The Marble Lion of Piraeus

The Port of Piraeus Through The Ages

By Mr. Yannis E. Hadjimanolakis

The city of Piraeus has a history of many centuries and has, in fact, been inhabited since about 2,600 B.C. Many of its prehistoric inhabitants, such as the relatively advanced Minyens, have left their marks: the Cave of Arethusa, on the hill of Castella, and the the Syrangion, known as the "Cave of Paraskevas".' An insignificant settlement at first, one of the four known as the "Four lands of Heracleion", due to the activities of the great Themistocles - with the help of Cimon and Pericles who were to complete his work - Piraeus was to become the entrepot of Athens at about the begin- ning of the 5th century B.C. (493-483 B.C.) a safe naval port and an excellent commercial port, with excellent layout, organisation and exploitation, with beautifully constructed walls of which well-preserved traces can still be seen, public buildings, places of worship and theatres, and a well-planned lay-out.' in brief, it became a city teeming with life and was, indeed the "Commercial Heart of the Hellenes" where, in the words of Thucydides, "From all the lands, everything enters"."

The course of ancient Piraeus followed that of the Athenian Democracy and, in parallel, experienced the latter's "Golden Century". It was to also suffer the Democracy's first set- back during the Peloponnese war (431-404 B.C.) It was to recover somewhat. following the re-establishment of the Democracy (403 B.C.) which would begin from here - the hill of Mounichia - by the efforts of Thrasybulus. I would finally follow the Democracy's course to its decline, slowly but surely, from the Macedonian era, and receive its mortal blow from the Roman invaders and its destruction, at the hands of Sylla in 85 B.C.

Following the city's destruction, a few inhabitants remained in the vicinity of the harbour. Then, in the first years of the Christian era, the sad epilogue to the history of ancient Piraeus was written.

From 395 B.C., with a final invasion by the Goths, began the long period of Piraeus' decline, which was to last for about 15 centuries with the time of our national renaissance. During that period, the city ceased to exist. If a few small "pockets" of habitation were, by chance, established, we do not know. Of any harbour acitivity, however limited, there is no mention. The harbour, or port, of Piraeus was, of course, used on occasion as a base for the Byzantine fleet or by pirates who then, as later, roamed the Aegean.

However, from 1318 A.D, the port lost its ancient name. It became "Porto Leone", the "Porto Draco" of the Franks, and, from 1456, the "Asian Port" of the Turks (the Lion's Port), getting its name from the marble lion standing at the point where, later, the old Town Hall (ROLOI - the Clock) was built. The marble lion was removed and stolen in 1688, during Fr. Morozini's well-known expedition against Athens, and carried to the naval base of Venice where it still exists."

Throughout the whole period of Turkish occupation, the Piraeus region remained desert- ed. Visitors to the Piraeus region throughout the period are all agreed on this point. The harbour was used at infrequent intervals for trifling commercial trading. The only "pocket" of habitation throughout the period was the Monastery of St. Spyridon which, according to more recent and better informed opinions, was established in 1590, and the only named presence in 18th century Piraeus was the French merchant,Cayrac, a person who earned the trust and respect of both Greeks and foreigners."

The numerous owners of land in Piraeus, who are referred to in I. Meletopoulos' "Piraika" and urged both him and others to occupy themselves with the local history and to support the view that Piraeus, during the latter years of Turkish occupation, was not deserted, most of them Athenians - and Othomans, - did not in fact live in Piraeus. They were simply the owners of land and had no personal ties with the area.

