The ancient city of Pherai, one of the most important cities of Thessaly, was occupied from the Final Neolithic (about 3000 B.C.) to the beginning of the Roman Imperial period (1st century A.D.), when it was probably abandoned. The modern settlement, named Velestino, was founded in the post-Byzantine period (13th century B.C.), and has played an important role in Greek history of the laste centuries (birth place of Regas Pheraios, pioneer of the Hellenic Revolution against Turks). Today Velestino is a very active town, part of which is built upon the ancient city, fortunately not on the most important part of it.
The very important but very limited excavations at Pherai took place in the first quarter of the 20th century, at the temple of Zeus Thaulios, in collaboration between the Greek Archaeological Service and the French Archaeological School. Since 1977 the Ephorate of Antiquities of Volos has been operating systematic excavations of the "acropolis" (city-fortification) and many rescue excavations at the part of the ancient city, which lies beneath the modern town of Velestino. The last ones have brought to light some monuments of great interest. Many private properties were bought recently by the Ministry of Culture, so that the systematic excavations can be continued.
Significant monuments or architectural groups:
- The acropolis. Is located at the SW side of the ancient city and includes two hills: the so-called "Magoula Bakali", which is also a prehistoric site, and the so-called "Aghios Athanasios" or "Panagia" hill, where the fortification wall of the 4th century B.C. are very well preserved.
- The "Hypereia Krini" (Fountain), an ancient spring, "the water loved by the gods" (Sophocles, Frg 825 N.), is located in the center of the ancient city, where a small pond is formed along old plane trees. Ancient ruins are visible inside as well as outside the water.
- The temple of "Zeus Thaulios". One of the very few excavated ancient temples of Thessaly, is located on the north edge of the ancient city. It was a peripteral doric temple, with 6 X 6 columns, dated at the end of the 4th century B.C. Today, only the SE part of its krepis is preserved.
- A building with stoa dated in the Hellenistic period. It has been relealed in the NE part of the ancient city, where the Agora probably was. The doric columns of the stoa are unfinished and the lower parts of them still remain "in situ".
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