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Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


ASKRA (Ancient city) VIOTIA
Ascra (Askra: Eth. Askraios). A town of Boeotia on Mount Helicon, and in the territory of Thespiae, from which it was 40 stadia distant. (Strab. ix. p. 409.) It is celebrated as the residence of Hesiod, whose father settled here after leaving Cyme in Aeolis. Hesiod complains of it as a disagreeable residence both in summer and winter. (Hes. Op. 638, seq.); and Eudoxus found still more fault with it. (Strab. ix. p. 413.) But other writers speak of it as abounding in corn (poluleios, Paus. ix. 38. § 4), and in wine. (Zenod. ap. Strab. p. 413.) According to the poet Hegesinus, who is quoted by Pausanias, Ascra was founded by Ephialtes and Otus, the sons of Aloeus. In the time of Pausanias a single tower was all that remained of the town. (Paus. ix. 29. § § 1, 2.) The remains of Ascra are found on the summit of a high conical hill, or rather rock, which is connected to the NW. with Mount Zagara, and more to the westward with the proper Helicon. The distance of these ruins from Lefka corresponds exactly to the 40 stades which Strabo places between Thespiae and Ascra; and it is further remarkable, that a single tower is the only portion of the ruins conspicuously preserved, just as Pausanias describes Ascra in his time, though there are also some vestiges of the walls surrounding the summit of the hill, and inclosing a space of no great extent. The place is now called Pyrgaki from the tower, which is formed of equal and regular layers of masonry, and is uncommonly large. (Leake, Northern Greece, vol. ii. p. 491.) The Roman poets frequently use the adjective Ascraeus in the sense of Hesiodic. Hence we find Ascraeum carmen (Virg. Georg. ii. 176), and similar phrases.

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


  Ceressus (Keressos), a strong fortress in Boeotia, in the neighbourhood of, and belonging to Thespiae. The inhabitants of Ceressus retreated to this fortress after the battle of Leuctra. It was probably situated at Paleopananhia. (Paus. ix. 14. § 2; Leake, Northern Greece, vol. ii. pp. 490, 450.)


  Eth. Onchestios. An ancient town of Boeotia in the territory of Haliartus, said to have been founded by Onchestus, a son of Poseidon. (Paus. ix. 26. § 5; Steph. B. s. v.) It possessed a celebrated temple and grove of Poseidon, which is mentioned by Homer (Ophcheston th, <* >eron Posideion, aglaon alsos, Il. ii. 506), and subsequent poets. (Pind. Isthm. i. 44, iv. 32; Lycophr. 645.) Here an Amphictyonic council of the Boeotians used to assemble. (Strab. ix. p. 412.) Pausanias says that Onchestus was 15 stadia from the mountain of the Sphinx, the modern Faga; and its position is still more accurately defined by Strabo. The latter writer, who censures Alcaeus for placing Onchestus at the foot of Mt. Helicon, says that it was in the Haliartia, on a naked hill near the Teneric plain and the Copaic lake. He further maintains that the grove of Poseidon existed only in the imagination of the poets; but Pausanias, who visited the place, mentions the grove as still existing. The site of Onchestus is probably marked by the Hellenic remains situated upon the low ridge which separates the two great Boeotian basins, those of lake Copais and of Thebes, and which connects Mount Fay with the roots of Helicon. (Leake, Northern Greece, vol. ii. p. 213, seq.; Gell, Itiner. p. 125.)

