The conventions for writing and Romanizing Ancient Greek and Modern Greek differ markedly, which can create confusion. Thus the Greek name Φάληρον (Phaleron) can appear in various forms in English (Phalerum, Faliro, etc.), according to the historical context, disguising the fact that it is the same word.
Phaleron was an important place in antiquity, then as now one of the demes of Attica, however a precise definition of its Classical topography is lacking, although the location of the deme is well established. Pausanias records that it was on the coast, equidistant from Athens and Cape Kolias (i.e. Ayios Kosmas) at 20 stadia. Strabo enumerates the coastal demes east of Piraeus and starts with Phaleron. The site of the ancient town appears to be the area and headland around the church of St. George, with the harbour to the west in the open roadstead. Remains of conglomerate blocks have been found crossing the heights of Old Phaleron to the sea and these are likely to be part of the Phaleric Wall recorded by Thucydides.
Before 5th century B.C. Phaleron was the port of Athens, as it is least distant from the city. Thus the Athenians sailing to Troy would have departed from Phaleron. But Themistocles, when he became pre-eminent in the government of the Athenians, arranged that Piraeeus be the main port, as it was more convenient for seafarers.
Pausanias, in the Roman period, notes that Phaleron contained an altar to the unknown god (by the Temple of Zeus in Phaleron), which was referred to by St. Paul when he visited Athens. In the reign of the emperor Justinian, Stephanus of Byzantium, in his geographical dictionary Ethnica, records Phaleron as a deme and port of Attica.
Throughout the period of Frankish rule, which followed the Roman-Byzantine empire, Athens was confined within the late Roman walls and the area beyond became a wasteland.
In the Ottoman period the port was known as Porto Vecchio (old port) and its harbour was located near the church of St. George, once a chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas. The harbour also had the name Skala of St. Nicholas. In 1674 the English Consul in Athens, Jean Giraud, called this location "Three Towers" or Tripyrgi , a place-name that was retained into the 19th century. Most likely the name was created in medieval times because of the presence of ancient ruins in this area.
The Battle of Phaleron took place in 1827 as part of an ill-fated action to relieve the Greeks besieged in the Acropolis, during the Greek War of Independence. In February 1827, Colonel Thomas Gordon landed at Phaleron and took the heights around St.George’s of the Three Towers. However the attempt to advance on the Acropolis was a disaster and it capitulated in June.
The area came to be known as old Phaleron in the later 19th century, following the development of the settlement of Neo Phaleron in 1850-1860, now a suburb of Piraeus. Before 1920 old Phaleron was a small seaside village where the houses were few and between which there were long stretches of wheat, barley and oats as well as many vineyards. Some of the men were fishermen, but most were farmers, shepherds and stock breeders. In 1883 the first public transport connecting old Phaleron with Athens was inaugurated, a horse-drawn tram line. In 1890 steam trams were introduced and it was later electrified.
In the western ‘Delta’ area a sea plane airport was started in August 1926, with the first international route Brindisi - Faliro - Istanbul. In 20th century there was a rapid growth in population, reflected in upgrades in municipal government (see below).
Many Greeks from Istanbul (Constantinople) came to live in Palaio Faliro, especially after 1974, and now form a very active and prominent community.
In January 2005, a 1.8 m tall marble torso of a young man was found in the Pikrodafni streambed at the intersections of Pikrodafnis and Dimokratias Streets. The statue dates back to the 1st century AD, and was a copy of a 4th-century BC classical original that may depict Apollo Lykeios. It was said the statue could have been recently discovered by builders during construction work, and dumped in the streambed for fear archaeologists might stop the works if alerted to the find.