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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites

Phigalia

  A polis within the district of Parrhasia. Geographically isolated, Phigalia was linked historically with S Triphylia (viz., Lepreon) and the upper Messenian plain. The city (1500 x 2500 m) spreads over an uneven plateau 300 m above the deep gorge of the Neda river which permitted access to the coast of Triphylia 15 km to the W. Citizens frequently aided Messenians in their wars and revolts against Sparta; in reprisal, the Spartans beseiged and occupied Phigalia several times in the 7th and 6th c. B.C. and between 421 to ca. 414 B.C. and again ca. 401-395. In Hellenistic times Phigalia was a member of the Aitolian and Achean Leagues; in the Roman period it went into decline, but has remained continuously occupied.
  The site is unexcavated, but chance finds indicate that the site was occupied by the Late Bronze Age; considerable remains of the archaic, Classical, and Roman periods lie exposed. Fortification walls are preserved for a length of ca. one km along the E and N sides of the acropolis and stand to heights of 10 m in some parts. Stretches of the circuit may date as early as the 5th c. B.C. but in the mid 4th c. B.C. portions were rebuilt for the addition of square and circular towers. An outer, but uncharted, circuit of walls exists to the far W of the city.
  In the SE a Hellenistic fountain-house continues to function; nearby, a Byzantine Chapel of the Panagia is built into the superstructure of an Ionic building. In the W section a long stoa with shafts of several columns still in situ delineates one side of an open, level area which appears to be the agora. Adjacent, a destroyed chapel contains architectural members from a building of the Classical period. An archaic kouros, found here in 1890, is now at Olympia and perhaps is to be identified as the victor Arrachion (564 B.C.), described by Pausanias. A Sanctuary to Athena is on a low hill to the W, overlooking the agora.
  The acropolis of the city (elev. 720 m) lies in the N sector. A Sanctuary to Artemis Soteirias is on the crown, now occupied by a Church to Haghios Elias. Chamber tombs line the scarps of surrounding hills. Numerous but unidentified monuments are scattered throughout the confines of the city. Ancient sources attest to the existence of a Polemarchion, a theater, a gymnasium, a Temple of Dionysos Akratophoros, Sanctuaries of Hygeia and Asklepios, and Heroons of the Oresthasions and Lepreos.

F. A. Cooper, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.


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Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

Phigalia

   A town in the southwest corner of Arcadia, on the frontiers of Messenia and Elis, which owes its celebrity in modern times to the remains of a splendid temple in its territory (i. e. at Bassae, some four miles distant), built in the time of Pericles. The sculptures, in alto-relievo, which ornamented the frieze in the interior, are now preserved in the British Museum. They represent the combat of the Centaurs and the Lapithae, and of the Greeks and the Amazons. The temple is, next to the Theseum at Athens, the most completely preserved architectural specimen of classic Greek art. It was built by Ictinus, one of the architects of the Parthenon, of gray stone and white marble. It was originally 125 1/2 feet long and 48 feet wide.

This text is cited Sep 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)