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


THESPIES (Ancient city) VIOTIA
  Thespiai (also Thespeia or Thespia, Eth. Thespieus, Thespiensis, fern. Thespias, Thespis: Adj. Thespiakos, Thespius, Thespiacus). An ancient city of Boeotia, situated at the foot of Mt. Helicon, looking towards the south and the Crissaean gulf, where stood its port-town Creusa or Creusis. (Strab. ix. p. 409; Paus. ix. 26. § 6; Steph. B. s. v.) Thespiae was said to have derived its name from Thespia, a daughter of Asopus, or from Thespius, a son of Erechtheus, who migrated from Athens. (Paus. l. c.; Diod. iv. 29.) The city is mentioned in the catalogue of Homer. (Il. ii. 498.) Thespiae, like Plataea, was one of the Boeotian cities inimical to Thebes, which circumstance affected its whole history. Thus Thespiae and Plataea were the only two Boeotian cities that refused to give earth and water to the heralds of Xerxes. (Herod. vii. 132.) Seven hundred Thespians joined Leonidas at Thermopylae; and they remained to perish with the 300 Spartans, when the other Greeks retired. (Herod. vii. 202, 222.) Their city was burnt by Xerxes, when he overran Boeotia, and the inhabitants withdrew to Peloponnesus. (Herod. viii. 50.) The survivors, to the number of 1800, fought at the battle of Plataea in the following year, but they were reduced to such distress that they had no heavy armour. (Herod. ix. 30.) After the expulsion of the Persians from Greece, Thespiae was rebuilt, and the inhabitants recruited their numbers by the admission of strangers as citizens. (Herod. viii. 75.) At. the battle of Delium (B.C. 424) the Thespians fought on the left wing against the Athenians, and were almost all slain at their post. (Thuc. iv. 93, seq.) In the following year (B.C. 423), the Thebans destroyed the walls of Thespiae, on the charge of Atticism, the Thespians being unable to offer any resistance in consequence of the heavy loss they had sustained while fighting upon the side of the Thebans. (Thuc. iv. 133.) In B.C. 414 the democratical party at Thespiae attempted to overthrow the existing government; but the latter receiving assistance from Thebes, many of the conspirators withdrew to Athens. (Thuc. vi. 95.) In B.C. 372 the walls of Thespiae were again destroyed by the Thebans. According to Diodorus (xv.46) and Xenophon (Hell. vi. 3. § 1) Thespiae was at this time destroyed by the Thebans, and the inhabitants driven out of Boeotia; but this happened after the battle of Leuctra, and Mr. Grote (Hist, of Greece, vol. x. p. 219) justly infers from a passage in Isocrates that the fortifications of the city were alone demolished at this period. Pausanias expressly states that a contingent of Thespians was present in the Theban army at the time of the battle of Leuctra, and availed themselves of the permission of Epaminondas to retire before the battle. (Paus. ix. 13. § 8, ix. 14. § 1.) Shortly afterwards the Thespians were expelled from Boeotia by the Thebans. (Paus. ix. 14. § 2.) Thespiae was afterwards rebuilt, and is mentioned in the Roman wars in Greece. (Polyb. xxvii. 1; Liv. xlii. 43.) In the time of Strabo, Thespiae and Tanagra were the only places in Boeotia that deserved the name of cities. (Strab. ix. p. 410.) Pliny calls Thespiae a free town ( liberum oppidum, iv. 7. s. 12). It is also mentioned by Ptolemy (iii. 15. § 20) and in the Antonine Itinerary (p. 326, ed. Wess.), and it was still in existence in the sixth century (Hierocl. p. 645, ed. Wess.).
  Eros or Love was the deity chiefly worshipped at Thespiae; and the earliest representation of the god in the form of a rude stone still existed in the city in the time of Pausanias (ix. 27. § 1). The courtesan Phryne, who was born at Thespiae, presented to her native city the celebrated statue of Love by Praxiteles, which added greatly to the prosperity of the place in consequence of the great numbers of strangers who visited the city for the purpose of seeing it. (Dicaearch. § 25, ed. Muller; Cic. Verr. iv. 2; Strab. ix. p. 410, who erroneously calls the courtesan Glycera; Paus. ix. 27. § 3.) In the time of Pausanias there was only an imitation of it at Thespiae by Menodorus. Among the other works of art in this city Pausanias noticed a statue of Eros by Lysippus, statues of Aphrodite and Phryne by Praxiteles; the agora, containing a statue of Hesiod; the theatre, a temple of Aphrodite Melaenis, a temple of the Muses, containing their figures in stone of small size, and an ancient temple of Hercules. (Paus. ix. 27.) Next to Eros, the Muses were specially honoured at Thespiae; and the festivals of the Erotidia and Mouseia celebrated by the Thespians on Mt. Helicon, at the end of every four years, are mentioned by several ancient writers. (Paus. ix. 31. § 3; Plut. Amat. 1; Athen. xiii. p. 561; K. F. Hermann, Lehrbuch der gottesd. Alterth. § 63, n. 4.) Hence the Muses are frequently called Thespiades by the Latin writers. (Varr. L. L. vii. 2; Cic. Verr. ii. 4; Ov. Met. v. 310; Plin. xxxvi. 5. s. 4, § 39, ed. Sillig.)
  The remains of Thespiae are situated at a place called Lefka from a deserted village of that name near the village of Erimokastro or Rimokastro. Unlike most other Greek cities, it stands in a plain surrounded by hills on either side, and its founders appear to have chosen the site in consequence of its abundant supply of water, the sources of the river Kanavari rising here. Leake noticed the foundations of an oblong or oval enclosure, built of very solid masonry of a regular kind, about half a mile in circumference; but he observes that all the adjacent ground to the SE. is covered, like the interior of the fortress, with ancient foundations, squared stones, and other remains, proving that if the enclosure was the only fortified part of the city, many of the public and private edifices stood without the walls. The site of some of the ancient temples is probably marked by the churches, which contain fragments of architraves, columns, and other ancient remains.