They did, however, react decisively in two attempts to revitalize Piraeus: in 1792, by the installation of the Hydraians, and, in 1825 - when the revolutionary struggle had already begun by the installation of the Psarians, both attempts resulting in abandonment.6

It was not until 1829 that the area began once again to show signs of permanent inhabitance. When the last shots of the 8 year struggle for national independence were heard and from the ruins and ashes the Greek State finally emerged, the first of its new "settlers" arrived at Piraeus - 5 in number - amongst them the most well-known being Yiannakos Tzelepis, in memory of whom the Tzelepis Promenade was named. The other four were two of Tzelepis' brothers, Spyridon Diplaris, from Athens, and loannis Katelouzos.7

From 1830 to 1834, the number of "settlers", the first residents, gradually grew. In 1834, Cleanthes and Schaubert drew up the excellent - for that time - town plan of Piraeus which was approved, with a minimum of amendment, by the Architect Klenze and the Regent. In 1835, following an application by the most prosperous of the new inhabitants, the Municipal- ity was established. On 14 December the first Municipal elections were held and, on 23 December, in the partly ruined church of the Monastery of St. Spyridon, the first municipal council was sworn in and undertook its duties under the Mayor, Hydraian Kyriakos Serfiotis and Deputy Mayor, the Chian, Constantinos Skylitsis.8

I SHALL NOT refer in great detail to all the phases of our city's historical course from the first establishment of the Municipality (1835) to the end of the 19th century, those years which made up what I once called the "New Piraeus Epic".g

I shall simply underline certain characteristic events which will allow us, I believe, to correctly judge the magnitude and extent of whatever has been achieved during that epic period of the new Piraeus' development.

First and foremost, when, from the ruins and ashes of the Revolution, inherited by the liberated Greek people, came forth the new Greek State, Piraeus was, as we have said, an insignificant harbour with a few fishermen's huts, a few farm-buildings on its surrounding land - towards Keratsini the "Dogana" (customs-house) and the Monastery of St. Spyridon, in ruins. In other words, it was almost deserted and showed nothing of its ancient greatness. It also gave no indication of the "miracle" which was to follow.

Five or six years later, when the Municipality of Piraeus was established, the situation had changed somewhat. The "village" had begun to take shape, with about 300 inhabitants from all parts of Greece, thus creating, by virtue of their varied origins, a lively nucleus of the new state, in which there existed, in harmony, all virtues, the charisma, of the Greek, those virtues which compose the so-called "Creative Talents" of our race and render us, despite our undoubted faults, capable of performing vital and decisive miracles of benefit to both our own city and the nation as a whole.

In the Piraeus of the 19th century, particularly during the first years following the estab- lishment of the Municipality, that creative talent of the Greek race did indeed perform miracles. It gave us, as a result, the surprising evolution of the area; that uninterrupted course towards progressive development - I would say, a frenetic rythm - which changed the muddy "village" of 1835 with its 300 settlers and its "huts", into the leading port and the second city of Greece.

Naturally, all that did not come about by chance. Certain pre-requisites existed and these greatly assisted their realisation. There were also certain "factors" which played a corre- sponding role. First of all, the favourable geographic location of the area, then its nearness to Athens which, in 1834, became the state's capital - a decisive incentive attracting more. and more new settlers to the area from all parts of the country. Moreover, the correct assessment and forecast by many who appreciated the region's future prospects, were soon to be well justified. Indeed, by the end of the 19th century, certain events had contributed decisively to the evolution of Piraeus and its ultimate declaration as the country's leading port - a position which, for 50 years-, was claimed by Syros, the region's most important maritime centre of the period. Indicatively, I note the rail-road connection with Athens in 1869 and, later, towards the end of the century, with other Greek cities, the first noteworthy attempts at an industrial development in the area which must be dated around 1860 to 1870, the widening of the Corinth Canal in 1893, which made Piraeus' location even more favour- able for traffic to and from the west, in parallel with the decisive turn of the Greek maritime circles to the use of steam, and so on.

But all these pre-requisites, all these "happy events", would not have been sufficient without the "human factor" - in other words, all those creative and active people who were capable of realising those favourable pre-requisites and exploiting the opportunities in time, and passionately working for the good of our port and city, a city which was not even their original home, but which they had apparently grown to love far more. They believed in its future and fought and worked hard to build it on strong foundations.