Phigalia

  Phigalia (Pans.); Phigalea (Polyb. iv. 3); Phigaleia (Paus.; Rhianus, ap. Steph. B. s. v.;), Phialia (Paus.); Phialeia (Polyb.); Eth. Phigaleus, Phialeus, Phigaleites.
  An ancient is town of Arcadia, situated in the south-western corner of the country, close to the frontiers of Messenia, and upon the right bank of the Neda, about halfway between the sources and the mouth of this river. The name Phigalia was more ancient than that of Phialia, but the original name had again come into use in the time of Pausanias (viii. 39. § 2). The at city was said to have derived its more ancient name to from Phigalus, a son of Lycaon, its original founder, and its later name from Phialus, a son of Lycaon, its second founder. (Paus. l. c.; Steph. B.) In B.C. 659 the inhabitants of Phigalia were obliged to surrender their city to the Lacedaemonians, but they in recovered possession of it again by the help of a chosen body of Oresthasians, who, according to an oracle, perished fighting against the Lacedaemonians, (Paus. viii. 39. § § 4, 5.) In B.C. 375 Phigalia was rent asunder by hostile factions; and the supporters of the Lacedaemonian party, being expelled from the city, took possession of a fortress in the neighbourhood named Heraea, from which they made excursions against Phigalia. (Diod. xv. 40.) In the wars between the Aetolians and Achaeans, Phigalia became for some time the head-quarters of the Aetolian troops, who from thence plundered Messenia, till they were at length driven out by Philip of Macedon. (Polyb. iv. 3, seq., 79, seq.) The Phigaleans possessed several peculiar customs, respecting which Harmodius of Lepreum wrote a special work. This author relates that they were given to excess both in eating and drinking, to which their cold and ungenial climate may perhaps have contributed. (Athen. iv. p. 149, x. p. 442.)
  Phigalia was still a place of importance when visited by Pausanias. He describes it as situated upon a lofty and precipitous hill, the greater part of the walls being built upon the rocks. There are still considerable remains of the ancient walls above the modern village of Pavlitza. The city was upwards of two miles in circumference. The rock, upon which it stood, slopes down towards the Neda; on the western side it is bounded by a ravine and on the eastern by the torrent Lymax, which flows into the Neda. The walls are of the usual thickness, faced with masonry of the second order, and filled in the middle with rubble. On the summit of the acropolis within the walls are the remains of a detached citadel, 80 yards in length, containing a round tower at the extremity, measuring 18 feet in the interior diameter. In ancient times a temple of Artemis Soteira stood on the summit of the acropolis. On the slope of the mountain lay the gymnasium and the temple of Dionysus Acratophorus; and on the ground below, where the village of upper Pavlitza stands, was the agora, adorned with a statue of the pancratiast Arrachion, who lost his life in the Olympic games, and with the sepulchre of the Oresthasians, who perished to restore the Phigaleans to their native city. (Paus. viii. 39. § § 5, 6, 40. § 1.) Upon a rock, difficult of access, near the union of the Lymax and the Neda, was a temple of Eurynome, supposed to be a surname of Artemis, which was opened only once a year. In the same neighbourhood, and at the distance of 12 stadia from the city, were some warm baths, traces of which, according to the French Commission, are visible at the village of Tragoi, but the waters have long ceased to flow. (Paus. viii. 41. § 4, seq.)
  Phigalia was surrounded by mountains, of which Pausanias mentions two by name, Coilium (to Kotilion) and Elaeum (to Elaiom), the former to the left of the city, at the distance of 30 stadia, and the latter to the right at the distance of 30 stadia. As Cotilium lies to the NE. of Phigalia, and Pausanias in this description seems to have looked towards the east, Mt. Elaeum should probably be placed on the opposite side of Phigalia, and consequently to the south of the Neda, in which case it would correspond to the lofty mountain of Kuvela. Mt. Elaeum contained a cavern sacred to Demeter the Black, situated in a grove of oaks. Of the position of Mt. Cotilium there is no doubt. On it was situated the temple of Apollo Epicurius, which was built in the Peloponnesian War by Ictinus, the architect of the Parthenon at Athens. It was erected by the Phigaleans in consequence of the relief afforded by Apollo during the plague in the Peloponnesian War, whence he received the surname of Epicurius. The temple stood in a place called Bassae, and according to Pausanias excelled all the temples of Peloponnesus, except that of Athena Alea at Tegea, in the beauty of the stone and the accuracy of its masonry. He particularly mentions that the roof was of stone as well as the rest of the building. (Paus. viii. 41. § § 7, 8.) This temple still remains almost entire, and is next to the Theseium at Athens the best preserved of the temples of Greece. It stands in a glen (whence the name Bassai, Dor. for Besse, Bessai) near the summit of Mt. Cotilium, in the midst of a wilderness of rocks, studded with old knotty oaks. An eye-witness remarks that there is certainly no remnant of the architectural splendour of Greece more calculated to fascinate the imagination than this temple; whether by its own size and beauty, by the contrast it offers to the wild desolation of the surrounding scenery, or the extent and variety of the prospect from its site. (Mure, Tour in Greece, vol. ii. p. 270.) A spring rises about 10 minutes SW. of the temple, and soon afterwards loses itself in the ground, as Pausanias has described. North of the temple was the highest summit of the mountain, which one reaches in 10 minutes' time by a broad road constructed by the Greeks. This summit was called Cotilum Kotilon), whence the whole mountain derived the name of Cotilian; here was a sanctuary of Aphrodite, of which there are still some traces. The grandeur of the ruins of the temple have given to the whole of the surrounding district the name of the Columns (stous stulous or kolonnais). The temple is at least two hours and a half from the ruins of the city, and consequently more than the 40 stadia, which Pausanias mentions as the distance from Phigalia to Cotilium; but this distance perhaps applies to the nearest part of the mountain from the city.
  In modern times the temple remained long unknown, except to the shepherds of the country. Chandler, in 1765, was the first who gave any account of it; it was subsequently visited and described by Gell, Dodwell, and others; and in 1812 the whole temple was very carefully examined by a body of artists and scholars, who cleared away the ruins of the cella, and thus became acquainted with the exact form of the interior of the building. The results of these labours are given by Stackelberg, Der Apollotempel zu Bassa in Arkadien, Rom. 1826. The temple was a peripteral building of the Doric order. The stone of which it is built is a hard yellowish-brown limestone, susceptible of a high polish. It faces nearly north and south, was originally about 125 feet in length and 48 in breadth, and had 15 columns on either side, and 6 on either front. There were also 2 columns in the pronaos and 2 in the posticum; so that the total number in the peristyle was 42, of which 36 are standing. The cella was too narrow to allow of interior rows of columns as in the Parthenon; but on either side of the cella five fluted Ionic semi-columns projected from the walls, which supported the timbers of the hypaethron. The frieze of the cella, representing contests between the Centaurs and the Lapithae, and between Amazons and Greeks, is now in the British Museum.

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


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