriel.  This historic church was built over the ground where the ancient temple of Demeter Chthonia once stood.  The ancient streets can easily be detected around the surrounding walls of the church, which were in turn surrounded by ancient and medieval city walls, parts of which still remain in place today.

A characteristic house of the mid-18th century, the Economou House, which has been restored, is located diagonally across from the Taxiarches church.  This building is where the Third National Assembly of Greece met in 1827, on the upper floor, attended by the Greek general Theodoros Kolokotronis, a national hero of the Greek War of Independence. Today, this fortified building has become the History and Folklore Museum of Ermioni with the ground floor displaying many costumes and household items, with the upper floor dedicated to the period of the Hellenic revolution, featuring portraits, documents, uniforms and weapons of the time.

Outside the museum, the 'Perivolaki' garden has a memorial to Ermioni's famous Revolutionary war heroes.  The front two busts are of the Mitsas brothers who led the Ermioni rebellion against the Ottoman Turks (1821-1829).  One brother, Yiannis, gave his life in the struggle for Independence, the younger brother, Stamatis, survived and went on to become an admiral in the Hellenic Navy.  The third bust is of the son of Stamatis, Antonis Mitsas, who became a hero of the the Cretan Revolution (1866-1869).  On the 25th March, Independence Day, there are tributes and blessings given to the Mitsas heroes by the people of Ermioni.  After much suffering and sacrifice, these revolts brought to life an independent Greek State, which evolved to become the Hellenic Republic.   

The Hill of Pronos continues beyond the Old Village. This is where the local children and adults enjoy flying their kites each year on 'Clean Monday', accompanied by traditional Greek folk music and dancing.  At the crest of the hill is the mid-18th century church of Aghia Ermioni (picture left) built on the foundations of the 5th century BC temple to the goddess Hera.  This ancient Hill of Pronos, which was inhabited during the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods, overlooked the ancient commercial port of Hermione. Today, this ancient port is under water (picture right) but can still be detected from the hill above.  The military port was located along the Northern side of the Poseideon Bisti citadel, beneath the original Mycenaean, and later Byzantine, Frankish and Venetian walls.  On the Northern side of the Hill of Pronos, running parallel to the present main road into Ermioni, one can clearly see the different stone sections of the ancient Roman aqueduct that supplied unlimited fresh water to the growing number of its citizens.  This vital fresh water supply has been so important for the development of Ancient Hermione, Medieval Kastri and Modern Ermioni.

Archaeological excavations were carried out in 1908 by Alexandros Philadelpheas on the Poseideon-Kastri-Bisti peninsula, as well as the ancient necropolis on the Northern side of Pronos Hill.  Excavations continued within Ermioni in the mid-1950s, early-1990s and mid-2010s by modern archaeologists, including the Swedish Institute in Athens and the Hellenic Archaeological Service.  Important historical finds were discovered at the necropolis, especially a bronze Corinthian helmet in the Warrior tomb ΣΤ, possibly from the Greco-Persian Wars, and an early Classical era caryatid mirror in burial enclosure Z.  These artifacts, and many others, are on display in the Ancient Hermione section, at the Archaeological Museum of the Peloponnese, in Syntagma Square, Nafplio.

The sad situation is that most of Ancient Hermione and parts of Medieval Kastri are still buried under the town of Ermioni, resulting in limited access to archaeological finds.  Had Ermioni not been constantly inhabited and developed over the centuries, we would have had far more antiquities discovered, allowing us to admire and understand significantly more of its long and colourful history. 

In October 2020, plans were discussed for creating an Archaeological Museum in Ermioni.  The old neoclassic Town Hall building, originally the Ermioni primary school, was ceded in 2018 by the former Municipality of Ermioni to the Greek Ministry of Culture.  This exciting project was instigated by the late Marianna Vardinogianni (1943-2023) a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and patron benefactor of the annual Cultural Awards that are presented in Ermioni.  Marianna, who grew up in Ermioni, was supported by the Hellenic Minister of Culture and Sports, Lina Mendoni, the Curator of Antiquities of Argolida and the Regional Mayor of Ermionida. 

On 25th March 2021, Greece celebrated the 200th Anniversary of the start of the Greek War of Independence.  However, due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the celebrations were restricted to a historic parade held in Athens only, attended by representatives of the United Kingdom, France, Russia and Cyprus.  The parade began with period uniformed mounted and marching warriors of the 1821 Revolution, followed by soldiers of the two Balkan Wars, First and Second World Wars, in addition to the majestic Hellenic Presidential Guard, the iconic elite Evzones.  Finally, today's Greek troops in armoured vehicles rolled by with a flypast of the latest Hellenic Air Force helicopters and aircraft, accompanied by new American, French and British warplanes.

