The history of Lavrion mines, lost to the depths of the time, is directly connected with the history of Greece. Lavrion took its name after the Greek word “lavra” which means narrow passage or tunnel describing the characteristics of mining galleries. The first underground excavations began around 3000 BC establishing Lavrion mines as the oldest in Europe. However, the production of silver was limited until 483 BC (the period of Greco-Persian wars), when the rich deposits of Maronia (present day Agios Konstantinos) were discovered and the greatest mining period began.
The silver production was so high that the historians of the Classical Period wrote: “the silver is flowing like spring water”. The Lavrion silver mines soon became the principal source of wealth for the Athenian State. Hundreds of tons of silver that had been initially stored in the Parthenon treasury were liquefied in order to erect several of the city’s architectural monuments. The construction of an enormous war and trade fleet with a hegemonic presence in the Eastern Mediterranean region was financed. Fine Arts and Sciences (philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, drama, history etc.) flourished. The tetradrachmon, the currency of the Athenian State, which was constructed from the silver, became the dominant currency of the ancient world.