Piraeus through the Byzantine Era, the Middle Ages and the Ottoman Rule

Piraeus in Byzantine & Medieval Times

In the early years of the Byzantine Era, the port of Piraeus is used as a dockyard and a naval base. In 395 AD Piraeus is invaded by Alaric. The city and the port are devastated. The years of decadence begin.

The Conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade results in the foundation of the Latin Empire. What was considered as belonging to what was known as Greek territory became part of the Latin Empire. Piraeus is included in the Duchy of Athens.

Porto Leone or Porto Draco

Piraeus Lion at the Arsenal of VeniceIn 1318 Piraeus is mentioned in Pietro Vesconte’s map of all the Mediterranean ports as Porto Leone. Porto Leone and Porto Draco (Port of the Dragon) will be the two names of the port of Piraeus for the years to follow because of a huge marble statue representing a lion, standing at the entrance of the port, known as the Lion of Piraeus.

The reasons why this oversized statue was made and placed in Piraeus as well as the identity of the artist who made it remain unknown. What is well established, though, is that in 1687 when the Venetian fleet sailed to Piraeus, Commander Morozini stole the statue and had it transferred to the Arsenal of Venice where it stands until today.

A copy of the original statue was made and placed in the port of Piraeus in 1996.

Piraeus under the Ottoman Empire

In 1453 Constantinople is conquered by the Turks and gradually the whole Greek territory becomes subordinate to the Ottoman Empire, with Piraeus and Athens being conquered in 1456.

During the first two centuries of the Ottoman rule (15th and 16th centuries) the extent and intensity of pirate raids by the Turks, as well as the reaction of the Venetians and other Christian pirates had as a result the devastation of many islands and coastal settlements. What is more, the Gulf of Saronis didn’t belong to the sea trade routes protected by the Venetians, thing that made the coasts of Piraeus extremely dangerous.


The constant wars between the Ottoman Empire and Venice left no room for economic recovery in the region. In 1687, the Venetian fleet sailed to Piraeus. Athens was besieged by the Venetians. The Ottomans abandoned the city and the people of Athens welcomed the Venetians as liberators.

After the Venetians abandoned the city, the majority of its residents fled to Peloponnese or other regions under the rule of the Franks. Later on, they gradually returned to Athens and Piraeus, after the Sultan had granted amnesty to them. Throughout the period of the Ottoman Rule Piraeus is an abandoned city with its port devoid of any life.

1821: The Greek War of Independence, the Benchmark in Greece’s Modern History

Having lived for over 400 years under the Ottoman Rule, the Greeks rebel against the Ottomans in 1821. One by one, many Greek regions are liberated.

In 1827 during the Greek Independence War, the Greek battleship “Hellas” ruthlessly bombarded the Monastery of Saint Spiridon on Tzelepi Coast where the Turkish army had been entrenched. The outcome of the battle – a glorious victory for the Greeks – signaled Piraeus’ liberation from the Turkish.

Piraeus through the Byzantine Era, the Middle Ages and the Ottoman Rule
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