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EPHYRA (Ephyre) or Kichyros W Epeiros, Greece.

In Elis of Thesprotia, 800 m N of the junction of the Kok(k)ytos river with the Acheron, 4.5 km E of the bay of Ammoudia where ancient Glykys Limen (Strabo 7.7.5) or Eleas Limen (Ps. Skylax 30; Ptol. 3.14.5) were located, and into which the Acheron flows. Thucydides (1.46.4) says that near the Cheimerion promontory (modern Glossa) which shelters the bay on the N “there is a harbor, and above it lies a city away from the sea in the Eleatic district of Thesprotia, Ephyra by name. Near it is the outlet into the sea of the Acherusian Lake.” Strabo (7.7.5) gives the same information and adds that in his time Ephyra was called Kichyros.

Neoptolemos landed at Ephyra on his return from Troy (Pind. Nem. 7.37-39) and Odysseus came there later to get poison for his arrows (Od. 1 .259f). Theseus and Perithoos came to snatch away Persephone, the wife of Aidoneus the king of Ephyra. These were none other than Persephone and Hades, the gods of the underworld, who had a shrine and an oracle at Ephyra (Paus. 1.17.4-5, 9.36.3; Plut. Theseus 31.35).

The site of Ephyra is confirmed by the excavation of the ancient oracle of the dead on the hill of Agios Ioannis near the village of Mesopotamos, 150 m N of the junction of the Kok(k)ytos with the Acheron. The remains of three ancient wall circuits are preserved, 600 m farther N, on the limestone hill of Xylokastro (elev. 83 m). The outer one, surrounding an area of 4.2 ha, is cyclopean; its circumference is 1120 m and one gate in the S side is 2.3 m wide.

The central sanctuary building of the oracle of the dead is surrounded by a very thick (3.3 m) polygonal wall. The building is divided into three sections, a central aisle without divisions (beneath which is a great vaulted crypt), and two side sections each divided into three rooms. The walls stand to a height of 3.5 m; they show damage from a fire that destroyed the sanctuary and buried the offerings. In the side rooms were great piles of wheat and barley, pithoi which had contained cereals and liquid, perhaps honey. Various iron implements such as plows, shovels, and sickles were also found. In the first room on the left were two busts of Persephone in terracotta (ht. 0.2 m). The first room to the right contained eight pithoi around the walls, many vases, and much carbonized grain. The second room contained piles of bowls, overturned amphorae, a marble basin, and again much carbonized grain. In one of the corridors outside were traces of pyres and of pits with the bones of sacrificed animals—sheep and goats, bulls, and a few pigs.

The existing monumental remains date from Hellenistic times, but the location of the sanctuary and the types of sacrifices attested by the remains correspond closely with Homer's description (Od. 10.508ff; 11.24ff; cf. Paus. 1.17.5).

The finds within the acropolis, chiefly sherds of local pottery of the Bronze Age and Mycenaean sherds of LH III A-B, together with the worship of the pre-Hellenic chthonic goddess Persephone and the local name (Kichyros), indicate that a native settlement of the Bronze Age was resettled in the 14th c. B.C. by colonists most probably from the W Peloponnese.

After the surrender of the Elean colonies in Kassopaia to Philip II of Macedon in 343-342 B.C. (Dem. 7.32) and their subjection to the Thesprotians, Ephyra appears to have reverted to its pre-Hellenic name, Kichyros, which had been kept alive in some neighboring Thesprotian settlement (Kichyros, the former Ephyra: Strab. 7.7.5, 8.3.5). Some finds, chiefly pottery of the 1st c. B.C., confirm the statement of Pausanias (1.17.5) that Kichyros was in existence in his time.


A. Philippson, RE 6, 1 (1907) 20, No. 7; id. & E. Kirsten, Die Griechischen Landschaften II, 1 (1956) 104, 106, 242, 280; S. Dakaris, Ἀνασκαφικαί ἔρευναι εἰς τήν Ὁμηρικήν Ἐφύραν καί τό Νεκυομαντεῖον τῆς ἀρχαίας Θεσπρωτίας (1958) 107-13; id., “Das Taubenorakel von Dodona und das Totenorakel bei Ephyra,” AntK (1963) Beih. 1, 35-54MP; id., Θεσπρωτία (1972) 62-63, 74, 80, 95, 133-34, 199-200; N.G.L. Hammond, Epirus (1967) 369, 372, 379, 393, 478, 483.


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