previous next

GYTHELON or Gythion, Lakonia, Greece.

Town and port at the back of the Gulf of Lakonia. It is to the W of the mouth of the Eurotas and some 45 km from Sparta (Strab. 8.5.2; Paus. 3.21.6). Legend says it was founded jointly by Herakles and Apollo, reconciled after their quarrel over the Delphic tripod. It is on the small island of Kranai, ca. 100 m from the shore and to the S of the ancient city, that Paris is supposed to have first united with Helen (Il. 3.445). And in fact, it is there that the most ancient archaeological remains have been found (Mycenaean sherds, obsidian laminae). Nothing is known of the town in the archaic period. Protogeometric vases, doubtless from a necropolis, have been found on the Mavrovouni mound 3 km to the SW. A text of a religious prohibition was cut into the rock in the 6th c. (IG v.1, 1155). Gythion must have been used by Sparta from a rather early time as both a port and arsenal. It is mentioned as such in all the conflicts in which Sparta was involved. It was ravaged in 456-455 by the Athenian admiral Tolmides (Thuc. 1108.5; Diod. 11.84; Paus. 1.27.5), closely watched by Alkibiades in 408 (Xen. Hell. 1.4.11), and having been taken in 369 by the Thebans of Epaminondas (ibid. 6.5.32) after a three day siege, it was recaptured by the Spartans shortly before 362 (Polyaen. 2.9). In 218, Philip V of Macedon devastated the surrounding countryside but did not attack the city itself (Polyb. 5.19.6). In 195, Nabis concentrated his fleet there and made the town a point of strategic support. But attacked by Flamininus, the garrison surrendered in exchange for permission to withdraw to Sparta (Livy 34.29). In the treaty concluded shortly afterwards the city was given autonomy, and the title of “savior” was consequently conferred on Flamininus (IG v.1, 1165), Nabis attacked the city again in 193, and took it in 192. After his death it appears to have been under Achaian control until 146 B.C. Then it was a member of the Eleutheriolakonian League. In 72-71 M. Antonius Creticus taxed it heavily for his campaign against the pirates (IG v.1, 1146). Under the Empire it instituted a festival in which divine honors were rendered to Augustus, Livia, Flamininus, and Tiberius, despite the fact that the latter at first refused them. Gytheion struck bronze coinage under Septimius Severus, Caracalla, and Geta, and appears to have been prosperous up to the 4th c. A.D.

The only excavations—and these have been only very summarily published—have been of the theater and its surroundings, where a Kaisareion must have been located. The tiers of the theater are well preserved. The modern town has covered the ancient one, and certain monuments visible in the 19th c. are no longer so today, as, for example, the great niche cut into the rock and bearing an inscription mentioning Zeus Terastios (IG v.1, 1154). A few remains of Roman buildings are to be seen on the hill to the N of the theater. Walls can be made out under the sea at the point where the shore turns to the NE. A small museum has been installed in the local college, but several important pieces disappeared shortly before 1939, and others have been taken to the museum at Sparta.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Reports of Travelers: Cyriacus of Ancona (ed. Sabbadini), Fontes Ambrosiani (repr. from Miscellanea Ceriani) II 29-30; Voyage de Dimo et Nico Stéphanopoli en Grèce (1800) 225-46; J. Morritt (ed. R. Walpole), Memoirs relating to Turkey (1820) 57; Bory de Saint-Vincent, Expedition de Morée: Relation (1829) 440-46; W. M. Leake, Morea (1830) I 234-48; E. Puillon-Boblaye, Recherches . . . (1835) 86-90; A. Blouet, Expéd. Morée: Architecture (1838) III 50-53; Ph. Le Bas, Voyage archéologique . . . (1847-68) pl. 26MP; J. Frazer, Paus. Des. Gr. (1897) III 376-80; E. S. Forster, BSA 10 (1906-7) 218-37.

Studies and Excavations: G. Weber, De Gytheo (Diss. Heidelberg 1833); A. Skias, Praktika (1891) 27-34; id., Deltion (1891) 113; id., ArchEph (1892) 60-64, 185-204PI; I. Patsourakos, Pragmateia peri tou archaiou Gytheiou (1902); F. Versakis, ArchEph (1912) 193-96PI; W. Kolbe, IG v.1 (1913), no. 1143-1213; J. J. Hondius, BSA 24 (1921-22) 141-43; S. B. Kougeas, Ellenika 1 (1928) 7-42, 152-57; H. Waterhouse & R. Hope Simpson, BSA 56 (1961) 114-18; P. Giannacopoulos, To Gytheion (1966).

C. LE ROY

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: