WATER SAMPLING FROM RIVER KIFISSOS - GREECE
Versions of the name:
Kifissos – signs in Attica
Kaf – Dorian
Etymology: Pelasgian in origin, pre-Hellenic roots (unknown etymology)
Κηφεύς - Kifeus
Κηφισόδωρος - Kifisodoros
Κηφισόφων – Kifisofon
Κηφισόδοτος - Kifisodotos
Κηφισόδημος – Kifisodemos
Rivers with the same name:
There is also the Kifissos in Elefsina (today’s Sarandapotamos); a Kifissos in the Argolid and Boeotia. Homer calls the Kopaida Lake “Kifissis” (E709+)
References in ancient texts - songs:
“Oedipus at Kolonos”, Sophocles v. 668 – 719;
“Medea, Sophocles”, v. 835-840.
Geography: The Kifissos is the main river of the Attica plain. Most of the water comes from the springs at Fasideri. These small but powerful springs were referred to by Strabo by the name of the “Trinemeis”. The large main spring, the famous Kefalari in Kifissia produced 400 cubic metres of water per hour up until the 1950s. It no longer exists as such but spreads through the Midwestern part of the Athens River Basin. It gets water from Parnitha, Pendelis and Aegalio, and runs from Dekelia, Metamorphosis (Koukouvaounes), Nea Philadelphia, Patission. It flows under the three bridges at Kolokinthou, Votaniko and Agio Ioannis at Rendi. Just before the estuaries, the Kifissos takes in water from the other ancient river in Athens, the Ilisou and flows into the Ormo Phalirou at Nea Phaliron.
In ancient times the area at Peristeri was a part of the famous Athenian olive groves, where the Kifissos flowed. It was rich in flora and fauna, with ducks, wildfowl, fish, frogs, foxes, tortoises, owls, hares, various semi-wild animals and all kinds of plants. Pausanias says that the river was fished for eels and even in recent times, up to the first post-war years, people would swim in its waters.
A large section of the Kifissos River has suffered serious interventions such as fires, construction works, waste-dumping and public works. From Patission up to the estuary the watercourse has undergone major flood-prevention construction works. On both sides of the river major roads have been built to serve the capital city, as well as a part of the national road from Athens to Lamia. At the last part of the river’s journey at Kolokinthou it has been completely covered by the new road network because of the smells from the industrial waste which is emptied into the river, particularly during the summer months when the river was drained.
However in spite of these changes, the river continues to live and breathe even today where it runs along its natural course. There the flora and fauna are still maintained, regulating the climate in the surrounding areas and feeding the Attica Basin with oxygen from the mountain ranges of Parnitha and Pendeli. The river’s course up to Metamorphosi is full of massive plane trees, ferns, oleanders, eucalyptus, blackberry bushes and reeds. Frogs and turtles can be found in its waters and in the area at Helidoniou, even small fish. On the higher areas, up to recently at least, and maybe still surviving today are some small groups of the rare pink-tinted Cyprinidae fish; in the summer nightingales still sing and birds nest in the low vegetation.
In ancient times the Kifissos River was so full of water and its flow was so constant that it was regarded as a god. Kifissos worship was found in Phaliron and in Oropos, he was believed to be the son of Ocean and Tithous. The Attic Kifissos was the father of Diogenes and grandfather of Praxithes, married to Erechtheos, and Elios. In Amfiareo, near Oropos, an altar was shared with the nymphs Pana and Axeloo. Kifissos raped the nymph Leiropi in his waters, from which union Narcissos was born. According to some traditions the Kifissos area was where Persephone was abducted by Plutos. On the banks of the river men of the Fitalidon tribe received Theseus and pardoned him of the murders of the criminals which he had committed. Forgiven, Theseus then entered Athens.
Kifissos is shown on the left-hand side in the western pediment of the Parthenon.
The western pediment was still intact in 1674 when it was drawn by J. Carrey. During the explosion of the armaments store and when the Elgin marbles were stolen many sculptures were destroyed. Elgin took most of the statues and left the group with Kekropa, Pandroso and Kalliroi, slivers and parts of horses had already broken off and were found later on during excavations.
From left to right are: Kifissos, Kekrops – Pandrosos, Hermes, Athina, Poseidon, Athina, Iris, Ampitriti, Oreithuia, and two female forms Illisos, and Kalliroi.
