Ierissos is the oldest and largest village in the Municipality of Aristotle, with 3,455 residents in 2011 (GG 3465/B/28.12.2012). Historically, it is the contemporary continuation of ancient Akanthos, which was founded in the 7th century BCE as a colony of Andros and was a great city of Macedonia, as reported by historians and evidenced by archaeological research.
The present-day settlement was constructed after the old one was levelled by the deadly, 7-point magnitude earthquake of 1932, which had its epicenter right here, by the seaside. Archaeological excavations showed that the present-day town is built over the cemetery of ancient Akanthos (click here to see the brochure).
Contemporary Ierissos is a beautiful seaside town with modern construction and a rich historical and cultural legacy. It is the seat of the Municipality of Aristotle. When entering the town from the direction of Stratoni, visitors will notice the tower of Krouna; in the center, the Cultural Center; and further down, across from the port, the walls of ancient Akanthos. Despite the fact that Akanthos was renowned for its wine, modern-day inhabitants are employed in fishing, boat building, commerce, construction on Mount Athos, and tourism.
It is an important port in Northern Greece, with a noteworthy fishing fleet. That is why the fish from Ierissos Bay are famous throughout Greece for their great flavor. Chief among them is orkini, a local species of tuna that is fished in the region in May and early June. It is cooked in red sauce or cured in salt. The inhabitants of Ierissos are historically known to be great shipwrights, passing on an ancient art from generation to generation. The boatyards of Ierissos are some of the oldest in Greece, with renowned shipwrights, such as the late Dimitris Papasterianos, master of the traditional art of shipbuilding. Throughout the Ottoman period, the town was one of the historic Mademochoria. The inhabitants of Ierissos participated in the Greek War of Independence of 1821, with renowned revolutionaries, such as Athanasios and Konstantinos Vlachomichalis.
Most visitors pass by Ierissos on their way to Mount Athos, or to enjoy its beaches. The region is endowed with several beaches fit for swimming and awarded Blue Flags, as well as beach bars, and coffee shops and tavernas on the seaside promenade, that make it an ideal holiday destination. There are many forms of accommodation – rooms to rent, studios, furnished apartments, and beachfront hotels. There are also two organized camping sites. Leaving Ierissos on the way to Nea Roda, the old boatyards are on the left.
There are several associations active in Ierissos: the “Kleigenis” cultural association, the “Kageleftos” music and dance association, the “Friends of the Environment” association, the “Akanthos” music and sports association, as well as professional guilds and unions (Professionals Association, Fishermen’s Union, Builders Union, Agricultural Cooperatives). The locals’ noteworthy social and cultural activity goes back centuries. This is demonstrated by the large number of notable folk songs that remain alive in the local tradition and are sung to this day.
The area has several remarkable customs. Of particular interest is the custom that takes place every year on the Tuesday after Easter in the so-called Mavro Aloni – the Black Threshing Floor, or the Threshing Floor of the Black Youth. This is a site near Ierissos where, in 1821, on the orders of Yusuf Sintiki Bei, the Turks slaughtered 400 locals. Tradition tells that the Bei had promised general amnesty to all who surrendered, since at the time Halkidiki had joined the Greek War of Independence. Four hundred inhabitants who believed his promise showed up and were forced to dance at sword point. With every turn of the dance circle, the Turks slaughtered one dancer with their swords. Since then, in remembrance of this massacre, a blessing is performed in the village and then hundreds of residents and guests join in a dance. One of the dances is called “Kageleftos” and it represents the great massacre. It is slow, simulating the dragging, hesitant steps of people condemned to death. And because for many years the dance was performed in the presence of Turks and some things could not be stated clearly, the song uses inuendo to speak about yearning for freedom. When the song is almost over, the first two dancers join hands to form an arch, representing the swords of the Turkish executioners, and all the other dancers pass underneath twice. It is noted that each stanza of the song is sung alternately by the men and women who participate in the dance.