Megara (/ˈmɛɡərə/; Greek: Μέγαρα, Greek pronunciation: [ˈmeɣara]) is a historic town and a municipality (pop. 36,924 in 2011) in West Attica, Greece. It lies in the northern section of the Isthmus of Corinth opposite the island of Salamis, which belonged to Megara in archaic times, before being taken by Athens. Megara was one of the four districts of Attica, embodied in the four mythic sons of King Pandion II, of whom Nisos was the ruler of Megara. Megara was also a trade port, its people using their ships and wealth as a way to gain leverage on armies of neighboring poleis. Megara specialized in the exportation of wool and other animal products including livestock such as horses. It possessed two harbors, Pegae, to the west on the Corinthian Gulf and Nisaea, to the east on the Saronic Gulf of the Aegean Sea.
In historical times, Megara was an early dependency of Corinth, in which capacity colonists from Megara founded Megara Hyblaea, a small polis north of Syracuse in Sicily. Megara then fought a war of independence with Corinth, and afterwards founded (c. 667 BC) Byzantium, as well as Chalcedon (685 BC). Megara was known for its money in historical times.
In the late 7th century BC Theagenes established himself as tyrant of Megara by slaughtering the cattle of the rich to win over the poor. During the second Persian invasion of Greece (480-479 BC) Megara fought alongside the Spartans and Athenians at crucial battles such as Salamis and Plataea.
Megara's defection from the Spartan-dominated Peloponnesian League (c. 460 BC) became one of the causes of the First Peloponnesian War (460 BC - c. 445 BC). By the terms of the Thirty Years' Peace of 446-445 BC Megara was returned to the Peloponnesian League.
In the (second) Peloponnesian War (c. 431 BC-404 BC), Megara was an ally of Sparta. The Megarian decree is considered to be one of several contributing "causes" of the Peloponnesian War. Athens issued the Megarian decree with the aim of choking out the Megarian economy. The decree banned Megarian merchants from territory controlled by Athens.
Arguably the most famous citizen of Megara in antiquity was Byzas, the legendary founder of Byzantium in the 7th century BC. The 6th-century BC poet Theognis also came from Megara. In the early 4th century BC, Euclid of Megara founded the Megarian school of philosophy which flourished for about a century, and which became famous for the use of logic and dialectic.
The Megarians were proverbial for their generosity in building and endowing temples. Saint Jerome reports "There is a common saying about the Megarians […:] 'They build as if they are to live forever; they live as if they are to die tomorrow.'"
Megara is located in the westernmost part of Attica, near the Megara Gulf, a bay of the Saronic Gulf. The coastal plain around Megara is referred to as Megaris, which is also the name of the ancient city state centered on Megara. Megara is 8 km west of Nea Peramos, 18 km west of Eleusis, 19 km east of Agioi Theodoroi, 34 km west of Athens and 37 km east of Corinth. The Motorway 8 connects it with Athens and Corinth. The Megara railway station is served by Proastiakos suburban trains to Athens and Kiato. There is a small military airfield south of the town, ICAO code LGMG.
The main town Megara had 23,456 inhabitants at the 2011 census. The largest other settlements in the municipal unit are Vlychada (pop. 1,462), Kineta (1,446), Pachi (542) and Lakka Kalogirou (517).
The municipality Megara was formed at the 2011 local government reform by the merger of the following 2 former municipalities, that became municipal units (constituent communities in brackets):
- Nea Peramos
Towns and villages
- Agia Triada
- Lakka Kalogirou
- Moni Agiou Ierotheou
- Moni Agiou Ioannou Prodromou
- Moni Panachrantou
- Orsippus (8th century BC), runner
- Byzas (7th century BC), founder of Byzantium
- Theognis (6th century BC), elegiac poet
- Eupalinos (6th century BC), engineer who built the Tunnel of Eupalinos on Samos
- Theagenes (c. 600 BC), Tyrant of Megara
- Euclid (c. 400 BC), founder of the Megarian school of philosophy
- Stilpo (c. 325 BC), philosopher of the Megarian school
- Teles (3rd century BC), cynic philosopher.
- List of settlements in Attica
- Legon, Ronald P. Megara: the political history of a Greek city-state to 336 B.C.. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1981.
- Smith, Philip J. The archaeology and epigraphy of Hellenistic and Roman Megaris, Greece. Oxford: John and Erica Hedges Ltd, 2008.
- "Megara". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.