Reveries and Realities @ the ancient Sacred Way, the coast of West Attica and Piraeus


At the context of World Wide Storefront, Microgeographies present “Reveries and Realities”: a unity of projects and routes, personal and collective, regarding the lived experience of deserted places, starting from the remains of the ancient Sacred Way and ending at the coast of West Attica-Chaidari and Piraeus. This research and experiential trip lasts two days: October 31 and November 4.
In collaboration with the Environmental Association OIKO.POLI.S and the auto organized space of Orizontas.
On October 31 we will perform a daily trip that is based on the ancient “Iera Odos” route. Iera Odos was “The Sacred Way” from Athens to Eleusis. It covers a distance of 22 km, still tracable at parts. We will pick up some of its characteristic remaining traces and corresponding sites.
We have divided our tour in two routes: one in the western area and coast of Athens (Chaidari, Skaramaga) and the other in the center of Athens (the area where the road starts at Kerameikos).
Day 1, route 1
(2-6p.m.) In collaboration with the Environmental Association of Chaidari OIKO.POLI.S, we will visite Aphrodite’s Sanctuary (located today in Aphaia Skaramagka, a neighborhood of Chaidari), Iera Odos (in front of the CopaCopana recreation park), Reitoi (Koumoundourou Lake) and Skaramaga Coast. Our tour starts at the Sanctuary of Aphrodite where Yiannis Theodoropoulos sets up a temporary sculpture and Hariklia Hari, interacting with the site and the sculpture, presents the performance “Ophelia II: the loss of libido” (from “Reveries du Promeneur Solitaire” work in progress). OIKO.POLI.S Association carries an environmental tour around the history and reality of the area and the particular sites.With the participation of architects, artists and people from the local community.
ιερο αφροδίτης

Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Skaramagas

The Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Skaramagas. Pausanias mentions a temple of Aphrodite, located today in Aphaia Skaramanga, a neighbourhood of Chaidari, about 1.5 km west of the Daphni Monastery. The monument was located via the many niches carved on the Aigaleo mountain slope, also noted by the French author Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) on Christmas 1850. The sanctuary of Aphrodite was also a basic stop of the Eleusinian procession. D. Kampouroglou, the first excavator of the site found statuettes of Aphrodite and other gods, some reflecting the art of the school of Pheidias. He also located traces of a stoa, an altar, living quarters for the priests and the base for the statue of the goddess. In the 1930s, I. Traulos and K. Kourouniotis concluded the excavations. The sanctuary has a roughly rectangular enclosure wall (71×21 m), with an entrance and propylon to the south. There was a very small, almost square temple, with a doric portico and marble roof, on the west side of the wall. There is also a stoa and other buildings of unknown function. There are many bases of statues and votive inscriptions to Aphrodite, as well as altars and other votives, mainly clay figurines depicting the goddess, or vulvae and birds, the symbols of the goddess. It seems that the whole area of the sanctuary, including the niches would have been full of votive offerings, including statues, stelae, large vessels etc. A complex to the south probably served as residence area for both priests and travellers. A rectangular guard house (25×15 m) lies south of the Sacred Way. Two later sarcophagi testify to its funerary re-use. The exact establishment date of the sanctuary is unknown, but it should not be earlier than the 4th century BC. The sanctuary lived until the Roman times and is today open to the public.
ιερά οδός (1)

The Sacred Way at Skaramangas

The Sacred Way (Ancient Greek: Ἱερὰ Ὁδός, Hierá Hodós), in ancient Greece, was the road from Athens to Eleusis. It was so called because it was the route taken by a procession celebrating the Eleusinian Mysteries. The procession to Eleusis began at Kerameikos (the Athenian cemetery) on the 19th Boedromion.In Greece today, the road from central Athens to Aegaleo and Chaidari (the old route to Eleusis) is called the Iera Odos after the ancient road. Roads connecting ancient towns to important sanctuaries, such as Athens and Eleusina were named «sacred». The official name of the Athenian Sacred Way was «Eleusinian», according to incriptions. It was assumingly established in the Late Helladic period(1600-100 BC) for reasons of communication between the settlements of Athens and Eleusina. The cult of Demeter is dated to the 11th century BC or earlier. By the mid 8th century, the use of the Sacred Way had been well established. Eleusina became part of the Athenian state in the second half of the 6th century, during the Peisistratid tyranny. The sanctuary acquired new buildings and the Sacred Way was remodelled and stayed in use throughout Antiquity.The sanctuary declined with the gradual rise of Christianity and the severe imperial decrees against paganism in the 4th century AD. Finally, Alaric’s Visigoths sacked the place in 395 AD and turned it to ruins. Nonetheless, the Sacred Way continued to link Eleusina and the surrounding villages to Athens. Many parts of the ancient road remained visible in the 19th century. Parts of the ancient road have been exposed at Kerameikos and at the plain of Kephisos river, such as in front of the 9th Primary School at Chaidari. Road terraces are built with stone boulders set on the natural chalk. The lower road surface layer is the bedrock with artificial chalk soil fill for natural cavities. The middle layer is a fill of chalk soil and small boulders. The upper layer is cobbled. There are intermediate layers of sand and gravel. Another major part of the road has been exposed further to the west. Smaller parts have been located to the east too, within the Chaidari municipality. A great and well preserved part of the Sacred Way has been excavated close to the sanctuary of Aphrodite at Aphaia Skaramanga, while many more but shorter parts have been exposed from there to Eleusina. The average road width is 5 m. Rocky slopes, such as the Echo hill (today Kapsalonas hill, on the northeast foot of Mt Poikilo), were dug out, while downslopes were terraced in order to support the road. In sandy areas, such as around Lake Koumoundourou the underlayer was cobbles and soil. The part in front of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite preserves wheel furrows.
Λίμνη Κουμουνδούρου στο Σκαραμαγκά (1)

