The ancient paths of Attica
The ancient paths
Despite the duration and the size of the population that inhabited the basin of Athens, for reasons that possibly have to do with the deep mental bond of the Greeks with the sea, mountains of Attica remained simple observers of the great changes that took place in their feet. Construction were few - forts, temples, quarries, monasteries, windmills, watermills, aqueducts - and even fewer the inhabiation attempts on the mountain complexes surrounding the fertile and so hospitable basin stretching between them.
Therefore, even today, apart from the wildfires that once in a while turn the clock back to time zero, the mountains of Attica, Parnitha, Penteli, Imittos, Kitheron, Pateras and Gerania, appear in the primal form of unpassable places, where one should labour to enter, following the clews of prehistoric paths. Ever changing paths, like other Clashing Rocks, remain open for a few years or centuries and then perish, while another emerges next ot it, to be trodden and erased in its turn.
Within all these labyrinths, there are some paths that remained intact through centuries, against the destructive wildfires, the aggressive scrub and mainly oblivion. These are the principal veins of the mountain, through which its gods send to humans the strength to continue their unpassable efforts in the lowlands.
But which are these most interesting, in terms of history and hiking, ancient paths of Attica?
Fyli Spring-Fyli fortress-Elefsina
The longest ancient axis of Parnitha maintaining its hiking status is the routing of the ancient aqueduct transferring the water of the large spring of Agia Paraskevi, known as Fyli spring, to the crowded Elefsina, where apart from water supply of the town also served the needs of the great Elefsinian sanctuary. The aqueduct itself is preserved only in a small part, but the ancient road that accompanied it is visible and can be easily walked, particularly in its downhill version.
The route starts from Fyli springs and goes down to Fyli Fort, where it meets a nice plateau. One can imagine the uproar that took place in the plateau, when the people of the small settlement formed around the springs went down to meet the guard that stayed in the fortress.
From the fortress , the pipeline - and the path today - went down towards the large gully of Giannoula, keeping a course of steady inclination in some places and abruptly losing height elsewhere. The water reached in a group of tanks, the last maintenance of which dates back to the late Ottoman period. A bit lower, the aqueduct and the road were meeting the path coming from Fyli. The water continued into a ditch and through clay pipelines to Thriasio Pedio, passing close to a small ancient fortification, a routing followed also by the modern path.
Our route ends at the upper border of the urban complex of modern Elefsina.
Sfittia Odos (Road) is the shortest communication axis of the Athenian basin with the plain of Mesogeia, a connection used from antiquity to the early 20th c.
Due to the rocky substrate, there had never been etched a road for wheel-motioned vehicles (which always followed the road to Gargitos pass, today's Stavros Agia Paraskevis), Sfittia Odos, however, remained significant thanks to its small length for the rapid access to the eastern districts of the basin and the transports with pack animals.
In antiquity, Sfittia Odos started from the gate of Olympeion of Athena and ended up at Thoriko, near Lavrion, passing by Sfittos municipality, above modern Koropi.
It is mentioned that the king of Athens, Pallas, together with its 50 sones ("Pallantides") and others moved towards Athens against Theseus by using both Sfittia Odos and Gargitos pass.
Due to the lack of spring waters, several wells were constructed along the road, some of them preserved until today, such as Douska well (next to the path) and Fouvagia well (lower, between the churches of Agios Dimitrios and Agios Ioannis).
Transfer of the extracted marble volumes from Penteli to the Acropolis had been taking place with simple means and man strength. It is known from relevant studies that a succession of techniques and means were used, adapted to the conditions of each part of the route. To ensure the safe transfer of the boulders, weighing several tons, on the steep slopes from the quarries to the base of Penteli, a straight stone-paved road had been constructed, the so called Odos Lithagogias (Stone tranfer Road).
From the extraction point, a group of workers with pulleys, counterweights and winches transferred each piece to the top of Lithagogia Raod, where it was placed onto wooden sleighs. Sleighs were carefully slided with the assistance of ropes and poles to their accumulation site, on the flat areas close to today's Penteli monastery. From there, the boulders were loaded on large carriages up to the Acropolis.
The route of Odos Lithagogia can be repeated today with small diversions from its original routing, due to the intervention of newer quarries and other large obstacles.
It is not absolutely clear whether the route from Loutraki to Alkyonides bay, in the way that is planned on the basis of today's conditions of roads and paths is the same with the ancient routing. The topography, however, of the valleys east and west of the obligatory pass of Panagia Faneromeni has surely not changed. To the west of the pass, the second unchanged point of the routing is the inevitable meadow under the walls of ancient Inoi acropolis.
The road is composed of roads and very good paths. Starting from Loutraki, we will have to rely on the modrn road network up to Charvati area, where a good and marked path awaits us, leading us to Panagia Faneromeni plateau. Going round the northern side of Mikri Douskia via a road, we will start descending the peculiar reliefs of Megali Douskia on a path, up to the meadow at the base of Inoi acropolis. A final downhill section will bring us to Schinos beach, at the coast of the beautiful bay of Alkyonides.
The way of the towers
The ancient road connecting southern Megarida to Egosthena, harbour of Megara on Corinthian bay, but also with the Thebean inland, crossed a low saddle of Mt Pateras, between Vathychoria basin and today's Kriemadi. This road today is passable throughout its length and partly retains the ancient stone pavement, while in some parts the ditches that guided the roads of carriages in the antiquity are still preserved. The route is easily identifiable thanks to the ancient towers marking it both to the south and the north. It is no coincidence, therefore, that it is called Pyrgi (Towers) Road.
This significant ancient road had been supervised by several towers, five of them have been identified in the wider area of Vathychoria. The first one, ascending from Megara, is located at Mikro Vathychori and is known as "Germeno Tower". It is a tall square tower of well carved equal in size stones. The building has a four-sided cross section. The tower functioned as defensive element and watch tower, and had been at the same time fortified section of a local rural holding.
The second tower lies outside the route and controlled the connections with the area of ancient Pagi - today's Alepochori - via Megalo Vathychori plateau. The impressive building has unusual circular cross section and is preserved almost intact, reaching 12 m in height. The tower, internally divided into three storeys, is - just like the adjacent square tower - carefully constructed by well carved rectangular stones of local limestone and had also multiple role - supervision, defense, message transmission with fire and the core of a rural unit.
One more smaller tower, of which only the basement is preserved - the rest of the building materials was used in other constructions around through the centuries - is situated at Kriemadi, close to Kryo Pigadi, at the end of the route.
The ancient road that crossed Kitheronas, connecting Erithres - and the adjacent Platees - with the Idillia of the times, today's Vilia, had been part of a longer connection that ended at Egosthena bay, an area owned one time to the Atheneans and another time to their allies Megarians. Despite the cold relations between the Atheneans and the Thebeans, one can imagine the attraction that exerted to the people of these Thebean outskirts the existence of a trade port and a large fortress.
Erythres-Vilia connection is today a very pleasant route. The path ascends smoothly from Erithres up to Kiafa Mouza col and goes down equally smoothly towards Vilia, passing by the nice location of Goura spring, where there is the chapel of Panagia and noteworthy watermills ruins.