Information about the place KYNOURIA (Province) ARCADIA - GTP - Greek Travel Pages

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Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


  Cynuria (Eth. Kunourios, Kunoureus), a district on the eastern coast of Peloponnesus, between the Argeia and Laconia, so called from the Cynurians, one of the most ancient tribes in the peninsula. Herodotus (viii. 73) regards them as Autochthones, but at the same time calls them Ionians. There can be little doubt, however, that they were Pelasgians; but in consequence of their maritime position, they were regarded as a different race from the Arcadian Pelasgians, and came to be looked upon as Ionians, which was the case with the Pelasgians dwelling upon the coast of the Corinthian gulf, in the district afterwards called Achaia. They were a semi-barbarous and predatory tribe, dwelling chiefly in the eastern slopes of Mount Parnon; but their exact boundaries cannot be defined, as they were only a tribe, and never formed a political body. At a later time they were almost confined to the Thyreatis, or district of Thyrea. (See below.) Originally they extended much further south. Upon the conquest of Peloponnesus by the Dorians, the Cynurians were subdued by the Argeians, whose territory at one time extended along the eastern coast of Peloponnesus down to Cape Malea. (Herod. i. 82.) The Cynurians were now reduced to the condition of Argive Perioeci. (Herod. viii. 73.) They continued the subjects of Argos for some time; but as Sparta rose in power, she endeavoured to increase her territory at the expense of Argos; and Cynuria, but more especially the fertile district of the Thyreatis, was a frequent subject of contention between the two states, and was in possession sometimes of the one, and sometimes of the other power. As early as the reign of Echestratus, the son of Agis, who is placed about B.C. 1000, the Spartans are said to have gained possession of Cynuria (Paus. iii. 2. § 2), but they were driven out of it subsequently, and it continued in the hands of the Argives till about B.C. 547, when the celebrated battle was fought between the 300 champions from either nation. (Herod. i. 82: for details see Diet. of Biogr. art. Othryades.) But the great victory of Cleomenes over the Argives near Tiryns, shortly before the Persian wars, was the event which secured to the Spartans undisputed possession of Cynuria for a long time. When the Aeginetans were expelled from their own island by the Athenians, at the commencement of the Peloponnesian war (B.C. 431), the Spartans allowed them to settle in the Thyreatis, which at that time contained two towns, Thyrea and Anthene or Athene, both of which were made over to the fugitives. (Thuc. ii. 27; comp. v. 41.) Here they maintained themselves till the 8th year of the Peloponnesian war, when the Athenians made a descent upon the coast of the Thyreatis, where they found the Aeginetans engaged in building a fortress upon the sea. This was forthwith abandoned by the latter, who took refuge in the upper city (he ano polis) at the distance of 10 stadia from the sea; but the Athenians followed them, took Thyrea, which they destroyed, and dragged away the inhabitants into slavery. (Thuc. iv. 56, 57.) Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, gave back the Thyreatis to the Argives, and extended their territory along the coast as far as Glympeis and Zarax. It continued to belong to the Argives in the time of Pausanias (ii. 38. § 5); but even then the ancient boundary quarrels between the Argives and Spartans still continued (Paus. vii. 11. § 1).
  The Thyreatis (Thnreatis), or territory of Thyrea (Thurea, also Thureai), which is the only district that can be safely assigned to Cynuria, is one of the most fertile plains in the Peloponnesus. It extends about 6 miles in length along the coast, south of the pass Anigraea and the mountain Zavitza. Its breadth is narrow, as the projecting spurs of Mount Parnon are never more than 3 miles, and sometimes only about a mile from the coast. It is watered by two streams; one on its northern, and the other on its southern extremity. The former called Tanus or Tanaus (Tanos, Paus. ii. 38. § 7; Tanaos, Eurip. Electr. 413), now the river of Luku, rises in the summits of Mt. Parnon near St. Peter, and falls into the sea, at present north of Astros, but till recently south of the latter place. It formed the boundary between the.Argeia and Laconia in the time of Euripides, who accordingly represents it as the boundary between the two states in the heroic age. The stream, which waters the southern extremity of the plain, is smaller than the Tanos; it also rises in Mt. Parnon, and falls into the sea near St. Andrew. It is now sometimes called the river of Kani, from one of the summits of Parnon; sometimes, the river of St. Andrew: it appears in ancient times to have borne the name of Charadrus, which is described by Statius (Theb. iv. 46), as flowing in a long valley near Neris. Between these two rivers, at the nartowest part of the plain, is a salt marsh called Mustos, formed by some salt-springs rising at the foot of the calcareous mountains. The bay between the two rivers was called the Thyreatic gulf (ho Thureates kolpos, Paus. ii. 38. § 7).
  Besides Thyrea and Anthena or Athena, mentioned by Thucydides, two other place in the Thyreatis are noticed by Pausanias (ii. 38. § 5, seq.), namely, Neris and Eva (Eua). Pausanias entered the Thyreatis by the pass of the Anigraea; and after following the road along the coast, turned upwards into the interior, and came to Thyrea (ionti ano pros ten epeiron Thurea chorion estin), where he saw the sepulchres of the 300 Argive, and 300 Spartan champions. On leaving these, he came first to Anthena, next to Neris, and lastly to Eva, which he describes as the largest of the three villages, containing a sanctuary of Polemocrates, son of Machaon, who was honoured here as a god or hero of the healing art. Above these villages was the range of Mt. Parnon, where, not far from the sources of the Tanaus, the boundaries of the Lacedaemonians, Argives, and Tegeatae joined, and were marked by stone Hermae.
