On the hills of modern Ierissos, there are ruins of its predecessor — ancient city of Akanthos. Once a large and rich port settlement was founded in the middle of the VII century BC. Here the own coin was minted, and the locals were reputed to be some of the best shipbuilders and winemakers in all of Greece.
You can see the impressive remains of the acropolis that survived to these days, the buildings of the Hellenistic period, as well as the excavations of the ancient necropolis, where archaeologists found more than 600 graves.
Akanthos experienced a fascinating and rich history. We suggest that you learn a little more about it.
Approximately in 655 BC, ancient Akanthos (translated from the ancient Greek as "prickle") in Halkidiki was colonized by the Andros conquerors.
According to the legend, they competed for a "place in the sun" with the colonists from Chalcis. The messenger from Andros used a trick: he threw a spear at the gates of the city and thus "reached" Akanthos before his rival.
The Akanthians actively participated in the Greco-Persian wars, and in the 5th century BC, they worked on the construction of the Xerxes canal by the decree of the Persian king.
By the way, since 530 BC, famous coins with the image of a lion devouring a bull were minted here.
After the war, Akanthos joined the Athenian Maritime Union, and in 424 BC, it became an ally of Sparta. After the peace of Nicias was concluded in 421 BC, the city gained its independence.
From 348 to 200 BC, Macedonia kept a lid on Akanthos. Later in 168 BC, it was conquered and ravaged by the Romans, who were eager to gain control of the province's rich natural resources and its port. Over time, the city was restored, and veterans were settled in its territory.
In the 1st century, Akanthos was renamed Ierissos, and two centuries ago the city was burned by the Turks for its participation in the War of independence of Greece. Most of the Akanthians were killed.
Ierissos suffered one more commotion in 1932: it was destroyed by a strong earthquake. The city needed to be rebuilt again.
The preserved walls of the acropolis impress travelers most of all — they reach 8 metres in height. By the way, there is a great view of the coast from here.
Nowadays, you can also see the remains of architectural structures of the Hellenistic period, including the ruins of the city's fortification, ancient public buildings, urban houses and probably the foundation of the goddess Athena’ temple.
The excavation works in Akanthos began in 1973 and continue to these days. During this time, archaeologists managed to discover an ancient necropolis with more than 600 burials in sarcophagi, amphorae, urns and clay pots. It is supposed that the inhabitants of the city had been using the cemetery since the archaic period, until their settlement was conquered by the Romans. Today, the "city of the dead" is open to the public.
Ierissos is located 120 km from Thessaloniki and 10 km from the border of Athos. There are several ways to get here: