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The history of Patra dates back to the prehistoric times when the Achaeans tribes were settling towns in Greece. The town got its name from Patrea, leader of the Achaeans of Sparta who was looking for a new shelter after they were exiled from their homeland. The town was formed with the unification of three Ionian towns: Aroe, Mesatis, and Antheia. In 280 B.C, Patras played a crucial part in the formation of the Achaean League. This league instigated the political idea of the transfer of all governing powers for the very first time to western Achaea.
Much later, in 146 BC, Patra was conquered by the Romans, like all towns in Greece causing many changes. An Odeon and temples were erected, two important industrial zones were built, roads were connecting Patra to other important places in Greece, the city streets were cemented with flagstones and worship of numerous foreign deities were initiated. The Romans also encouraged craftsmanship and for the first time, earthen oil lamps were made there and exported to the rest of the world.
Another important historical account indicates that Saint Andrew had come to Patra to teach Christianity, but he was crucified under the orders of Emperor Nero and since then, he has been considered as the protector of this city. A glorious church stands today on the site of its martyrdom. The flourishing city of Patras was doomed when in 300 AD a massive earthquake nearly destroyed the whole of Northeast Peloponnese.
In the Byzantine era, Patras continued as an important commercial center and a strong castle was built for its protection. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, Patras was conquered by the Venetians and then by the Ottomans in 1458. Due to its busy port, special privileges were granted to the citizens and they also had to pay less amount of tax to the government. Venice and Genoa raided the city several times in the 15th and 16th centuries but could not establish their supremacy here. The Greek Revolution started in March 1821 and Patra was one of the first towns to revolt against the Turks. On October 7th, 1828 General Maison and his French troops gave Patra its freedom from the Ottoman rule.
By the end of the 19th century, Patra had come to be known as the second biggest city in Greece and it also grew as the chief center for the export of agricultural produce in Peloponnese. A lot of foreigners came to Patra to make money out of the trade and brought a new cultural ambiance. Patra developed rapidly in the 20th century and it was the first city in Greece to introduce streetlights and electric tramways.
The First World War seriously hampered the city's urban development and there was a lot of chaos due to the refugees flocking into the city from Asia Minor. Later, the Second World War caused a lot of destruction due to bombardments but reconstruction works restored the architectural glory of the town. Now it is a busy town that mostly derives its economic strength from its university, the third-largest university in Greece, and from the port.