The city walls of Aigeira

Aigeira (ancient landscape Achaea, northern Peloponnese) has four fortification systems of Mycenaean to late or post-antique date. In a new diachronic study, the chronology, extent, and importance of the post-Mycenaean walls for Aigeira are being researched. Particular attention has been placed on the connection between architecture and landscape and on the function and motivation for their construction.

The exceptionally long settlement activity, spanning from the late Neolithic period to the modern-day, provides favorable conditions for the investigation of the fortification systems of the city in a diachronic study.

Aigeira has four fortification systems that date from the Mycenaean to the late or post-antique period. The focus of the project lies on the fortifications of the post-Mycenaean period; the Mycenaean walls are part of the research of W. Gauß. The prerequisites for the study are favorable since Aigeira is not only one of the best preserved poleis of Achaea but it is also one of the longest continuously inhabited settlements in the area.

Settlement setup

Aigeira’s urban area is dominated by a double acropolis in the south and has steep cliffs on its eastern and western side. The cliffs surround a gently sloping, terraced slope. A narrow isthmus in the south connects the city with its hinterland and makes it difficult to invade but easy to defend. A number of small forts and towers were recently discovered as part of the »Aigialeia Survey Project« of the Italian School in Athens and likely played an important role in the defense and control of transport routes.

Fortification systems

The archaic fortification system covers an area of approximately 3.5 ha in the area of the acropolis and the Upper City but it has only been recorded in several places.

The largest wall surrounds 50 ha of settlement area and was possibly constructed in the late classical/early Hellenistic period. It is particularly surprising that only the late classical/Hellenistic fortification system is equipped with a few towers. This is not unusual but against the background of the topography and the historical context it must be re-evaluated. The Achaean League could have played a role in the design of the fortification systems as Aigeira was part of the league in the 5th and again in the early 3rd century. It is possible that the settlement grew through the influx of people from Aigai who moved to Aigeira as a result of the poor living conditions in their home town in the mid-4th century BCE (Paus. 7, 25, 12; 8, 15, 9). This wall was apparently not changed in post-Hellenistic periods.

The youngest fortification does not refer to the older defense systems in any way: it includes the western acropolis hill that was an important settlement point from the Mycenaean to the classical period. The purpose and date of this fortification has not yet been clarified, however, based on an initial review of the finds from older excavations it possibly is a late antique hill fortification.

In order to clarify the open questions it is necessary to compile a precise chronology of the fortification walls. Through excavations at selected points and building archaeological analyses it is possible to reconstruct the form of the fortifications.