Zygou Monastery



Ancient Sani

According to the few ancient sources, three important archaeological sites are placed in the wider area of Nea Roda. Ancient Sani, which was the colony of Andrians, the Xerxes Canal opened during his campaign to Greece in order to avoid the dangerous sea of Athos and finaly ancient Ouranoupoli (or Ouranopoli), the fortified city founded in the end 14th century B.C. by Alexarchos, brother of Kassandros.

The excavation revealed until 1990, the Xerxes Canal in the narrowest point of the peninsula between Nea Roda and Tripiti, ruins of the fortifications of ancient Ouranoupoli in the area of Nea Roda, but only indications for the ancient Sani. Indeed, ancient Sani, the colony of Andrians in the eastern peninsula of Halkidiki, is another ancient city, the history of which started to unfold in recent years through excavations. Written sources that mention ancient Sani are very few. Reports are mainly found in the work of historians Herodotus, Thucydides and geographer Stravonas. From those, information is found about the location of the city, and its role during the Median and Peloponnesian wars.

The two historians provided valuable information regarding the location of ancient Sani. They both report that it was built on the short hills of the canal, on the narrowest place of Akti, as the peninsula of Mount Athos was called. Further information that it was facing «ες το προς Εύβοιαν πέλαγος», i.e. the western side of the peninsula, provided by Thucydides, led the excavation to the area of Tripiti, beside the southern entrance of the canal. Despite finding its location, only a few data of its history exist. We do not know why Andrians founded it, how it was organized and what was its early history. The first clear testimonies appear in the period of the Persian war, when Sani was forced to surrender to Persians and contribute in army and fleet, during the construction of the Xerxes Canal.

Combining all the available historical information and archaeological data, it is known that Sani was a colony of Andrians on the Canal of Akti in the late 7th century B.C. and is located in the area of Tripiti. By examining the motives that led the Andrians into founding a third colony after Akanthos and Stagira in the same area, we conclude in a theory saying that Sani was the first to be founded and Akanthos was next, in order to be closer to the mining area. Or that Sani was built in this specific area in order to have a sea communication to the south, since its position on the western side of Akti, made possible the direct communication to the metropolis and other centers of the era, avoiding the dangerous circumnavigation of Akti.


The exhibitions of the three colonies of Andros in Halkidiki occupy the largest part of the main room of the archaeological museum of Polygyros. Feature funeral gifts from the cemetery of Akanthos, of the archaic until the Hellenistic periods are exhibited. There is an exhibition from ancient Sani, of the three clay parts of the temple of Apollo located in the colony. It is about the three Nikes with written decoration, two in standing position and one “εν γούνασι δρόμου” (i.e. head and torso in forward position, and bent legs on a side view.), dated in the late archaic era.


Betina Tsigarida, an archaeologist of the 16th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classic Antiquities, who has spent many years of her professional activities in the wider area of Halkidiki, has been involved with Sani and provides valuable data regarding the temple of Apollo. We are informed that the sanctuary was founded by the residents, of Apollo, probably in the late 6th century B.C. outside the main city. At present day the chapel has been discovered and the excavation continues.

The building has intensive Corinthian influences that suggest close relationships to Corinth, which was a large commercial and artistic center of the period. The founding of the building with the exceptional decoration (similar is only found in the large sanctuaries of south Greece), suggests the great importance of the sanctuary in the area, high levels of culture and living, as well as the economic prosperity of the city during the last decades of the 6th century, few years before the arrival of the Persian expeditionary force.

Up until now, no data for the use of the sanctuary during the 6th century have been found, whereas an inscription of the 5th century B.C. written in Ionic alphabet that was found in the area confirms its existence during that period. Only a few words of the inscription are distinguished, but the characteristic words, holy, public and middle indicate that the inscription was a term, i.e. it stated the boundaries of the sanctuary. It is not known whether the chapel was destroyed or abandoned. According to sources, the area of Sani suffered two great disasters after the Persians. In 423 B.C. by the Spartans and in 348-7 B.C. by the Macedonians. Up until now there is no connection of the destruction or abandonment of the chapel with any of the above events. Alexarchos repaired the building in the late 4th century, when he founded Ouranoupoli. The repair must have been extensive, since it was not limited to the tiling of the roof but also to at least one of the walls in the narrow side.