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Argos

COUNTY: Argolis MUNICIPALITY: Argos-Mycenae

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16.41ºC

Population

20,000 - 30,000

TL;DR

The second oldest city of Greece, with many incredible sights, from churches to ancient temples to old manors.

Argos is the second oldest city of Greece after Sikyona, and has been registered in the Network of Europe's Ancient Cities. It is the trade and industrial centre of the region. The city is 7 kilometres from the Argolic Gulf, 11.7 kilometres from the city of Mycenae, 8.8 kilometres from Ancient Tyrins and 12.5 kilometres from Nafplio. It is framed on its south side by the South Regional, in its west by the hill of Larisa with the castle of the same name and the hill of Aspida where a Neolithic settlement dating to 4,000 to 3,500 BC was found recently, on the east by Inachos river and on the north by the dried up river of Xeria.

Argos and Argolida in general are well-known for their exceptional oranges, and half the national produce is grown there. The city hosts two large events, the Festival of Argos in the summer and the Feast of Agios Petros in May 3, since he is the patron of the city.

 

History

Argos was called Foronikon Asty in prehistoric times, and there is the oldest discovered settlement, dating back to the Neolithic era, at the end of the 3rd millennium BC. According to mythology, the first king of Argos was Inachos, and the first settlers were the Pelasgians. The city is named after a Pelasgian word meaning "plains", or after the mythic king of the same name.

According to mythology, in Argos was built the first idol of pear tree wood, dedicated to the patron goddess of the city Hera; also first built in Argos were the first chariot, the first shields and the first statues. The city's sculpting workshops were renown through the ancient world, with great artists like Ageladas and Polykleitos the Younger who built the famous theatre at Epidaurus.

Again according to mythology, in Argos were invented the first wooden boards on which were carved messages, a type of missive, and the first sample of written word in Greece. By the end of the 8th and the beginning of the 7th century BC, Pheidon of Argos created the first currency as a means of trading. It was named the Obelos, looking like a metal prong; the word also is the source of the word Obelisk. Six obeloi or obols, that is as many as a human palm could fit, later came to correspond to one drachma.

In 1,100 BC, Argos, like almost the whole of Peloponnese, fell in the hands of the Dorians. The city was weakened significantly and didn't recover for a long while; almost five hundred years later, the city didn't take part in the Greco-Persian War nor the Peloponnesian War. In 146 BC, it was taken by the Romans. Then, it followed the exchange of hands that the rest of the Peloponnese did; Frankish rule, Venetian rule and Turkish rule, before the Revolution of 1821. From 1821 to 1829 the first Greek Parliament of the new, liberated nation was housed in Argos.

 

Sights

The city's most important sights are:

  1. The Ancient Agora, built in the 6th century BC in the southern part of the city, where the roads from Corinth, Tegea and Iraio ended. Today, traces of the Vouleftirio, a fighting area, a dome-nymphaio, ruins of the Roman period and other unidentified buildings can be seen.
  2. The Ancient Theatre, considered one of the largest of Greece with a capacity of 20,000. It was connected with the Aogra and, since it was built right on the foot of a hill, it was visible by the whole of the plains of Argolida. It was used for music games and plays, as well as the Heraia, celebration to honour the goddess Hera. In large part, it is carved on rock, and has 83 series of seats. In the 2nd century AD, the Roman emperror Handrian rebuilt it with a few alterations. In the theatre was organised the Fourth National Assembly of the new Greek state under Kapodistiras.
  3. The Iraion, the sanctuary of the goddess Hera, patron of Argos and women, is south of the Mycenae in an isolated locale. It is one of the most important Iraia of the ancient world. Up from the imposing steps of its entrance is the first plateau, where stand the ruins of buildings such as the Telestrio and the House of the Priestesses of the goddess, as well as the New Temple which replaced the older one, this one in Doric style and made by Efpolemos and housing the chryselephantine statue and the icon of the goddess. On the third plateau, on a height of 252 metres, stand the ruins of the Ancient Temple of Hera. In the Iraion the Heraia were held, the magnificent athletic and artistic games to honour the goddess, with the prize of a shield that was one of Hera's symbols. According to mythology, in that important religious centre was where Agamemnon bound under oath his soldiers before leaving for the Trojan War.
  4. The Castle of Larisa, that stands on the top of the hill above the city, on an altitude of 289 metres. It was built during the prehistoric times and was repaired and improved later, in the 6th and 5th century BC by the people of Argos. In the 10th century AD, a medieval fortress was built in its place and later occupants, the Franks, the Venetians and the Turks, added their own improvements; the castle was in an important strategic position and its holder recognised that. It also had an important role to play during the Revolution of 1821. In the castle, during the 12th century, was built a small church using the ruins of older buildings. It was dedicated to the Theotokos, the Holy Virigin, and today only ruins remain. The view from the castle is amazing, though the castle itself is obviously abandoned, even though it was registered as a preserved monument in 1992.
  5. The Archaeological Museum, housing important and significant findings from the Prehistoric and the Roman periods, such as a clay circular heart, a clay icon depicting a woman, a pot from the 7th century BC depicting the Blinding of Polyphemus, metal obols, a copper armour, and more.
  6. The Church of Panagia the Katakekrymmeni or the Portokalousa (Panagia meaning the Mother of God, Katakekrymmeni meaning thrown over, Portokalousa meaning of Oranges), its first name attributed to a miraculous picture of Panagia the Glykofilousa (sweet-kissing) that was hidden in a cave of the rock on which the church stands, and was found by a believer who followed a mysterious light after seeing a dream; the second name is attributed to a custom of the people of Argos who throw oranges to the newlyweds in the 21st of November, the day of the Presentation of Mary. The church is built on a place where an ancient temple of Hera the Akraia (of the Edge) used to stand, and since 1770 it is a monastery.
  7. Other sights are, the Central Square with the Church of Agios Petros, the Square of the Court with an ancient fount in its centre, the Neoclassical building of the Railroad Station, built in the 1900, the House of Trikoupis, and other old manors spread around the city like jewels.