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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites

Sanctuary of the Muses, Mt. Helicon

  Situated in the upper valley of the Permessos (Archontitza) between Mt. Zagara and Mt. Marandali (Helikon) to the S and Mt. Koursara and Mt. Pyrgaki (Ascra) to the N, 8 km W of Thespiai. Formerly wooded, the valley was the alsos or Sacred Grove of the Muses; the sanctuary has been located around the Haghia Trias Chapel on the right bank of the Permessos. Underneath the walls of the Chapel of Haghia Trias, which stands on a terrace 50 m from the Permessos, was found the base of the Great Altar of the Muses (until 1954 mistakenly called "Temple of the Muses"). It faces E, is 5.80 m long and 9.80 m wide, and stands on two courses of white poros and one leveling course of conglomerate. The platform, built of well-bonded limestone blocks, was approached up a step on the W side; the altar covered two-thirds of its surface to the E. Forty m W of the altar the remains of a long N-S portico was discovered; it was open to the E and measured 96 x 10 m. The E colonnade (36 monolithic columns) was Ionic, the side colonnade, which supported the roof, Corinthian. Architectural fragments of this portico, of stone and terracotta, are in the Thebes Museum. N of the altar, on the left bank of the Permessos, a second portico was identified at least 48 m long. All these monuments date from the 3d c. B.C. at the earliest. Some 300 m SW of the great portico on the foothill of the mountain is a natural semicircular depression that marks the site of the theater. There were no stone tiers, but the seats in the proedria row were no doubt of marble. The skene, which was more than 7 m deep and erected on an artificial terrace, has collapsed; the proskenion, which was about 22 m wide and 3 m deep, was built on the ground; the limestone stylobate supported 12 Doric half-columns 2 m high, monolithic and engaged in square pilasters. There were many statues in the Valley of the Muses, some of the bases of which are in the Thebes Museum. Near the altar and the portico, possibly, was the great semicircle on which stood the statues of the nine Muses. The site has been excavated.

P. Roesch, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Jan 2003 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.


Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

Helicon

   A famous mountain in Boeotia, near the Gulf of Corinth. It was sacred to Apollo and the Muses, who were thence called Heliconiades. This mountain was famed for the purity of its air, the abundance of its water, its fertile valleys, the density of its shades, and the beauty of the venerable trees which clothed its sides. On the summit was the grove of the Muses, where these divinities had their statues, and where also were statues of Apollo and Hermes, of Bacchus by Lysippus, of Orpheus, and of famous poets and musicians. A little below the grove was the fountain of Aganippe. The source Hippocrene was about twenty stadia above the grove. It is said to have burst forth when the horse Pegasus struck his hoof into the ground, whence its name, hippou krene. These two springs supplied two small rivers named Olmius and Permessus, which, after uniting their waters, flowed into the lake Copais, near Haliartus. The modern name of Helicon is Palaeovouni, and of Hippocrene, Kryopegadi, or "cold spring."

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


Orevatein WebPages

Perseus Project

Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)

Helicon

  Helicon (Helikon), a mountain in Boeotia lying between lake Copais and the Corinthian gulf, and which may be regarded as a continuation of the range of Parnassus. It is celebrated as the favourite haunt of the Muses, to whom the epithet of Heliconian is frequently given by both the Greek and Roman poets (hai Helikoniai parthenoi, Pind. i. 7. 57; hai Helikoniades, Hes. Theog. 1; Soph. Oed. Tyr. 1008; Heliconiades, Lucret. iii. 1050; Heliconides, Pers. prooem. 4). Its poetical celebrity is owing to the fact of its having been the seat of the earliest school of poetry in Greece Proper; for at its foot was situated Ascra, the residence of Hesiod, the most eminent poet of this school.
  Helicon is a range of mountains with several summits, of which the loftiest is a round mountain now called Paleovuni. Helicon is described by Strabo as equal to Parnassus, both in height and circumference (ix. p. 409); but this is a mistake as far as height is concerned, since the loftiest summit of Helicon is barely 5000 feet high, while that of Parnassus is upwards of 8000 feet. Pausanias says that of all the mountains in Greece Helicon is the most fertile, and produces the greatest number of trees and shrubs, though none of a poisonous character, while several of them are useful in counteracting the bites of venomous serpents. (Paus. ix. 28.) There is, however, a considerable difference between the eastern and western sides of the mountain; for while the eastern slopes abounded in springs, groves, and fertile valleys, the western side was more rugged and less susceptible of cultivation. It was the eastern or Boeotian side of Helicon which was especially sacred to the Muses, and contained many objects connected with their worship, of which Pausanias has left us an account. On Helicon was a sacred grove of the Muses, to which Pausanias ascended from Ascra. On the left of the road, before reaching the grove of the Muses, was the celebrated fountain of Aganippe (Aganippe), which was believed to inspire those who drank of it, and from which the Muses were called Aganippides. (Paus. ix. 25. § 5; Catull lxi. 26; Virg. Ecl. x. 12.)
  Placing Ascra at Pyrguaki, there is little doubt that Aganippe is the fountain which issues from the left bank of the torrent, flowing midway between Paleo-panaghia and Pyrgaki. Around this fountain Leake observed numerous squared blocks, and in the neighbouring fields stones and remains or habitations. The position of the Grove of the Muses is fixed at St. Nicholas by an inscription which Leake discovered there relating to the Museia, of games of the Muses, which were celebrated there under the presidency of the Thespians. (Paus. ix. 31. § 3.) St. Nicholas is a church and small convent beautifully situated in a theatre-shaped hollow at the foot of Mt. Marandali, which is one of the summits of Helicon. In the time of Pausanias the grove of the Muses contained a larger number of statues than any other place in Boeotia; and this writer has given an account of many of them. The statues of the Muses were removed by Constantine from this place to his new capital, where they were destroyed by fire in A.D. 404. (Euseb. Vit. Const. iii. 54; Sozom. ii. 5; Zosim. ii. 21, v. 24, quoted by Leake.)
  Twenty stadia above the Grove of the Muses was the fountain Hippocrene (Hippokrene), which was said to have been produced by the horse Pegasus striking the ground with his feet. (Paus. ix. 31. § 3; Strab. ix. p. 410.) Hippocrene was probably at Makarioitissa, which is noted for a fine spring of water, although, as Leake remarks, the twenty stadia of Pausanias accord better with the direct distance than with that by the road. The two fountains of Aganippe and Hippocrene supplied the streams called Olmeius and Permessus, which, after uniting their waters, flowed by Haliartus into the lake Copais. (Hes. Theog. 5, seq.; see Boeotia, p. 413, a.)
  Another part of Helicon, also sacred to the Muses, bore the name of Mount Leibethrium (Leibethrion). It is described by Pausanias (ix. 34. § 4) as distant 40 stadia from Coroneia, and is therefore probably the mountain of Zagara, which is completely separated from the great heights of Helicon by an elevated valley, in which are two villages named Zagara, and above them, on the rugged mountain, a monastery; This is Leake's opinion; but Dodwell and Gell identify it with Granitza, which is, however, more probably Laphystium. On Mount Leibethrium there were statues of the Muses and of the Leibethrian nymphs, and two fountains called Leibethrias and Petra, resembling the breasts of a woman, and pouring forth water like milk. (Paus. ix. 34. § 4.) There was a grotto of the Leibethrian nymphs. (Strab. ix. p. 410, x. p. 471; Serv. ad Virg. Ecl vii. 21.) (See Leake, Northern Greece, vol. ii. pp. 141, 205, 489-500, 526.)

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


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