chapter  5
20 Pages

The Megarid, the Attic border forts and Perachora

M egara and the land around it, the Megarid, played a special role as aborder area between central Greece and the Peloponnese from earlyon; its key position not only gave the state strength and importance but also meant that it was often fought over, for example in the Classical period, as a buffer state between two leagues. The settlement, which lay on two low hills overlooking a large fertile plain, was already extant in the Bronze Age (Figure 91), but the city did not become historically important until the Archaic period. As a result of great overpopulation Megara took part in the colonisation of Magna Graecia and the Pontos area and founded, among other sites, Megara Hyblaea in Sicily and Byzantium, later Constantinople. Changing alliances or warlike disagreements with neighbours, such as Athens in the east and first Corinth and then the Peloponnesian alliance in the west, led to considerable loss of power and land (the Peraia fell to Corinth and Salamis was taken by Athens) in the late sixth and fifth centuries BC. In particular the trade embargo by the Delian League in the years around 432 meant that the city was totally isolated. However, in the fourth century BC after the end of the Peloponnesian War Megara blossomed; it is from that time that the saying arose that the Megarians lived as though they would die on the next day, but built as though they would live for ever. Only a few remains are left of what were apparently very beautiful houses at that time. The decline of Megara began during the hostilities between the Diadochs; in 307 BC the city was plundered by Demetrios Poliorketes, after which it played scarcely any further active role in history. In the civil war between Pompey and Caesar the city was on the losing side and had to endure the retaliative measures of Caesar. During the Roman Empire Megara sunk to the level of an unimportant town and in late Antiquity underwent invasions from barbarian hordes. In the following centuries the city became the plaything of the different powers, Catalonian, Venetian, Florentine and Turkish, and attained new importance as the centre

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Since the modern town covers the area of the ancient settlement, there are only a few traces and archaeological remains belonging to the important Archaic and Classical city of Megara preserved (Figure 91). The ancient city, which was surrounded by walls, lay on two low hills and had, therefore, two acropolises, that of Alkathos in the west and of Karia in the east. Traces of the foundations of an Archaic temple have been found on the top of Alkathos, which was perhaps dedicated to Athena. The small medieval church of Ypapanti containing numerous ancient architectural components and statue bases is located in its neighbourhood. Another temple further down to the east belonged to a sanctuary of Apollo.