Many thousands years ago, Peiraiás was an island and first settlements are discovered on top of Mounichía hill (today’s Profíti Ilía). It was separated from the rest of Attikí at the height of today’s Néo Fáliro. However, mainly due to the continuous silts from Kifisós river, the water between Peiraiás and Attikí became smaller and smaller, then a swamp and then land. And it is from that fact that Peiraiás actually took its name (from the ancient verb “peraió” which means to pass across).
Up until the time of Themistocles (5th cen. BC), Peiraiás was a small and insignificant village. It was Themistocles who first recognized the geographical significance of Peiraiás, with its 3 natural harbours (today’s commercial harbour, Zéa and Mikrolímano) and raised it to be Athens haven. Especially at 480 BC, after the victory of the Hellenes against the Persians at the sea battle of Salamína, significant walls and fortifications were built, the urban planning improved under the guidance of the famous Ippódamos (considered the “father” of the science of urban planning). As a result, in a few years Peiraiás became a nautical and commercial centre.
The glamor of Peiraiás lasted up until the Roman Rule (2nd century AD). At the time of the Byzantine Empire, Goths and pirates plunder the area which gradually depopulates.
During the 13th century AD, for the first time Peiraiás is officially referred to as “Porto Leone”, probably because of a marble statue of a lion, 3m in height, which was situated in the harbour of Peiraiás and constituted its symbol for centuries. The statue was stolen by the admiral Francesco Morozini in 1687 AD and was transferred to Venice as spoils – today lies at Venice’s naval base.
Peiraiás emptied during the Turkish Rule, with the sole exception of the monks within the monastery of Ágios Spyrídonas. The monastery was destroyed by the Turks during the siege of the Hellene hero Karaiskákis. The city was freed in 1827 AD, but essentially its recent history begun in 1835 when Athens became the capital city of the new Hellas. Today, Peiraiás is a modern city with many shopping malls, vigorous night life (before covid), beautiful authentic tavernas and many sights.