Located in Eastern Attica, and within the municipality of Markopoulo, between the port of Rafina that links Athens to several islands and the resort area of Porto Rafti, is the region of Vravrona or Brauron. It is one of the earliest settled regions of Attica and one of the twelve original communities, united by Theseus into the Athenian city-state.
On the way there from Athens, the visitor will travel through one of the most beautiful areas of Attica, with green fields, vineyards, olive trees, gentle mountainsides, and the coast of the Euboean Gulf. In the summer one can take a swim in the sea.
At the foot of a low hill of an important prehistoric citadel, just seven hundred meters from the small enclosed bay of Vravrona, the famous sanctuary was created, dedicated to the patron goddess Artemis, the goddess protector of hunters, animals and the safe birth of humans. Enraged by the murder of two small female bears, Artemis caused an epidemic in Athens. She requested that an oracle tell the Athenians that all girls aged 5 to 10 living in Attica were obliged to worship her. The Athenians obeyed the command of the goddess and brought their little girls to the temple, where they spent their childhood years serving her and participating in the festivals organized there.
The Temple of Artemis in Vravrona.
There was also a temple of the early 5th C. BC, the first Π shaped roofed colonnade, serving as a residence for the “arktoi” (bears), little girls who had been dedicated to the goddess, as well as a series of facilities for the functioning of the site. The starting point for Artemis' worship was the mythic tomb of 700 BC known as the “kenerion”, to the south east of the citadel rock where other important buildings are also to be found. The tomb belonged to the priestess Iphigeneia, holder of the keys, who was worshiped as a chthonic heroine. All the above constituted the sanctuary of a cult that, every four years, linked the city to the wider region with a procession from the Vravroneion on the Athens Acropolis to Vravrona. Vravroneia, the festivals in honor of the goddess, included musical performances, athletic competitions and poetry readings, among other activities.
Vravrona is also associated with Iphigeneia, daughter of Agamemnon. According to legend, when Iphigeneia returned from Tauris with Orestes, carrying the xoanon (sacred totemic image) of Artemis, she remained in Vravrona, where she became a priestess of the goddess, and she died there.
Votive relief to Artemis, 4th c. B.C., Vravrona Museum.
The temple ruins coexist with a Christian church of the 15th century, dedicated to St. George. Only the sanctuary of the ancient temple is preserved. Archaeologists have not as yet determined the shape of the original temple. Small yet very interesting, the Vravrona Museum houses exhibits from the Vravrona area and Anavyssos, Perati and other areas of Attica in five rooms. These exhibits, vases, sherds, bronze mirrors, idols, votive reliefs, as well as a number of statues of young boys and the dancing girls who performed at the festivals, cover the period from the Bronze Age until the Roman times. The most important finds are the sculptures from the sanctuary of Artemis. The Erasinos torrent, close to the sanctuary, always nourished the countryside in the region but it often caused flooding of the sanctuary which was probably the reason the site was abandoned in the 3rd century BC. Erasinos, that flows into the Vravrona bay, still threatens the region, but has also created there an important wetland with rich flora and fauna.
Statue of a little girl (arktos), 4th c. B.C., Vravrona Museum.
The complex made up of the wetlands and its surroundings are protected by the Natura 2000 treaty as a Site of Community Interest (SCI) under the name “Vravrona – Coastal Marine Zone”. The 2nd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, the Municipality of Markopoulo, the Greek Ornithological Society, the local community, as well as Athens International Airport El. Venizelos are all active in protecting and managing the area thus ensuring both its sustainability and its availability to visitors.
Vravrona is located 38 kms from Athens.If you are using a car, take Mesogeion Avenue, and following the suburb of Agia Paraskevi, follow the signs leading to Markopoulo and Porto Rafti. Then take a left turn at the sign for Vravrona. A few kilometers inland is the archaeological site and the Museum is on your left.