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

Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities


An ancient town of Boeotia, situated a little south of Lake Copais, near Haliartus, said to have been founded by Onchestus, son of Poseidon.


THESPIES (Ancient city) VIOTIA
   (Thespeiai and Thespiai), or Thespea (Thespeia, Thespia). Now Eremo or Rimokastro; an ancient town in Boeotia on the southeastern slope of Mount Helicon, at no great distance from the Crissaean Gulf. It was burned to the ground by the Persians, but subsequently rebuilt. At Thespiae was preserved the celebrated marble statue of Eros by Praxiteles, who had given it to Phryne, by whom it was presented to her native town. From the vicinity of Thespiae to Mount Helicon the Muses are called Thespiades, and Helicon itself is named the Thespia rupes.

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



Thespiae. City of Boeotia, west of Thebes.
  Thespiae was said to have been founded by Thespius, a son of Erechtheus, king of Athens. It is at the court of Thespius that Heracles undertook the first of his wondrous deeds (though not one of the 12 labors), the killing of the lion of Cithaeron.
  Thespiae was also linked to one version of the story of Narcissus. In that version, Narcissus was an extremely beautiful young man from Thespiae who despised the pleasures of love. He was loved by another young man of the neighborhood whom he kept turning down until one day, he offered the importunate lover a sword that the young man used to kill himself at Narcissus' front door, but not without cursing him before dying. And so it happened that, a little while later, Narcissus saw his reflection on the surface of a pond near a spring and fell in love with himself to the point that he too killed himself in despair. Where his blood fell on the grass, a flower grew that was called narcissus. After that, the people of Thespiae instituted a cult to Eros, the god of love, whose power had been so manifested.
  Thespiae was located next to Mount Helicon, the mountain of the Muses, where a temple was dedicated to them. The Muses were said to be daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (the Greek word for “memory”), herself the daughter of Uranus (“heaven” in Greek) and Gea (“earth” in Greek), and were conceived during nine consecutive nights of love between them in Pieria, a region of Macedon close to Mount Olympus. Under the leadership of Apollo, whose temple at Delphi was not far away from Mount Helicon, they presided, not only over music in the usual sense, but over all activities of the mind. In the list that became classic over time, they were;
  •Calliope, first in dignity, muse of epic poetry;
  •Clio, muse of history;
  •Polyhymnia, muse of lyric poetry, mime, learning and rhetoric;
  •Euterpe, muse of flute music;
  •Terpsichore, muse of dance and choral singing;
  •Erato, muse of lyric poetry;
  •Melpomene, muse of tragedy;
  •Thalia, muse of comedy and pastoral poetry;
  •Urania, muse of astronomy.

Bernard Suzanne (page last updated 1998), ed.
This extract is cited July 2003 from the Plato and his dialogues URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks.

