Patras (the city where we live)
Patras’ history according to written tradition
Patras’ history was known until recently only by written tradition. According to it, Patras was founded by the Achaeans of Sparta who, headed by Preugenes and his son Patreus, came here after being forced out by the Dorians. But similarly the Achaeans of Argos, also forced out by the Dorians, headed by Tisamenos, occupied the eastern Achaia, after besieging Eliki. Up to then, the whole of Achaia was named after the Ions and was called Ionia but was also called Aegialos, either because it was named after the king of Sikyona, Aegialus, either because the whole region spreaded all along the coast (aegialos). The Ions firstly took to Athens and from there to Asia Minor where they founded twelve cities, the Ionian Dodecapolis, in remembrance of the twelve cities they had left behind.
Preugenes and Patreus made three Ionian market towns into one. Those three were Aroe, Mesati and Antheia and having as center Aroe they founded a new city that they called Patres after Patreus. The city’s name was in the plural because of the unification of many settlements. The oldest of these three market towns was Aroe. Its founder was Eumelos who, helped by Triptolemos of Eleusina, introduces the cultivation of grains. Eumelos and Triptolemos later founded Antheia, which was named after Eumelos’ son, Antheias. Finally, at the market town of Mesati, they worshiped god Dionysus.
According to another tradition, Eurepelus, Euemonos’ son, king of the Thessalie, heading the Thessales after the Trojan War, he founded a colony at Aroe.
After the Mycenean period and as Patras geographical position was at the periphery of Greece and quite far from the big urban centers of that period, such as Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Chalkide etc., this city does not play an important role in the significant events and the political evolutions that occur in the rest of the country. It does not found colonies, neither is it active in the Persian wars, the Peloponnesian war and the conflicts of the 4th century BC. The initiative of all movements of that era belongs exclusively to Eastern Achaia. On the contrary, after 280 BC, Patras plays a significant role in the foundation of the second Achaian League together with the cities Dyme, Triteia and Pharai and the initiative of the political movements is transferred for the first time at the western Achaia. Later on and after the roman occupation of Greece, in 146 BC, Patras plays the main role and Augustus founds here a roman colony.
Patras’ inactivity in the political field up to 146 BC seems to be the cause for which only those events linked to other big cities are referred by great ancient historians and not those events of local importance. So, we know that even Patras did not take part in the Peloponnesian war (431-404 BC), Alkibiades proposed to the inhabitants of this city to construct the Long Wall to link the city around the acropolis to the port
THE FORTRESS OF PATRAS
The fortress of Patras was built during the second half of the 6th century, on top of the ruins of the ancient acropolis. It is situated on a low hill of Panachaikos Mountain, at a distance approximately 800 meters from the coast. Its walls surround an area of about 22725 s.m and is constituted by a triangle outer enclosure, loaded with towers and ramparts, initially protected by a deep moat, and an inside enclosure that raises high in the NE corner and is also surrounded by a moat.
It was built by Justinian, after the destroying earthquake in 551 using material from buildings of the B.C. era for the defence of the region and its citizens. In the centuries that followed and up to the Second World War, it has been in constant use for the defence of the city, but also as an administrative and military centre.
During the Byzantine Ages, until the entrance of the Franks (1205) it was besieged by the Slaves, Saracens, Bulgarians, Normands etc, though without any of them achieving to besiege it. In 805 AD the people of the city were besieged in the castle by the Slaves and the Saracens and their victory, attributed to a miracle of the Patron Saint Andrew, was important for the restraint of the barbaric invasions in the Peloponnese.
The Frank Crusaders developed it, reinforced it and dug a moat all around. In 1278 it was mortgaged to the Latin Archbishop while in 1408 the Pope ceded it for five years against a rental to the Venetians. It remained in the hands of the Latin Archbishop till 1430, when it was set free by Constantine Palaiologos. Constantine moved on to extension and repair of the walls.
It was slaved, during the Turkish Occupation and it passed in the hands of the Greeks in 1828, after its liberation by the French General Mezon.
