This excellent, large format, separately issued map is a master plan for Piraeus, the port of Athens, made in the 1920s, as the city was undergoing a period of explosive growth, leading it to become one of the world’s major commercial and passenger ports. With text entirely in Greek, the detailed map shows every block and labels all major edifices, streets and parks, as well as delineating the rail and tramway systems. Notably, the map labels not only the well-established neighbourhoods, but also the new suburbs to the north, shown as numbered blocks, that developed near Tourkovounia Hill, today known as Nikaia, Keratsini, Drapetsona and Korydallos.
The map was issued by Grigouras Konstantinos, a prominent Athens commercial printer, who from the 1920s to 1960s issued many important national and regional maps of Greece. Piraeus, located about 8 kilometres (5 miles) from the centre of Athens, was in Classical times one of the great Mediterranean ports, being Athens’s maritime gateway, with the two cities connected by a long, fortified wall. However, in the 3rd Century BC Piraeus started to fall into decline, and by Ottoman times was scarcely more than a sleepy fishing village of barely a few hundred residents, known as ‘Porto Leone’.
Upon Greek independence, King Otto had ambitious plans to redevelop Athens as a grand European capital, and in 1835 Piraeus was re-founded as a model port, the kingdom’s gateway to the world. Professional urban planners were commissioned to design a city upon rational grids of streets, with ample greenspace, plazas and broad avenues. The city first developed on the neck of the peninsula by the main harbour, but soon expanded in all directions.
Through the rest of 19th century, the city developed steadily, as its port received ever more traffic. The completion of the Athens-Piraeus Railway in 1869 was a major boon (the terminus of which is shown on the present map), while the completion of the Corinth Canal in 1893, greatly improved its position along pan-Mediterranean shipping lanes. Towards the end of the century, Piraeus was buoyed by its hosting of events as part of the 1896 Olympic Games. An influx of capital led to the construction of many grand edifices, including the stock exchange, customs house, post office and the Municipal Theatre, while the port was fitted with state of the art drydocks and new quays. In 1900, the Piraeus had a population of 51,000.
Due to the population exchange between Greece and Anatolia that followed the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-22, Piraeus saw an astounding influx of new residents; its population grew from 133,000 in 1920 to 250,000 in 1928. Buoyed by the Roaring ‘20s economy, Piraeus’s port experienced unprecedented growth in both freight and passenger traffic.
Initially, the municipal authorities had trouble managing the growth, as disorderly camps appeared around at the edge of the finely ordered blocks of the outer city. However, the funds and organization were soon summoned to build new suburbs to the north, such as Nikaia, Keratsini, Drapetsona and Korydallos. The Piraeus Port Authority was formed in 1930, lending a new level of discipline to urban and harbour development.
While Piraeus suffered terribly during World War II, it bounced back and soon enjoyed another period unprecedented growth. Today Piraeus, with a population of around 200,000 (metro 500,000), is integrated into Greater Athens and holds international significance as the second busiest passenger port in the world (handling 20 million passengers per annum) and as the top container port in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is also one of Greece’s main cultural and tourism hubs.
The present edition of the map is the first edition, and while undated, it is thought to have been issued around 1926; a second edition was printed around 1935. In 1931, Konstantinos also made a larger edition of the map, to double the scale (1:4,000), printed upon 4 sheets. The present map, being of a large format and separately issued on fragile paper was prone to wear and has a very low survival rate. We can trace only 2 institutional examples, held by the Hellenic Literary & Historical Archive (ELIA) and the University of Cincinnati Library.
References: Hellenic Literary & Historical Archive (ELIA): MPGRI.014; University of Cincinnati Library: GA885. P35 1926 / OCLC: 10210035.