To all those "first Citizens of Piraeus", each of whom, in his own particular profession or trade, performed miracles, modern Piraeus owes its remarkable evolution - naturally, first and foremost, to those who guided it towards its destiny during the first years, to those creative mayors of the 19th century, the names of most of whom are directly bound to the more important efforts leading to the success of Piraeus.

THOSE efforts continued with the same intensive rhythm throughout the 19th century and bore fruit at the end of that last 100 years. With the superhuman efforts of all those who had bound their lives, their destinies, to that of the city but also - and mainly - with the care taken by those enlightened municipal leaders, Piraeus was able to steadily move forward on its progressive way. The first mayors were undoubtedy creative. The title was justifiably theirs, because their work remained to give decisive weight to the evolution of the region, and the people of Piraeus should remember their names with gratitude:

In parallel, we should not forget the contribution of all those other people of Piraeus, such as those who had the responsibility of managing the port; those factors of the economic and cultural life of the area, and - mainly - the enormous host of workers who laboured under difficult conditions, giving of their honest toil and sweat, unseen, unheralded diggers setting the foundations for the ultimate sucess of Piraeus.10

WITH TH. RETSINAS, the cycle of creative mayors of the new Piraeus closes. It is sufficient to consider what happened throughout those seven decades, from the Municipali- ty's establishment to the end of the 19th century, to realise just what their contributions amounted to.

Everything, as I emphasised at the beginning. was started from scratch. First of all, the city changed its appearance with the help of Cleanthe's and Schaubert's town-plan. This excellent plan was not, of course, adhered to in its entirety. If that had happened, Piraeus would not have been according to I. Meletopoulos' very accurate observation -'just a beau- tiful city', as it is, but would have been an example to all others."

However, the amendments and deviations that were made, did not greatly change the city - thus it became adorned with spacious central roads and squares.

By the end of the century, all the necessary educational institutions had also been built (the High School, the Rallion Girls' College, the Lyceum - which began operating in 1862 - the elementary schools), many large churches, the Stock Exchange Building and, later, the Town Hall - the well known ROLOI or Clock-Tower (1869-73), the MunicipalTheatre (1884- 95) and the old Post Office Building (1899-1901). Also, the city had gained its Central Market (1861-63), and with the help of donations from the region's benefactors, its Commu- nal institutions which continue to operate today (the "Tzannion" Hospital, the "Zannion" Orphanage for boys, the Old People's Home, the "Hadjikyriakon" Orphanage for girls).

Through the services of the Mole Fund (1836-48) the Piraeus Quay-ways Committee (1848-61), and especially the Administration Committee (1861-1911), the port was essen- tially under the jursidiction of the Municiaplity,'2 and a number of essential works had been, and were being, executed (dredging operations, construction of the Royal Landing, the Troumba Pier and the quay-ways up to the Customs House area, the commencement of construction work on the Outer Moles and the permanent dry-docks), not of such grandeur or importance as the later, more extensive harbour-works, but undoubtedly giving the port the ability to meet its traffic of that time which reached about 2,500 vessels with a total 1,500,000 tonnes of cargo per year.

The oil-lamps which had lit Plraeus through its first steps were gradually replaced by petrol-lamps, then gas-lighting (1878) and finally, at the beginning of the 20th century, (1903- 1904), by electric lighting. (In 1904 the steam-powered train "Athens-Piraeus" turned). The poverty and decay, the inexistence of economic activity, were followed by the "boom" and the establishment of the first factories in the area (the L. Rallis Silk Mills, ship-yards and engineering workshops of Vasiliades, John McDowel and Varvour, Perrakis, Kouppas' silver foundry, the Retsinas, Volanakis and Lyginos Textile Mills, the Dilaveris Tile Works, the Metaxas, Pouris and Barbaressos Distilleries, the Dimokas, Seferlis, Loumos and Panagi- otopoulos flour mills, etc.) and the larger Merchant Trading firms.