Since 1973 the Castle is under the supervision of the 6th Committee of Byzantine Antiquities. In the dismantling theatre (640 seats) that lies at the interior enclosure, cultural celebrations take place every summer.
The building phases that are obvious on the castle are evidence of the work that has been made from the various conquerors for its repair and fitting in the development of the fighting technology.
In a special notch on the wall, it is graved the body and the head of a male statue of the Roman Ages. This disfigured statue gained extraordinary dimensions in the eyes of Patras’ people. It became the ghost of the city, “Patrinella”. Tradition says that it was a woman disguised into a man during the Turkish Occupation that preserves the city against epidemics and cries in the night, when one famous personality of Patras dies.
On a green-clad hill, eight km SE of Patras’ centre, are located the facilities of ACHAIA CLAUSS winery, distinguished as one of the topmost tourist sites of the region.
Its founder, Bavarian Gustav Clauss arrived in Patras in 1854 to work in a German company dealing with exportation of raisin. During an excursion, he visited this region that charmed him with its natural beauty. He bought a small vineyard just to produce some wine for self-consumption and he ended up to the establishment of this Castle-Winery that survives intact till now. In 1861 he founded ACHAIA CLAUSS Co and the excellent quality wines, including Mavrodaphne of Patras, conquered both Greek and international market.
The stone-made buildings, the large oaken carved barrels with one century-old Mavrodaphne, the traditional cellar where visitors are welcomed as well as the unique landscape with the breath-taking view attract approximately 200.000 visitors per year.
“APOLLO” MUNICIPAL THEATRE
“Apollo” Municipal Theatre is located on King George I Square and is considered as the most impressive architectural ornament of Patras, while it is one of the first opera theatres in Europe. It was built on 1872 according to the designs of the German architect Ernst Ziller, with the financial contribution of Patras’ merchants.
It has three rows of boxes and seats dressed with red velvet, gallery and pit. Since its first year of operation, Patras’ people had the opportunity to enjoy opera performances of great composers such as Verdi, Apolloni, Puccini, Ricci, Donizetti, Bizet, as well as performances of operettas. Later on, the theatre’s stage hosted major Greek theatrical troupes, such as that of Kotopouli, Myrat, Kyveli, Plessas, while during Carnival it has been the venue of dancing parties and masked balls. So, in the 50’s it was identified to the organization of famous and unique in Greece “Bourboulia”.
The Municipal Theatre is since 1988 the permanent venue of the Municipal and Regional Theatre of Patras, which stops performing only during Carnival, when tradition imposes the beginning of balls and, of course, the “Bourboulia”.
SAINT ANDREW’S CATHEDRAL
The two churches dedicated to Patras’ patron Saint, St Andrew, constitute a national and Pan-Orthodox place of pilgrimage. The small Church was erected during the 1836-1843 period at the spot where Apostle Andrew died a martyr. It is a basilica work of architect Lyssandros Kaftantzoglou. The whole body icons on the roof depicting scenes from the Bible, Fathers and Patriarchs are works of the great religious painter Dimitris Hatziaslanis, alias known as Byzantios. At the front and on the right side of the Church, near the sanctuary, is located the marble sepulchre of the Apostle. In the mid-4th century, on the initiative of Emperor Constantine, the Holy Relics was transferred to St Apostles’ Church in Constantinople. When the Franks occupied the city, the Relics were transferred to Italy. On September 26th 1964, the Saint’s Head returned to Patras by Pope Paul and after the actions that the citizens of Patras and the Orthodox Church took.
The new magnificent Byzantine church was founded in 1908 by King George I and inaugurated in 1974 by Patras’ Metropolitan Bishop Nikodimos.
It is the largest and most artistic church in the Balkans and one of the largest across Europe. The supervision of the construction works was initially undertaken by architect Anastasioa Metaxas, and after his death (1937) by architect Georgios Nomikos. The Church’s central dome is 46m high and supports a five meter high gold-plated cross and twelve smaller ones, symbolising Jesus and his twelve disciples respectively. The church’s capacity is 5.500 persons.
by Patrula Golfi