We think that the pediment looked like this:
It is to be found in the British Museum. It pictures a moment frozen in time, with their beautiful bodies turned towards the viewer. It is said to have much in common with the statue of Zeus in Olympia.
On the banks of the Kifissos there was a statue of his son Mnisimachis, which according to mythology dedicated his hair to the river, a tradition which existed amongst all Greeks from ancient times (Homer, Il. 141-153).
Historically: Plato’s Academy in the Kifissos Valley was changed by Kimon to an orchard with carefully-tended shady trees and pleasant cool walkways. The orchard was watered by a well, and they planted deciduous trees such as the plane tree. The plane trees at the Academy had, by the 1st century B.C., reached such a size that they were regarded as a scientific wonder. The massive size of the trees was due to the waters of the Kifissos which watered their roots through irrigation canals. The place was ideal for the intellectual meditations needed by those who studied in the gymnasia and schools. Plato lived and taught in a nearby garden. Strabos, at the end of the 1st Century B.C. says that: “There are rivers, of which one is the Kifissos which starts in the Trimenion area, flows along the plain, where there are bridges and fords, it divides into two branches, arrives at Pireaus and spills into Phaliron, it is a torrent which completely dries up in the summer”. The Kifissos estuaries were at the old harbor of Kantharou, today a commercial harbor, however, to avoid the embankment of the harbor the Athenians altered the course of the river to the coast of today’s Moschato, a fact which resulted in the increased silting up of the gulf of Phaliron and the massive volumes of water from the western mountains from Perama up to Ano Liosia didn’t pour their waters straight into the Kifissos. The streams from the various mountains, like many in central Athens were lost in Elaiona before they reached the river. The plain flooded in many places after the rains. As Athens grew, the streams and the marshes began to appear in the middle of the city, and water then found its way to the main body of the Kifissos.
In November 1896 a flood killed 17 inhabitants, the following two years saw the change of the course of the river to Tzitzifies, this work which was first programmed 65 years ago was first announced during the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas and this is the situation we find today.
The modern situation, problems and solutions: A large section of the Kifissos has undergone major changes, the Kifissos and its tributaries in the areas of Metamorphosi, Nea Philadelphia, Kato Kifissia, Nea Erithrea, Anixi, Agios Stephanos, Aharnon etc have become toxic sewers of chemical waste. From 1937 the idea arose to cover up the rivers with roads, which started in the post-war rebuilding and continues unabated today. The building of a road over a river is the easiest and cheapest solution. Underneath Michalakopoulou, Kallirois, Ardittou, Hamosternas, Zoodohou Pigis and Vasileos Herakleio in Exarchia, Olaf Palme in Zographou, in Phaliron and Pireaus the tributaries of the Kifissou and Ilisou rivers flow.
It has only recently been realized that covering up the Kifissos is a mistake. These massive public works changed the whole of the Attica Basin and in 30-50 years they will have to be replaced. We are beginning to realize that when we abuse the natural state of things, the environmental crises which arise are uncontrollable and there is no technology which can deal with them. Such a natural state was abused with the Kifissos. The problem isn’t the unbelievable technical faults which occurred in the regulating of the watercourse, but the covering of the river itself with the road.
The famous walls which joined Athens and Pireaus during the classical period crossed the river. A part of the wall has been uncovered along both sides of the Kifissos, indeed on one side there is a 19.5 metre length of the surviving wall and one of its square towers. The discovery of the wall came about during the construction of the underpass where the roads Kifissou and Posidonos join in Moschato. During the works for the Olympic Games part of a crane fell onto the wall and destroyed it. The long walls are not in situ due to the flood-prevention works which were taking place at the same time. The walls which reach 2.5 metres into the river, have a width of 5.5 metres and are made up of layers of stones. They will be taken down and re-erected elsewhere as part of a special study which has been scheduled to take place.
However, in spite of these interventions the river continues to live and breathe even today, where its original course is kept to. A study from Nea Philadelphia (at Kokkinos Milos) up to the springs on Parnitha and Pendeli – part of a pilot scheme to save the Attica rivers, and its application along the historical river will ensure a continuous suburban green belt which will connect the mountains with the urban network of the capital city. The Presidential Decree for the Protection of Kifissos is included in the general plan of protection of the capital’s natural environment (streams, green belt, mountains, beaches etc), with more specific objectives:
The protected area of the Kifissos River and its tributaries.
The information comes from the site: http://7gym-zograf.att.sch.gr/activities/2004-05/TELIKO/kifisos2.htm