On the Arts and Culture scene there was also lively activity and, as was only natural, the population increased considerably -the "hamlet" of 22 people in 1827 and 50 in 1830, the "village" of 300 people in 1834 and 1011 in 1836, had at last been transformed into a "town". The increase in population throughout the last 30 years of the 19th century contin- ued steadily until, in 1896, it had reached 51,020.'3

At the dawn of the 20th century, which was to prove both stormy and creative, radically changing the ultimate course of its history, Piraeus had already and decisively won its battle for renaissance and success. It had become the leading port and the second city in Greece. Its future prospects had also greatly widened, and then followed its surprising evolution throughout the 20th century to the ulsent day. Piraeus' rise, which turned it into the metropolis it now is, owes much to its well founded beginning and its achievements of the 19th century, which were mainly due, in turn, to the creative spirit of its first settlers and - to put it briefly and draw the necessary conclusion - to its "First Generation" of inhabitants who carried on, and completed, the work of their founder-fathers.14

THE GREEK shipowners' decisive and well-timed turn to steam-power which marked the beginning of a new era, coincided approximately with the beginning of the period of ascent for the Port of Piraeus - about the beginning of the ulsent century. But, at this point, it must be admitted that, despite the care and effort of the municipal leaders, by 1900 the remark- able harbour works that had been carried out, such as those ulviously mentioned, were, in fact, very few. The most important of these were the two permanent dry-docks at Kremmy- darou Bay, commenced in 1898 and completed in 1912.The plans for this project had been drawn up by Elias Angelopoulos and the work was undertaken by the firms L. Petitmermer and G. Raspini, at a total cost of approximately 5,500,000 Drachmas.'s

Apart from the few works executed, the whole system of management became bogged down. Then, by the end of the first decade of the 20th century, it had been acknowledged, by practical experience, that there was need for a change (Statutory Law G.F.A./1909 "On the Formation of the Piraeus Port Committee"). The first government headed by Eleftherios Venizelos, by its Royal Decree of 20/1/1911, put that Law into force and thus the Port Committee began operating as an autonomous Legal Entity, undertaking the management of the Port Fund and the studies for the construction, maintenance and exploitation of harbour works and installations.

The Port Committee was made up of reulsentatives of the competent State services, within the cycle of port operations, and associate members of the productive classes dealing with and using the port. Upon establishment of the Port Committee, the port ceased to depend on the municipal authorities and thus gained its essentially managerial autonomy. However, following its establishment the PC. did not decisively deal with the exploitation of loading/discharge operations and other port works - a fact, indeed, which dictated the formation of the PPA., a few years later. In any case, it should be noted that the PC. did execute the construction of the first important (relative to our national renaissance) harbour- works at Piraeus, by which mainly the N.W. sector of the Central Harbour was formed. These works were instigated by the inspiration and initiative of Demetrios Kallimassiotis (1859- 1929), who was frequently appointed chairman of the PC. (1911-14. 1921-24, 1926-29). These works (2756 metres of quayways, the barge-dock, the harbour-wall at Keratsini, 5 storage sheds, some excavations, dredging,etc.) were executed between 1924 and 1931, at a total cost of 495 million Drachmas."

With the establishment of the Port of Piraeus Authority in 1930, the second decisive step was taken in the attempt to find a final solution to the problem of efficient management and exploitation of the port.

This step was dictated by the daily practicality itself which left no margin for delays. The Port of Piraeus at that time, despite the steady increase in traffic and the fact that the first extensive harbour-works were almost completed, was encountering serious prob- lems. The loading/discharge of cargoes was being carried out with the aid of primitive barges. Storage facilities were non-existent and, with the exploitation in the hands of third parties, disorder and insecurity were the order of the day at the country's leading port while, at the same time, the cost of port services was steadily rising. Three benefactors of the region's public life, Michael Rinopoulos, lawyer and later Mayor of Piraeus, Nicolaos Solo- nakis, Director of Piraeus Customs, and Georgios Sakalis, a Member of Parliament, brought to the attention of the then all-powerful prime-minister, Eleftherios Venizelos, these weak points and, with the support of the productive classes organisations, underlined the need to concentrate all responsibilities relative to organisation, management and exploitation under one body. These proposals were quickly acted upon and, by means of Law No 4748 of 15/ 5/1930, ratified by publication as the Royal Decree of 14/7/1930, the Port of Piraeus Authority was established, as a public entity, to take the place of the Port Committee relative to all its rights and obligations, but with far wider jurisdiction.