  Neris is also mentioned by Statius (Theb. iv. 46), who describes it as situated in a long valley: Quaeque pavet longa spumantem valle Charadrum Neris. Eva, in the Thyreatis, is probably also meant by Stephanus B., though he calls it a city of Arcadia.
  The identification of these places has given rise to much dispute, and cannot be satisfactorily determined; for although there are several ancient remains in the Thyreatis, no inscriptions have been found, containing the names of places, and none of the ruins are in such positions as at once to identify them with the ancient towns. There are two roads in the Thyreatis; one along the coast leading from the pass of the Anigraea, and the other across the mountains. Upon the coast-road we find ancient remains at three places.
(1.) Astros is now the chief place in the district, where persons land coming from Nauplia by sea. The present town, however, is of recent date, having been built during the War of Independence,and has become of importance in consequence of the second national assembly of the Greeks having, met here in 1823. It is situated on the southern side of a promontory, which projects some distance into the sea, about 10 minutes south of the mouth of the Tanus. Although the town is of modern origin, it is supposed that the place has retained its name from antiquity, and that it is the Astrum (Astron) of Ptolemy, in whose list it occurs as the frontier town of Argolis, between the Lacedaemonian Prasiae and the mouths of the Inachus. (Ptol. iii. 16. § 11.) On the land side of the promontory towards the river, are considerable remains of an ancient wall, built of large unhewn blocks of stone, the interstices between which are filled up with smaller stories; like the well known walls of Tiryns. On the other sides of the hill there are no traces of walls, nor are there any other remains of an ancient town.
(2.) About half an hour S. of Astros, to the right hand of the road, there were formerly Hellenic remains, which have now entirely disappeared.
(3.) Further south, at St. Andrew, on the coast, and immediately south of the river of Kani, at the very edge of the plain, are the remains of an ancient town. The foundations of the walls, about 9 feet in breadth, may still be traced, as well as the foundations of towers. Within the walls the highest point, on which the church of St. Andrew now stands, was the acropolis.
  Upon the road across the mountains there are likewise remains of three ancient places.
(1.) In crossing Mount Zavitza, we find upon the descent on the southern side the ruins of a fortress, which commanded the road from the Argeia to. the Thyreatis.
(2.) Further on, at the foot of Zavitza, close to the river Tanus and the monastery of Luku, considerable remains of ancient art have been discovered. The Museum of Athens possesses a fine Caryatid figure, and two striking bas-reliefs, brought from this place. The ancient remains at Luku are far more considerable than any other which have been discovered in the Thyreatis.
(3.) From the monastery of Luku the road goes towards Mt. Parnon, over the heights which extend between the two rivers of the Thyreatis. To the left of this road are the ruins of an ancient fortress, situated upon a lofty rock, and known in the country by the name of Helleniko.
  The great difficulty is to identify Thyrea with any of these sites. Leake and Ross suppose that the wall at Astros is the one commenced by the Aeginetans, in the eighth year of the Peloponnesian war, and which they were prevented from finishing by the arrival of the Athenians. They further believe that the ruins at Luku are those of Thyrea; though, instead of being only 10 stadia from the sea, as Thucydides states, they are more than three times that distance. Curtius, on the other hand, thinks that the remains at St. Andrew represent Thyrea, and that Pausanias came to this point before he turned into the interior. He observes that the wall at Astros belongs to a much more ancient period than the time of the Peloponnesian war, and that the remains at Luku do not exhibit traces of a town, and are more characteristic of a Roman villa than of an Hellenic city. But to the hypothesis of Curtius the words of Thucydides and Pausanias seem fatal,--the former describing Thyrea as the upper city at the distance of 10 stadia from the sea; and the latter, as situated in the interior of the country. Supposing Luku to represent Thyrea, the ruins at St. Andrew must be those of a city not mentioned by any ancient writer. It is evident from the route of Pausanias, that they cannot represent either Anthena, Neris, or Eva. Leake, indeed, supposes them to be those of the Lacedaemonian Brasiae or Prasiae, chiefly on the ground of the order of names in Ptolemy; but the city at St. Andrew, being in the plain of the Thyreatis, must clearly have belonged to the latter district; and Prasiae ought probably to be placed further south at Tyro.
  The position of Thyrea being so uncertain, it would be useless to endeavour to fix the site of the other ancient places in the Thyreatis.
  On the heights of Mt. Parnon, in the north-eastern extremity of the ancient Laconia, is a district now called Tzakonia, the inhabitants of which speak a peculiar dialect, which more closely resembles the ancient Greek than any of the other dialects spoken in modern Greece. Their principal town is Kastanitza. Their name is evidently a corruption of Laconia; but Thiersch conjectures with some probability, that they are the descendants of the ancient Cynurians, and have retained with the tenacity of mountaineers the language of their forefathers. A full account of the Tzakonic dialect has been given by Thiersch (Abhandlung. der Bayr. Akad. vol. i. p. 511, seq.), an abstract of which will be found in Leake's Peloponnesiaca (p. 304, seq.).

This extract 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

Perseus Project

Cynuria, Cynurians, Cynurian


Ancient Kynouria (Cynuria)

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