Ermioni celebrated the bicentennial celebrations by decorating the town with banners and images of the Revolutionary Heroes along both waterfronts, War Memorial, Town Hall, Museum of History and Folklore and the Kapodistrian School in the Old Village.  

FURTHER READING:

  • 'Beyond the Acropolis - A rural Greek past'  by Tjeerd van Andel & Curtis Runnels  Amazon   About ancient Hermione and region.
  • 'Papas' Greece'  by Tessa and Bill Papas   Amazon    A humorous look at local life in Ermioni and Greece during the early 1970s. 
  • 'Paradise Lost - Smyrna 1922 : Destruction of Islam's City of Tolerance'  by Giles Milton. The catastrophe affecting ordinary people.
  • 'Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of a City'  by Marjorie Housepian Dobkin.  An essential work raising profound issues of history.

  

Hermione:  Ancient (Latin) name of the town.    Ermionis:  Ancient name of the Hermione Kingdom.    Poseideon:  Ancient name of the Bisti peninsula.   Kastri:  Medieval name of the town and citadel.   Ermioni:  Modern name of the town.   Ermionida:  Modern regional name of ancient Ermionis Kingdom.

Ermionida today includes the towns of Ermioni, Kranidi and Porto Heli, and the villages of Kilada, Thermisia, Iliokastro, Loukaiti, Porto Hydra, Pigadia, Metohi, Achladitsa, Dardiza, Kouverta, Agioi Anargiri, Petrothalassa, Tzemi, Kounoupi, Aghios Emilianos, Kosta, Hinitsa, Veveronda, Salanti, Fourni and Didyma.

 

Location

Ancient Hermione - Poseideon/Bisti
Medieval Kastri - Modern Ermioni
Greece
37° 23' 3.3324" N, 23° 15' 28.0008" E
Picture Gallery
Artists impression of the Helladic Poseideon peninsula Stone fortifications of the original citadel of Kastri Ancient Hermione - Poseideon fortifications Medieval Ermioni - Kastri fortifcations Part of the defensive walls of the Poseideon/Kastri peninsula Cyclopean walls near the entrance to Ermioni Hellenistic walls beneath the new Ermioni library in the old village Cyclopean stones opposite the Byzantine Taxiarches church Pediments and columns of ruined temples & sanctuaries Foundations of the Temple of Poseidon on the Bisti peninsula 5th century BC foundation stones of the Temple of Poseidon Christian basilica foundation stones on the Bisti peninsula Deep wells gave the defenders unlimited fresh water Archaeological excavation site alongside church of Ag. Nikolaos Archaeological excavation site alongside church of Ag. Nikolaos Classical remains from the Temple of Poseidon Ancient noble's tomb on the Poseideon Bisti peninsula Bronze 'Corinthian' style helmet found in ancient Hermione Finds from Ancient Hermione on display in the Nafplio museum The sunken commercial harbour of Ancient Hermione A town grew up around the harbour near the Hill of Pronos (Pron) Ancient Roman aqueduct brought water to the growing population Section of the ancient Hermione aqueduct on the Hill of Pronos Marble tomb monument lid of Roman couple of Ancient Hermione Renovated Mitsas windmill (milos) on the Bisti peninsula Ermioni wedding dress on display (right) from the late 19th century Household and garden items on display in the Ermioni museum Historic costumes on display in the Ermioni museum Military costumes, weapons and artifacts on display in the Ermioni museum Revolutionary heroes that attended the 3rd National Assembly General Theodoros Kolokotronis, hero of the Greek Revolution, present at the 1827 National Assembly in Ermioni Mitsas' Memorial - Ermioni heroes of the Greek Revolution Mycenaean Bronze Age warriors - 1600-1100 BC The Trojan War - 1194-1184 BC Battle of Marathon - September 490 BC Battle of Salamis - September 480 BC Battle of Plataea - August 479 BC Age of Alexander the Great - 356-323 BC Fall of the sacred city of Constantinople - 29 May 1453 Start of the Hellenic Revolution - 17/25 March 1821 Hellenic War of Independence - 1821-1829 Naval Battle of Navarino - October 1827 Royal Hellenic Army - First Balkan War 1912 Royal Hellenic Army - Second Balkan War 1913 Great War Victory Parade in Paris - July 1919 Royal Hellenic Army in Smyrna - May 1920 Royal Hellenic Army in Northern Greece - December 1940 Ermioni war memorial with military escort Bicentennial celebrations 1821-2021 - Parade in Athens Bicentennial celebrations 1821-2021 - Parade in Athens Bicentennial celebrations 1821-2021 - Parade in Athens Bicentennial celebrations 1821-2021 - Parade in Athens Bicentennial celebrations 1821-2021 - Displays in Ermioni Bicentennial celebrations 1821-2021 - Displays in Ermioni Bicentennial celebrations 1821-2021 - Displays in Ermioni Bicentennial celebrations 1821-2021 - Displays in Ermioni