Perseus Project

Onchestos, Onchestus


Perseus Project index

Thespiai, Thespia, Thespiae

THESPIES (Ancient city) VIOTIA

Present location

Pyrgaki Hill

ASKRA (Ancient city) VIOTIA



The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites


ASKRA (Ancient city) VIOTIA
  N of Mt. Helikon and 7 km NW of Thespiai, the site is on the N bank of the Permessos, the stream that runs through the Valley of the Muses. Legend has it that Askra was founded by Oikles and the sons of Poseidon, Otos and Ephialtes; it is the birthplace of the poet Hesiod. At some unknown date the Thespians were said to have destroyed the city, which thereafter became merely a kome of Thespiai, uninhabited in Plutarch's time. Pausanias saw there nothing but the tower that still stands on top of the rocky peak called Pyrgaki (cf. Keressos).
  Some travelers have placed Askra near the village of Neochori, 4 km W of Thespiai, on the slopes of Mt. Marandali (Pouqueville, Dodwell), others at Xironomi, a village 10 km SW of Thespiai (Kirsten). The limestone peak of Pyrgaki (633 m) dominates the Sanctuary of the Muses to the S from a height of 250 m; to the E the Haghios Christos valley separates it from the chain of hills running to Thespiai and Thebes; to the N it descends abruptly to the Kopaic basin, and to the W a narrow pass links it to Mt. Koursara (900 m). Exposed to the N wind and barred from the sea breezes by Mt. Helikon, Askra was, in Hesiod's words, a wretched village, bad in winter, disagreeable in summer, good at no time (Works and Days, 639-40). Where was the village? The slopes of this mountain are steep on all sides, its summit narrow and windswept and completely taken up by a small fort. Perhaps we should look for it toward the base of the slope, near cultivable land, on the S or SE flank. At the spot known as Episkopi, near the confluence of the Permessos and the Haghios Christos stream, are some ruins of mediaeval houses containing many ancient stones; nearby are a great quantity of archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic potsherds. However, up to now this area has never been dug.
  The little fort on the mountain top consists of an elliptical surrounding wall (approximately 150 x 30 m) that links the Tower of Askra, mentioned by Pausanias. To the E a postern gate 1.45 m wide opened onto the old pathway. The wall is of rough polygonal rubblework; 4.5 m thick, it very probably was topped with a palisade of stakes. At the highest point is a 7.7 m square tower, still with its 13 courses, very carefully built in isodomic masonry. The blocks, which were quarried on the spot, have a convex surface. The four corners of the tower are carefully grooved. To the E is a gate, 2 x 0.88 m, that leads to a narrow guard house (2 x 6 m), from which a stairway runs to the upper floor. The rest of the surface is filled with large blocks of stone divided into two lots by a cross-wall. A floor covered the whole surface (6 sq. m). In spite of the differences in masonry, the surrounding wall and tower may have been built together in the 4th c. B.C., either shortly before the battle of Leuktra (371) with the aid of the Spartans, or in the second half of the century.

P. Roesch, 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.


  NW of Thespiai, a fortified post in the Valley of the Muses N of Mt. Helikon. About the middle of the 6th c. B.C. the Thespians withdrew to the site at the time of the Thessalian invasion; the victory of the Boiotians liberated Greece. After the battle of Leuktra (371 B.C.) the Thespians again took refuge in Keressos, which Epaminondas succeeded in capturing. There is no further mention of the site.
  Keressos has been placed, variously, on the hill of Erimokastro immediately above Thespiai (Ulrichs), in the village of Neochori 4 km W of Thespiai (Leake, Boelte), on Mt. Marandali above Neochori (Fimmen) and even on the hill of Listi, 2 km N of Mavromati (Buck). It is most commonly identified with the limestone hill of Palaeopyrgos (493 m) ca. 2 km NW of Palaeopanagia, at the entrance to the Valley of the Muses. On top of this hill is a ruined mediaeval tower; the W slope of the hill bears traces of mediaeval houses. However, this hill with its gentle, never steep slopes is not a natural fortress; there are no traces of ancient buildings, and the few potsherds that have been found are late Roman or Byzantine (author's observations). Perhaps the fortress should be placed on the mountain of Askra, which has a 4th c. fort on its summit; this steep, strongly fortified hilltop could have served as an acropolis retreat to the citizens of Askra as well as to the inhabitants of the Valley of the Muses and Thespiai. The abandonment of the site would account for Pausanias' and Plutarch's silence on the subject of Keressos, according to Papahadjis.