Reitoi (Koumoundourou Lake)

Reitoi (Koumoundourou Lake). Reitoi were two small artificial lakes on the west foot of Mt Aigaleo. Their springs were in natural cavities, which were blocked in antiquity. The stream outlets to the sea were crossed via bridges. Before these works the place had been a swamp and impossible to cross. The water had salt, due to its proximity to the sea. The north lake was devoted to Demeter and the south to Persephone. The latter is preserved until today and is called Lake Koumoundourou. It marks the border between Chaidari and Aspropyrgos, and it used to be the boundary between Athens and Eleusina. I. Traulos recognized that some of the building blocks of the dam came from the Peisistratian sanctuary at Eleusina, which was destroyed by the Persians in 479 BC. An inscription of the Athenian Boule of 421 BC, now in the Museum of Eleusina, mentions the construction of a bridge 1.5 m wide, hence for pedestrians only. Both streams and lakes had been preserved until the 19th century and featured two water mills, noted by François Pouqueville, while Gustave Flaubert saw only a swamp. Until the 1950s both lakes were natural fish reserves. The south lake was named either after the local land owners, or prime minister Alexandros Koumoundouros (1817-1883), responsible for road building in the area during the 1860s. The post-World War II widening of the national road reduced the size of the lake significantly. The north lake, Kephalari, was backfilled during the construction of the oil refinery at Aspropyrgos. Its place is today marked by a swamp.

Skaramaga coast

Skaramaga coast is situated on the east coast of the Bay of Eleusis. The Aigaleo mountain to the east separates it from Athens and Piraeus. Skaramagkas is 5 km west of Chaidari town centre and 11 km west of Athens city centre. Greek National Road 8  passes through Skaramagkas. Skaramagkas coastal line held a magnificent scenery with a popular seaside. We have plenty of description from poets and travel writers. It became an industrial area. Since 1937 Skaramagkas harbour has been home to a shipyard of the Hellenic Navy. After destruction in World War II, it was refounded as a commercial shipyard in 1957, the Hellenic Shipyards Co.. In 2002, the port became entirely owned by a German group of investors under the industrial leadership of Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft, which became a subsidiary of ThyssenKrupp in 2005.


Day 1, route 2
(7-11p.m) In collaboration with the auto organized space of Orizontas Gegonoton, we will visit Demosion Sema in Kerameikos in order to perform a public reading of Pericles’ Funeral Oration at the place that was initially delivered in ancient Athens. In his famous speech, known from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, Pericles addresses issues on Democracy and Polis. The reading will be followed by in situ discussion on the topic “The city of Athens is us, the Athenians”. Then visit the auto organized space of Orizontas Gegonoton, one corner down at Plataion & Kerameikou str. Οn the occasion of the presentation of the ongoing project “Invisible Islands”, a cultural trip in the aegean islands, we will adress on issues relevant to landscape strategies, sustainable tourism and the new coastal law in Greece.  .

Demosion Sema

Demosion Sema”, the public cemetery of the ancient city of Athens, extended just outside the Dipylon gate. The graves were constructed along the sides of the road which became very wide (up to 40 m.) outside the walls. A part of the “Demosion Sema” cemetery has been brought to light in 1997, during a rescue excavation. The Public Sepulchre (Demosion Sema) came into existence along the road which ran from the Dipylon to the Academy, covering a distance of aproximately 1,500 m. At its beginning the width was as much as 40 m. Apart from scattered references in the ancient sources, there is the extensive description of Pausanias (I, 29, 2-16) of the 2nd century A.D. Here were the graves of public figures such as Solon, the tyrant slayers, Kleisthenes, the democratic leader Ephialtes, Perikles, the rhetoricians Euboulos and Lykourgos, the philosophers Zenon and Chrysippos, and generals such as Phormion, Thrasyboulos and Chabrias. In addition there were so many common graves (polyandria) of those who had fallen in war that the Demosion Sema gave the impression of being a military cemetery. The use of the area as a cemetery, with burials at public expense, is in evidence from the time of Solon. The systematic common burial at public expense of those fallen in war appears to have been regular practice from the time of Kimon. Both common burials and burials of public figures continue in this place at least until the 3rd century B.C. During the official ceremony of burial, honours of immortality were given to the heroes fallen in war whose bones had been brought to Athens from the field of battle. Games were held, a funeral speech was delivered and the state undertook the care of their families. Stelai were erected over the graves with the names of the fallen according to tribe (phylai). Despite numerous excavations in the area during the past 40 years, and the location of many sections of the road, none of the important burial monuments had been found other than the few included in the archaeological site of the Kerameikos.
Kerameikos_Orizontas Autoorganised Space

Auto organized space of Orizontas

Orizontas is a typical old Athenian two floor house. It has a central courtyard with rooms all around. It was a ruin, as most of the old neoclassical small houses in the areas of Kerameikos. With the collaboration of the local community, the Orizontas team transformed the building into an open cultural space.




(upcoming tour) November 4
Pireaus Tower, 1pm (rv at the entrance of the Tower)

Manolis Economou calls us to a tour-experiential action in “Skyscraper”: The building known as Tower of Piraeus, is a ghost building that stands in the port of Piraeus in the early 70s unfinished. Urban legends are connected with its existence. Trully, what is the real position in the history of the city?
We will hold an insitu debate about the relationship of the landscape of Attica with tall buildings; a relationship that is inconsistent but with which the architecture of 70 flirted. And the trend of the skyscraper seems to be back in urban development of Athens Elliiniko International Airport (former airport of Athens)