Especially, the PPA. was charged (apart from all the ulvious PC's responsibilities) with the execution of loading/discharge operations, using its own means and labour force, the programming and supervision of the manner of execution of all port operations, by means of the issue of specific Regulations, the take-over of the Free Zone management and, finally, the PPA. was armed with the right to charge vessels, cargoes and passengers for the relative services and facilities offered.

The first chairman of the F~P~A. was Michael Rinopoulos (1879-1959) and the first General Manager was Theodoros Grigorakis, Adm. ret'd, of the Harbour-Master's Authority, both serving in their respective positions until 1933.'7

The establishment of the PPA., contributed decisively to the upward course of the Port of Pireaus and if, later, certain people observed some weaknesses in the organisation and exploitation systems as provided for by the establishment law, no-one could doubt the fact that the concentration of responsibilities covering management, and exploitation under one administrative body, thus ridding the port of its ulviously multi-headed form, was the begin- ning of the real progress and evolution that followed.

From its establishment in 1930 to the entry of Greece into the war (1940), the PPA. achieved the following:

At the end of the 30's the port had been modernised relative to installations and technical equipment, to the point where it was quite capable of meeting the demands of its traffic at that time. Moreover, during the period from 1900 to 1940, the city of Piraeus went through a remarkable evolution and, following the dramatic events of the period from 1912 to 1922 (the Balkan Wars, World War 1 and the Asia Minor Catastrophe) with which the life of the city had been so closely involved, it had grown into a giant.

Especially, after 1922, Piraeus experienced its greatest population explosion, with its population almost doubling to reach 251,659 in 1928 (133,482 in 1920) following the arrival of refugees and their rehabilitation in communities around the old city - today's municipalities of Nikaia, Keratsini, Drapetsona, etc. - The rehabilitation of these refugees naturally created acute problems (initially that of feeding, then housing, work, etc.) and marked the beginning of the gradual change in the make-up of the region's populace, but finally proving to be useful and productive because it strengthened the country's economy by the infusion of a remark- ably volatile and valuable work-force whose contribution was apulciated as a positive factor not only of benefit to Piraeus but to the country as a whole.

THE NATION'S war-time adventures(l940-l 944) left their corresponding marks on both the city and the port. Especially, the latter suffered unparalleled set-backs to its, till then, steady progress. Wartime events such as the bombing, by German Stukas, resulting in the blowing up of the SS "Clan Fraser" (6/4/41), the heavy bombing of Piraeus by "allied" aircraft (11/1/44) and the blowing up of port installations by the Germans during their withdrawal (12/10/44), resulted in the almost total destruction of the port with damage which, according to relative estimates of that time, amounted to about 325 million Drachmas at their ul-war value. 18

This fact obliged the PPA. management to devote the first 5 years following liberation to the repair and replacement of war damage (repairs to the silos, dry-docks, warehouses, sheds, quayways, and replacement of mechanical means and equipment, etc.) for the port to recover, by the early 50's, its ul-1940 form.

Simultaneously, in 1950, in an effort to re-articulate the PPA:s administration, the Emer- gency Law 1559/1950 was published and later ratified by Law 1630/1951, thus amending the Law of Establishment and re-arranging, on a new basis, the relative matters of organisa- tion and operation of the PPA. and its Services. This law, later supplemented by various statutes and decrees, remains in force today and forms the basic frame-work of the PPA. regime.

