Piraeus, or Peiraeus (Modern Greek: Πειραιά(ς) Pireá(s), Ancient Greek / Katharevousa: Πειραιεύς Pireéfs) is a city in the Attica prefecture, Greece, located south of Athens. It was the port of the ancient city of Athens, and was chosen to serve as the modern port when Athens was re-founded in 1834. Piraeus remains a major shipping and industrial centre, and is the terminus for Line 1 (the "green line"), the electric train service now incorporated into the Athens Metro.
The population of the demos (municipality) of Piraeus is 175,697 (2001). The nomarchia of Piraeus, which includes the surrounding land and some of the islands of the Saronic Gulf, has a population of 541,504 (2001). It consists of a rocky promontory, containing three natural harbours, a large one on the north-west which is an important commercial harbour for the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and two smaller ones - Pasalimani and Tourkolimano - used for naval purposes. The port serves ferry routes to almost every island in the eastern portion of Greece, the island of Crete, the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, and much of the northern and the eastern Aegean. The western part of the port is used for cargo services and covers a huge area. Much of that part of the harbour is in suburban Drapetsona.
The name Piraeus roughly means "the place over the passage". In very early antiquity Piraeus was a rocky island connected to the mainland by a low-lying stretch of land that was flooded with sea water most of the year and was used as a salt field whenever it dried up. Consequently it was called the "Halipedon" (salt field) and its muddy soil made it a tricky passage. The area was increasingly silted and flooding ceased, and by early classical times the land passage was made safe. It was then that Piraeus assumed its importance as a deep water harbor, and the older, shallow Phaleron harbor fell into gradual disuse.
Themistocles was the first to urge the Athenians to take advantage of these harbours, instead of using the sandy bay of Phaleron. The fortification of Piraeus was begun in 493 BC. In 460 BC it was connected with Athens by the Long Walls. The original town of Piraeus was planned by the architect Hippodamus of Miletus in the famous grid system that he devised, probably in the time of Pericles. The promontory itself consisted of two parts, the hill of Munychia and the projection of Acte. On the opposite side of the harbour was the outwork of Eetioneia.
In 404 BC Munychia was seized by Thrasybulus and the exiles from Phyle, who then defeated the Thirty Tyrants in Athens. The three chief arsenals of Peiraeus were Munychia, Zea and Cantharus, which could contain 82, 196 and 94 ships respectively in the 4th century BC.
Large parts of the Themistoclean Walls around the shoreline survive in very good condition to this day, and are incorporated in seaside promenades. Remnants of the neosoikoi ("ships' houses"), where the triremes were kept in wintertime, were also excavated and valuable information about ancient shipbuilding and sailing was obtained by their study.
The municipality of Piraeus once had over 200,000 inhabitants. The population has declined by 10% over the last 20 years, although the decline slowed between 1991 and 2001.
- Giorgos Batis (1885 in Methana - March 10, 1967), a Greek musician
- Dimitris Gogos (1903 - 1985), a Greek musician
- Christos Levantas (1904 - 1974)
- The Andrianopoulos brothers, founders of the Olympiakos sporting club
- Markos Vamvakaris (1905 - February 8, 1972), a Greek musician
- Spiros Zagoreos (1928 - , laika singer
- Dimitris Papamichael (1931 - August 8, 2004)
- Petros Anagnostakis (1933 - June 1, 1995), laika singer
- Elias Yfantis, (1936 - ),footballer
- Yiannis Kyrastas (1951 - April 1, 2004)
Historical mayors of Piraeus
- Kyriakos Serfiotis
- Petros Omiridis
- Antonios Theocharis
- Loukas Rallis
- Dimitrios Moutzopoulos
- Tryfon Moutzopoulos
- Theodoros Retsinas
- Giorgos Andrianopoulos
- Aristides Skilitsis
- Andreas Andrianopoulos
- Stelios Logothetis
- Christos Agrapidis - incumbent