On a summer day, not long ago, on my way to the city centre, I decided to take some convenient shortcuts. Walking hastily on the pavement I passed by all kind of stores, houses and people until I suddenly stopped dead in my tracks, absolutely certain I had just seen something it shouldn’t be there. Naturally, I turned around to take a closer look.
I stood before a modern multi-storey building, at number 84-86 Ipsilantou Street. There was a fresh-painted, clean entrance with a close-circuit TV next to it; nothing out of place so far. Next to the house entrance, however, a metre below the road surface, where the building’s garage should be, there were ancient ruins, enclosed in dark glass!
Bedazzled, I circled around my fenced discovery noticing the layout and size of the relics. Knowing that down the same street the famous Arsenal of Philo, an ancient storage space for all the equipment of the Athenian fleet, had been recently discovered, I naturally wondered whether these ruins had anything to do with the great naval history of the port of Zea. The lack of any kind of signaling wasn’t helpful, either.
As I was about to give up and go on my way, a young man – apparently one of the building’s tenants – came out of the house. Doing my best not to sound too weird, I asked him about the ruins. He patiently explained – I guess he had encountered a fair bit of curious folks – that these were the relics of a 5th century BC residence, discovered when the building was about to be erected.
I looked again with renewed interest. A whole ancient residence! A 5th century BC house right beneath a 21st century AC one. How often does one come across something like that? When I returned home I started searching on the web of any additional information I could find. It turned out that not everyone was so exited about it as I was! The only information I was able to dig up was a brief mention of the fact, in an Archaeological Service report, from which I learnt nothing that the polite tenant hadn’t already told me.
I realized, in frustration, that the important archaeological and historic heritage of Piraeus had been ignored, once again. Admittedly, a house, no matter how old it is cannot be compared in historical significance with other archaeological sites, like the Ancient Theatre of Zea or the Long Walls, that the city has to display. However it’s a pity to be standing on Ipsilantou Street, admiring the Arsenal of Philo and being completely unaware of a residence of the same period, waiting to be noticed, only 200 metres away.