PATRAS (Gr. Patrai), the chief fortified seaport town on the west coast of Greece, and chief town of the province of Achaea and Elis, on a gulf of the same name, 70 m. W.N.W. of Corinth. There are two railway stations, one in the north-east on the line to Athens (via Corinth), the other on the line to Pyrgos. Pop. (1889), 33,529; (1907), 37,401. It has been rebuilt since 1821 (the War of Independence), and is the seat of a Greek archbishop and' an appeal court. It is the chief port of Greece, from which the great bulk of its currants are despatched. The port, formed by a mole and a breakwater, begun in 1880, offers a fair harbour for vessels drawing up to 22 ft. The exports consist of currants, sultanas, valonea, tobacco, olive oil, olives in brine, figs, citrons, wine, brandy, cocoons, and lamb, goat, and kid skins. The imports consist chiefly of colonial produce, manufactured goods and sulphate of copper. The two most interesting buildings are the castle, a medieval structure on the site of the ancient acropoUs, and the cathedral of St Andrew, which is highly popular as the reputed burial-place of the saint.
The foundation of Patras goes back to prehistoric times, the legendary account being that Eumelus, having been taught by Triptolemus how to grow grain in the rich soU of the Glaucus valley, established three townships, Aroe (i.e. ploughland), Antheia (the flowery), and Mesatis (the middle settlement), which were united by the common worship of Artemis Triclaria at her shrine on the river Meilichus. The Achaeans having strengthened and enlarged Aroe, called it Patrae, as the exclusive residence of the ruling famUies, and it was recognized as one of the twelve Achaean cities. In 419 B.C. the town was, by the advice of Alcibiades, connected with its harbour by long walls in imitation of those at Athens. The whole armed force was destroyed by MeteUus after the defeat of the Achaeans at Scarpheia, and many of the remaining inhabitants forsook the city; but after the battle of Actium Augustus restored the ancient name Aroe, introduced a military colony of veterans from the loth and 12th legions (not, as is usually said, the 22nd), and bestowed the rights of coloni on the inhabitants of Rhypae and Dyme, and all the Locri Ozolae except those of Amphissa. Colonia Augusta Aroe Patrensis became one of the most populous of all the towns of Greece; its colonial coinage extends from Augustus to Gordian III. That the town was the scene of the martyrdom of St Andrew is purely apocryphal, but, Hke Corinth, it was an early and effective centre of Christianity; its archbishop is mentioned in the hsts of the Council of Sardica in 347. In SSI it was laid in ruins by an earthquake. In 807 it was able without external assistance to defeat the Slavonians (Avars), though most of the credit of the victory was assigned to St Andrew, whose church was enriched by the imperial share of the spoils, and whose archbishop was made superior of the bishops of Methone, Lacedaemon and Corone. Captured in 1205 by William of Champhtte and Villehardouin, the city became the capital and its archbishop the primate of the principality of Achaea. In 1387 De Heredia, grand master of the order of the Hospital at Rhodes, endeavoured to make himself master of Achaea and took Patras by storm. At the close of the isth century the city was governed by the archbishop in the name of the pope; but in 1428 Constantine, son of John VI., managed to get possession of it for a time. Patras was at length, in 1687, surrendered by the Turks to the Venetians, who made it the seat of one of the seven fiscal boards into which they divided the Morea. In 1714 it again fell, with the rest of the Morea, into Turkish hands. It was at Patras that the Greek revolution began in 1821; but the Turks, confined to the citadel, held out till 1828.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)