Aegina (island, Greece)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Aegina (island, Greece)

Aegina or Aíyina (ā´yēnä), island (1991 pop. 12,430), 32 sq mi (83 sq km), off SE Greece, in the Saronic Gulf (or Gulf of Aegina), near Athens. Sponge fishing and farming (figs, almonds, grapes, olives, and pistachios) are the most important occupations. Tourism is also important. The chief town is Aegina on the northwest shore. Points of interest include the temple of Aphaia, where the Aeginetan Marbles (see Aegina, marble sculptures) were discovered in 1811.

The island, inhabited from late Neolithic times, was named for the mythological figure Aegina. Its culture was influenced by Minoan Crete. Conquered by Dorian Greeks, it grew rapidly as a commercial state and struck the first Greek coins. In 431 BC the Athenians, against whom Aegina sided in the Peloponnesian War, expelled the population of the island, and Aegina fell into insignificance. In the 12th cent. it served as a haven for pirates, and the Venetians, in suppressing the outlaws, conquered the island. Albanians settled there in the 16th cent. During the Greek War of Independence the town of Aegina was (1828–29) the capital of Greece.

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