P. Roesch, 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.


  A town NW of Thebes with a very ancient cult of Poseidon, the center of an amphictyony. It was the meeting place for the Boiotian confederacy in the Macedonian period. The town was burned by the Persians under Xerxes, and probably again by the Romans in 171 B.C. when nearby Haliartos was destroyed. Among the ruins, Pausanias saw the Temple of Poseidon, whose worship as inventor of the chariot was combined with that of the hero Hippodetes (Horsebreaker); divination was based on the behavior of unguided horses hitched to a chariot. The site, described by Pausanias as 15 furlongs (3 km) from the mountain of the Sphinx (Mt. Phaga), is generally agreed to be on the ridge between the two Boiotian plains. The road and railroad use the S and N passes over it; in the former there are a few blocks of an ancient wall at an angle to the road. Here Lauffer reported finding the limestone foundations of the temple.

M. H. Mc Allister, 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.


THESPIES (Ancient city) VIOTIA
  An ancient city situated between Thebes and Mt. Helikon, on the right bank of the Thespios (Kanavari) at the foot of the twin hills on which are the villages of Thespiai (formerly Erimokastro) and Leondari (formerly Kaskaveli).
  Inhabited from Neolithic times, Thespiai played an important part as a trading center in the Mycenaean era, thanks to its port Kreusis. Seven hundred Thespians fought in the ranks of the Greeks at Thermopylai in 480 B.C., and Xerxes razed the city. It was rebuilt by Athens, which provoked the lasting hostility of Thebes. From 447 to 423 Thespiai headed two of the 11 Boiotian districts; they included the Sanctuary of the Muses, Eutresis, Leuktra, Kreusis, and three independent cities from 338: Thisbe and the ports of Siphai and Chorsiai. The city lost many men at the battle of Delion in 424. Thebes razed the ramparts of the city in 423; the Spartans rebuilt them after 386, and in 371 Epaminondas made Thespiai a kome of Thebes. At his death (362) the city was restored, minted coins, and in 338 became one of the first cities of the new Boiotian Confederacy. From then on it remained prosperous until the Late Empire. The Attalids of Pergamon endowed it handsomely; the city enjoyed good relations with Macedonia, then with Rome which granted it the status of civitas libera et immunis (47 B.C.). Thespiai organized the Panhellenic festivals and contests in honor of the Muses (Mouseia) and Eros (Erotideia).
  The ancient city, which was excavated in the 19th c. has almost completely disappeared. S of the Kanavari river was a Byzantine surrounding wall (Kastro) whose demolition yielded more than 400 inscriptions and reliefs, some statues and architectural fragments (in the Thebes Museum and the National Museum). In the Kastro was discovered the Temple of the Muses (16.80 x 35.60 m) mentioned by Pausanias. The remains of a Temple of Apollo dating from the 5th c., a peripteral building with slender columns, were uncovered 2 km to the SW. To the E of the Kastro, on the Leuktra road, stood the great limestone lion on which the Lion of Chaironeia was modeled. The lion dominated a rectangular peribolos (32 x 23 m) within which were found a large number of cremated bodies, 5th c. vases, terracottas, and bronze and iron objects. In front of the lion were nine aligned stelai bearing the names of 102 Thespians who fell at the battle of Delion (424), as well as a paved pathway lined with tombs.
  Twelve km to the S in the Livadostro bay was the port of Thespiai, Kreusis. It was protected by a 4th c. fortress; the rampart, which is built in regular courses, has several square towers and an older round tower at the top. At the E end of the bay of Domvraina is the port of Siphai (Aliki) whose fortress, built on a steep rock, is well preserved. At the summit (Mavrovouni) of the coastal chain, on the road from Thespiai to Siphai, is a square 4th c. tower; close by, inside a surrounding wall of partly polygonal masonry are the remains of an archaic temple, possibly dedicated to Artemis Agrotera. The port of Chorsiai (Paralia) is farther W, 8 km S of Thisbe on the bay of Sarandi; overlooking it is a fortress built on a rocky spur that runs down from Mt. Helikon. N of the fortress are the foundations of a Temple of Hera mentioned in an inscription.

P. Roesch, 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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