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THESPIAL Boiotia, Greece.

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. Stamatakis in Praktika (1883), 65-74PI; P. Jamot in BCH 15 (1891) 659-60; 18 (1894) 201-15I; 19 (1895) 321-385; A. Kéramopoullos in Praktika (1911) 153-63; G. Rodenwaldt, “Thespische Reliefs,” Jahrbuch 28 (1913) 309-39; En Grèce (1914); G. de Ridder in BCH 46 (1922) 217-306I; W. A. Heurtley in BSA 27 (1923-24) 38-45; Fiehn in RE (1936) s.v. Thespeia; P. Roesch, Thespies et la Confédération béotienne (1965)MPI; N. Papahadjis, Pausaniou Hellados Periegesis V (1969) 162-72, 187-90MI; J. M. Fossey & R. A. Tomlinson, BSA 65 (1970) 243-63PI.


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