|Summary:||Port located on the Munichia peninsula 7 km from Athens.|
The 3 natural harbors (Zea and Munichia on the E and Kantharos on the W) of the peninsula were enhanced with fortified moles and narrowed entrances that could be closed by chains. The peninsula was enclosed by fortifications and 3 long walls provided a secure corridor to Athens. Piraeus was laid out and built on a grid plan by Hippodamos of Miletus. In addition to a spacious agora at the center of the city and numerous public and religious buildings, many quays, warehouses, arsenals, dry docks and over 300 ship-sheds served the Athenian fleet and commercial interests. A majority of the inhabitants were "Metics" or resident aliens which gave the city a cosmopolitan character.
Prior to the 5th century B.C., the Athenians kept their warships at the beach of Phaleron Bay, E of the Munichia peninsula. As Athens grew to rival the major maritime powers of Corinth and Aegina, Themistocles created an Athenian fleet of 200 ships and in 493 expanded the fortifications of the Piraeus which Hippias had started in 527-510 B.C. In addition to the fortifications, ship sheds, dry docks, storage buildings, and arsenals were built to serve as base for the fleet.
After the interruption of the Persian invasion in 480 B.C., the work continued and at ca. 450 B.C. the architect Hippodamos of Miletus laid out a new city grid plan (one of the earliest employment of this plan in Greece), and the Long Walls to Athens were constructed.
The Long Walls and fortifications were destroyed on order of the Spartans at the end of the Peloponnese War in 404 B.C., but rebuilt by Konon in 393 B.C.
Piraeus was pillaged by Sulla in 86 B.C., but enjoyed a revival under Hadrian and the Antonines in the 2nd century A.D. In 267 A.D. the city was raided by the Herulians, and after another destruction by Alaric in 396 A.D. it lost its importance as a major port city.
1885 excavation gave plan of ship-sheds. 1887, French School of Archaeology excavated the Aphrodision Gate. Little systematic excavation, but many chance finds and salvage digs by the Greek Archaeological Service.