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prehistoric years

As it is known, Piraeus originally was an island during prehistoric years. It was separated from the remainder of Attica with a sea area which started from the region of the Falirian bay and more specifically from New Faliro past through the current district of Kaminia and part of the municipality of St. John Renti and ended in the port of Alon, in front of the Railway station of Athens-Piraeus. Later on, this zone was covered with alluviums to be initially transformed into a shallow marine strip, then into a ‘swampy region’ (swamp) and finally into a ‘muddy region’ (mud flat). It then became what everyone knows as Alipedo which linked Piraeus with the remainder of Attica. The origin of the place name of Piraeus is attributed to this island form of the place in ancient times. Most people attribute its origin to a word meaning ‘ferryman’, from the anonymous ferryman who likely ferried with his boat the residents of Attica to the opposite Piraeus coast and vice versa. The word used for ferryman evolved into a place name and after a vowel change we ended up with Piraeus in its current from. In everyday communication the initial form of the place name has also survived to date. Others believe that the place name comes from the word ‘beyond’ since Piraeus either as an island detached from the remainder of Attica or after they were linked due to the marsh of Alipedo standing in between, was ‘beyond the coast’ and thus referred to as ‘island-like’. Piraeus was inhabited from as early as the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. This opinion is reinforced by the residues of Protohellenic settlements revealed in old Kokinia and Keratsini that are temporally placed between 2600 and 1900 BC in correlation with other findings of the same era (ruins of buildings, tools) in the region of Mounichia and Stalida.

The first residents of Piraeus were reported to be Pelasgi and other familiar prehistoric residents of the Hellenic space (Karres, Leleges, Cretes, Thaces, Foinicians) but mostly Minians which were the most advanced at that timel with skills and technical knowledge, far ahead of their time. The last ones, potentially of Ionian origin, emanated from Orchomeno in Viotia and settled in Piraeus in the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 12th century BC, after the Thracian invasion in their land. Being experienced seamen, they found in the natural small port of Mounichia (currently called Mikrolimano) a suitable base for their operations while their settlement was developed in the hill carrying their name (the currently known hill of Profitis Ilias). According to traditions, this hill was ceded to them by the king of Athens, Mounichio that is why it was called Mounichia, while other attribute the place name to a Minian leader or hero. At the top of the hill, or at a small height on the left side of the small port of Mounichia where the lounge of the ‘Hellenic Marine Society’ has been erected, the Minians founded the temple of ‘Mounichian Artemis’. The Minians who had been experts in the constructions of underground passages (tunnels), sewers and other technical works have left their mark in the area of Piraeus. Apart from the levelling of the hill of Mounichia and the carved artefacts found inside caves and rocks which the people used to call ‘Theospita’, two important technical works testify the Minian passage though Piraeus: the cave known as ‘cave of Aretousa’ in the hill of Mounichia and the ‘Siraggio’ formerly known as ‘cave of Paraskevas’.

Apart from the prehistoric settlement of the Minians in the hill of Mounichia in the prehistoric years and later on, there was another ‘contact’ or ‘union’ of communities in Piraeus of mainly religious character sharing a common temple: the so called ‘Tetrakomon (four cities) Iraklion’. The four ‘komes’ (cities) that constituted this peculiar communal ‘union’ were: Piraeus, Faliro – the most important city at the time that the Athenians used as a port city and whose name came from one local hero which according to the tradition was one of the Argonauts, the city currently called Keratsini and Xipeti which is placed between Old Kokkinia and Korydallos probably at the place of Nikaia. The worship of Hercules was the connecting link of this peculiar, communal union that survived for many centuries and the common temple of the ‘Tetrakomon’ was found, based on prevailing opinions, in the current district called Kaminia.

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