The main harbour of Cantharus
The main harbour is situated in the NW part of Piraeus? peninsula (Fig. 4) and constitutes the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean (Fig. 5). Its entrance was formed by two arms of land that extended from both sides towards the gulf?s center: the Eetioneia coast on the northwest and the coast which is extended east of cape Alkimos on the southeast.
The basin of the main harbor was called Cantharus due to its shape, which resembled the corresponding vase. The Basin of Cantharus as it was recorded in the maps of the first researchers, had the shape of an irregular rectangle, smaller than the modern harbour, with dimensions approximately 1000x750m. Starting from the west and moving clockwise around the basin, the Athenian shipyards were located inside the walls and along Eetioneia coast. To the north a marshy region formed outside the walls, was used a cemetery, (as the great number of grave stelae and sarcophagi which were unearthed during its dredging for the construction of the modern entrance port) and was until recently mistakenly identified as the Kofos Limen (Steinhauer, G.A., 2000,p.79). The commercial port of Piraeus "Emporion" situated on the northeastern side of the basin, while one part of the military dockyard of the Athenians extended in the southern point of Cantharus, on Alkimos coast. The Kofos Limen was on the west coast of Eetioneian peninsula in today?s Krommydarous? bay, while outside the port, beyond the north beacon that was found in Lipasmata area, was the Foron Limen or " Thieves? Harbor" where there was no control of any kind by the port?s authority (Steinhauer, G.A., 2000,p.79).
The two natural jetties projected into the sea with the extension of the walls that run along the eastern and western coastline of the harbour, in order to form a narrow entrance. The moles were constructed, in their upper part, with the use of rectangular large stones of local porous limestone (aktetis) with a length of more than 3.30m which were held in position with the help of clamps sheathed with lead (Shaw, J.W., 1972, p.90-91). The moles had a length of 130m each leaving an entrance of 50 m. The coastal walls of the harbour extended over those two moles to form, at each extreme, a large rectangular tower (Spon, 1676, p.234) from which a chain was hang across the entrance, to protect the harbour in case of a sudden attack.
The existence of lighthouses (columns with fire at their highest point) for the signification of the entrance is confirmed by the remnants that have been restored in two positions along the coast (Steinhauer, G.A., 2000,p.79). (Fig.6, 7). The first one on the northwest, inside the area of today?s fertilizer factory and the other to the south, in the area of the Maritime Administration of the Aegean, beside the precinct that has been identified as the tomb of Themistocles.
Ship Sheds (Neosoikoi).
The dockyard of the harbour was situated on the south of Cantharus, at Alkimos coast and consisted of 96 ship sheds in 331 (IG II² 1627-1629 & 1631) in a total of 372 in the whole of Piraeus. This area of the main harbor developed into a naval military zone after Munychia and Zea, when the need for military ships was increased.
Naval administrative buildings and arsenals were situated behind the ship sheds while the whole area of the dockyard was surrounded by an enclosure and entry was allowed only to the public servants and to the workers of Neoria.
The commercial harbour of Piraeus, the "Emporion" (Fig.8) extended in a rectangular area of 250 x 1000m (Mazarakis-Ainian Ph., 1992, p. 74) with its longitudinal axis parallel to the coastline. The coastline was formed into a quay from which piers, "kripidai, or hipodochai" projected into the harbour. The docks formed between these piers were used for charging or discharging and berthing of the ships. Traces of those constructions (Alten V., 1881, p.11-15) existed until 1840, when they were destroyed during the construction of the modern harbour. The position and the dimensions of each dock was fixed in the area of the quay with the use of marking stones " horoi" (Mazarakis-Ainian Ph., 1992, p. 74) which were used by Hippodamus during the drawing of Piraeus for marking public spaces and buildings.
In the part of the basin that was used by the commercial port, the existence and name of three piers is known, for their position, however, many different opinions have been supported by historical topographers of Piraeus (Mazarakis-Ainian Ph., 1992, p. 75) while it has also been supported that they all are the same construction (Panagos Ch.Th., 1968, p. 218). They are the "Dia mesou choma", the"Choma" and the "Diazeugma" (fig.5).
The "Dia mesou choma " was probably the pier that was constructed for the junction of the two sides of the marshy area. The "choma" was a quay in the deepest recess of the gulf (which can probably be identified with the mole that extends today from the wharf in the area of Karaiskaki square) and was used for the inspection of the fleet. Finally, the "Diazeugma was probably the partition element of the central commercial wharf.
The discharging of the ships was done at several points of the commercial port, according to the category of the merchandise and the destination that corresponded to each portico of the wharf. Due to their small size the vessels were able to be in contact with the wharf in order to be charged, while mechanical means - for which there is no exact information - must have been used for the grater loads.
Warehouses - Commercial porticoes
In the area of Emporion it is believed that there were five porticoes (Panagos Ch.Th., 1968, p. 224) that were used for mercantile exchange as well as for storage. Their position their form and their number has been a question among the researchers of Piraeus, while the latest excavation results form a more consistent image of their layout (Steinhauer, G.A., 2000,p.83-84). Among them was the famous "Makra Stoa" that was built during Periklis? time and served as the grain market, the "Deigma", the business center that was used for the exhibition of sample of the imported merchandise as well as the place that housed all the banks. The position of "Makra Stoa" is now believed to be at the northern end of "Emporion" (at the corner of Posidonos Coast and Gounary street) while that of "Deigma" is placed in the center of "Emporion" according to an inscription found in site (Judeich, 1931, p.448).
The discovery of parts of the foundations from three of the porticoes of "Emporion" (Notara st, Philonos st, Miaouli Coast and Bouboulinas st) allow in some degree the reconstitution of the ancient coastline (fig.9), according to which (Steinhauer, G.A., 1995,p.313) the layout of the porticoes does not follow the Hippodamian web of the ancient city that enclosures the harbour ? as it was suggested by the maps of Kaupert-Milchhofer (1889), Judeich (1930), Trauvlos (1969) and Hoepfner ? Schwander (1986, 1994). The inclined axis of the of the three verified porticoes prove that the best reconstitution of the ancient coastline is given by the Venetian map of 1687 (Sofou, H., 1973, p246-258, fig.112-113).
The semicircular arrangement of the porticoes on either side of the "Diazeugma" and the adaptation of such an arrangement to the city?s Hippodameian plan points to the formation of an enclosure around the area of the "Emporion" (Steinhauer, G.A., 2000,p.91). The existence of the enclosure is noted on Judeich?s map (fig.10) with a length of 80m and foundations of such walls have been discovered near one of the porticoes (Dragatsis portico) and further north.
This text is cited Aug 2005 from the R.G.Z.M. Roman-Germanic Central Museum URL below.
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