Important projects aimed at developing and modernising the port began only after 1955 with the stage by stage application of plans drawn up by Demosthenes Pippas, Professor of Port and Harbour Engineering at the National Metsovian Polytechnic. Naturally, such works continue today. A number of alterations to, and deviations from, the initial plans were made up to 1982, these being dictated by technological evolution and new conditions arising from the development of new methods of sea-transportation and the revolutionary changes in cargo-handling techniques following the advent of containers. From the year 1982 onwards, the initial"plan" was abandoned and the Port's Administration reviewed its port-related policy in the period expanding from 1981 to 1988. The implementation of such a policy resulted in the ulparation of two 5-year development programmes - those of 1982 and 1987 - which originate from a new concept and cope with the issue of both extending and modernising the port in conjunction with the way of life and the problems of the "surrounding area" in other words, of the city and - in a wider sense - of the area of "Greater" Piraeus.

Indicatively, I note only the following works or projects executed since 1955: The re-articulation of the S.E. sector of the Central Port, with the constructon of 4593 metres of quay-ways, the formation of Hercules Port at Keratsini Bay, and the construction of a series of new storage facilities, sheds and passenger-stations -including the main such station at St. Nicholas - the extension of the Silos, thus doubling their capacity, the construe- tion of the harbours of Zea-Freattis and Phaleron Delta, the Drapetsona Harbour-wall and the petroleum products pier, the creation of the Perama Repair-base and the installation there of two floating docks, the re-formation of the Vasiliades Coast sector to form a modern Container Terminal, and the commencement of construction work on the large new Contain- er Terminal at the Neon Ikonion Sector, the recent layout of the passenger harbour with environmental beautification work, the transformation of the St. Nicholas Passenger Station as a prototype exhibition centre, the construction of the split-level road junction at the Xaverios Sector, etc., as well as the supplementation of technical equipment with three new bridge-cranes and a number of container stacking vehicles, cranes, fork-lift vehicles, floating means, etc. The beginning of the development of the new, modern Container Terminal, at Ikonion, which was - quite correctly -given the name of Eleftherios Venizelos - to pay homage to the famous politician in later Creek history who also founded the Port of Piraeus Authority - this being beyond any question the most important work in the recent historical course of the port. This work will be completed in the year 1991, while a part thereof has been operational since 1989.

Important projects, I repeat, have been and are being executed. Measures designed to improve and update administrative and managerial systems continue to be applied with the object of improving the overall organisation of the port and its services. This is natural and necessary. The port and the PPA. which administers it are living organs, continually evolving. The Administration and Organisation's work force must continually approach the overall situation with sensitivity, make timely assessment of problems as they arise during the daily practical application, and act promptly by taking the necessary steps for their immediate and decisive solution, in order to ensure continual and efficient operation and, generally, the achievement of the port's great and vital mission.

Fortunately, from the objective point of view, most of the P.P.A's Administrations have not failed to take great care and to show great interest in the port's progress.

Their contributions to the general effort, without reference to names, have been, and are, considerable. Moreover, apart from the various Adminisration's contributions, it would be unjust to disregard the interest shown by the various productive classes which use the port, or the contributions made by the Organisation's clerical and technical staffs and labour forces towards its progress and evolution. It would not be an exaggeration to claim that today's port is mainly the successful outcome of the toil and sweat of them all.

IN THEIR POST-WAR course, from 1945 to today, the development of the city and port have been parallel. Just as I have underlined on a number of occasions, they have shared, and still do, a common destiny, from ancient times to the ulsent. Today, Piraeus has developed into a Metropolis, without substantial fluctuations in popu- lation over recent years, and, despite its proximity to Athens and the aesthetic changes it has undergone through certain extremes of architectural irresponsibility, the city maintains, to a certain degree, its own individuality.

Naturally, the city still suffers serious problems, particularly those of traffic circulation and environment - those unfortunate problems encountered by all the larger Greek towns and cities of the post-war period. In parallel, the port, with efficient organisation, convenient lay- out and a steady rhythm of modernisation continues its upward progress, firmly bound to its environs, which look back on about 4600 years of history and, just as in its prime in ancient times, continues to be the most vital factor in the economic and cultural development, not only of the city - or even the Greater Piraeus region - but also of the whole ulfecture of Attica.