Eleonas of Athens occupies an area of 9.000 acres on the east coast of Kifissos River and is crossed by the street called Iera Odos. It coincides with the sacred olive grove of the ancient Athenians, perhaps the most important sample of urban vegetation in ancient Athens.

The planting of olive trees in Attica started during the time of Peisistratos in the 6th century BC, with a specific legislation which was enacted in ancient Athens for their protection. Ever since, the plain of the western part of Athens, crossed by the River Kifissos, was transformed into a fertile garden with more than 100.000 olive trees. Apart from the olive trees, the ancient Athenians used to raise many different species of fruit trees, vineyards and grain, which coexisted with grasslands in the north and vegetable gardens in the south. The soil was refreshed by the layers of the River Kifissos, whose water was irrigated by a special system of pipes.

During the next centuries, many travelers and historians describe the area as a “forest”, obviously due to the extended cultivation of perennial olive trees.

In the 18th century, a big part of Eleonas, especially in the south, was transformed into a vegetable garden, which supplied Athenians with vegetables almost till the Interwar period.

After 1922, the “transformation” of Eleonas gradually took place. The arrival of the Greek refugees, as well as the industrialization of Athens, were the main factors for the urban development of the area, from an agricultural and relaxation place to a centre of commercial, handicraft and industrial activities. Thus, a gradual process of lawless building and degradation of the natural environment begins. From the 19th century onwards, and especially after the Interwar period, many small industries settled in the area, from oil-presses and potteries to textiles and flour-mills; also companies supporting the industries of the area, such as warehouses and transporting agencies, became gradually the main business activity of Eleonas. Finally, the area also contains free spaces, public utilities (such as bus depots, the Rentis Market, army camps and a bus station), and settlements of illegal buildings, dumps and garages.

Author: Vassilis Papadopoulos
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