History of Halkidiki
The first settlers of Halkidiki came from Halki and Eretria around the 8th century BC. who founded cities such as Mendi, Toroni and Skioni, while a second wave of inhabitants came from Andros in the 6th century BC.
The ancient city of Stageira was also the city where the great Greek philosopher Aristotle was born. During the Peloponnesian wars, Halkidiki was an important focus of war between Athens and Sparta. Later the southern Greek colonies of the region were conquered by Philip II and Halkidiki became part of Macedonia (ancient Greek kingdom). After the end of the wars between the Macedonians and the Romans, the area came under the possession of the Roman Empire, as happened with the rest of Greece.
In the centuries that followed, Halkidiki became part of the Byzantine Empire. In a chrysobulus (official public document – decree bearing a golden seal) of Emperor Basil I, dated 885 AD, Mount Athos was declared a place for monks, a fact which prohibited the settlement of lay people, farmers and breeders in the wider area. In the following years and with the practical support of Nikephoros II Phokas, the Monastery of the Great Lavra was founded.
Mount Athos and its Monasteries are still a self-governing region in Greece. After a brief Latin occupation (Kingdom of Thessalonica), the region came under the possession of Byzantium until it was conquered by the Ottomans in 1430. During the Ottoman period, the region of Halkidiki was important for gold mines and was a key economic factor for the locals and the Ottoman Empire in general.
In 1821 the Greek Revolution began in favor of the Independence of the Greeks and Halkidiki revolted under the leadership of Emmanuel Pappa, a member of the Friendly Society and with the support of the local population. The rebellion was progressing slowly. Even more, the rebellion is limited to the peninsulas of Mount Athos and Kassandra.
One of the main objectives was to hold back the arrival of the Ottoman army from Constantinople until the stabilization of the revolution in the south (mainly in the Peloponnese). Eventually the revolt ended in an Ottoman victory at Kassandra. The survivors, including Pappas, were rescued by the Psarian fleet which transported them mainly to Skiathos, Skopelos and Skyros. The Ottomans retaliated by looting and burning many villages.
Finally, Halkidiki was incorporated into Greece in 1912 after the Balkan Wars.
The most important attractions of Halkidiki
Halkidiki, in addition to the countless options for summer holidays, entertainment and relaxation, also offers the possibility to get to know the history and folklore tradition. Through its attractions and archaeological monuments, you can learn more about the history of the place and expand your knowledge and interests. Let’s see some of the most famous attractions of Halkidiki.
If you are interested in the Prehistoric period in Greece, the Cave of Petralona will impress you. It was discovered in 1959 by the inhabitant of Petralona, Filippos Hatzaridis, and became world-famous, a year later, when the skull of the Archanthropus was found by Christos Sarrigiannidis. This skull is considered one of the first finds of man in Europe. In the cave, you will also find remarkable finds and be transported to the climate of the time through the geological morphology of the ground.Fossils of extinct animals include lions, large amounts of mammal fossils, horse bones, cave bears, and more. Traces of fire were also found, which are estimated to be among the oldest on earth. You can also visit the Anthropological Museum of Petralona, where you can admire finds from that era.
In the historic village of Stagira, in an amazing location with a lush natural landscape and a wonderful view, is the Grove of Aristotle. In the Stagira area of Halkidiki, which is also the birthplace of Aristotle, the large theme park “Aristotle’s Grove” was created in 2003 with original interactive instruments. These are experimental instruments that operate based on natural laws, which are mentioned in Aristotle’s work “The Naturals”.Some of them are Compass, Telescope, Prism, Sundial, Optical Discs and more. In addition, in the Park, there is also a cafe-restaurant, where you can enjoy your coffee or food, in the company of the wonderful view. Thus, one can combine learning with a beautiful escape close to nature.
In Ancient Stagira you will find another monument, created by Aristotle’s fellow citizens, where his bones were also transported there. Although Aristotle did not live there for a long time, his successors made sure to honor him and highlight his work. It is a historical region of Halkidiki.
One of the most famous archaeological museums of Halkidiki is the Archaeological Museum of Polygyros. Among the very important findings, you will find archaeological findings from the excavations in Olynthos, the ancient Akantho in Ierissos, the sanctuary of Ammon Zeus in Kallithea and other important archaeological sites of Halkidiki. More specifically, some admirable exhibits are a statue of Kouros from the 6th century that was found in the port of Palea Stagira, a sarcophagus from the same period, found in ancient Akanthos, two statues that were found in Stratoni, as well as decorative objects and relics from Potidea and Pyrgadikia.
The Historical and Folklore Museum of Arnaia is located in the central square of Arnaia. The need to establish this was to save but also to spread the cultural wealth of the region. Local residents are the sole donors of the museum’s exhibits and have donated valuable and rare items such as tools, family heirlooms and more. In general, Arnaia is a pole of attraction for tourists, throughout the year, as it is located in a privileged location and many choose it to do agro-tourism.
Ancient Mendi is located on the Kassandra Peninsula. It is mentioned by Thucydides, as the colony of Eretria, which was founded in Pallini. With the exports of “Mendaean Wine” a great economic boom was achieved in the region. The archaeological site of Ancient Mendi is located on the slope of a hill which ends towards the sea. In the cemetery, which was found on the beach of the Mendi hotel, a total of 241 graves were discovered and the vessels found are characteristic examples of the ceramic style of Halkidiki.
The Ancient city of Olynthos was built on two hills. At the site of the excavation, ancient tombs, ancient coins, and mosaics dating to various periods of Greek history have been found. The Ancient city of Olynthos was the most important political, economic and military center of Halkidiki and is definitely worth a visit. In the area, you will also find the Archaeological Museum of Olynthos, where you will find audio-visual material and travel back in time to learn the history of the place.
Of course, we should not miss the most important religious destination of Halkidiki, Mount Athos. It is a self-governing part of the Greek state and there are concentrated 20 monasteries in beautiful locations. 20 imposing monasteries and Mount Athos, will surely enchant you with their beauty. Although the visit is only allowed to men, the so-called “AVATO”, nevertheless, women can also enjoy the beautiful natural landscape, touring Mount Athos with a day cruise. In fact, the Athos peninsula has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.