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MELIBOIA Thessaly, Greece.

One of the chief cities of Magnesia, most probably located near modern Polydendri and perhaps Skiti. It was on the coast (Strab. 9.436, et al.), N of Kasthanaic (Mela 2.35) and apparently between Ossa and Pelion on a route from Macedonia to Demetrias (Livy 46.13.2). It was subject to Philoktetes (Homer B. 717, and elsewhere). Part of Xerxes' fleet washed up here after being dispersed by a storm (Hdt. 7.188). The city issued silver and bronze coinage in the 4th c. B.C. It was allied to Pherai, but its inhabitants were killed or sold into slavery by Alexander of Pherai in the course of his struggle with the Thessalian League (Plut. Pel. 29). Magnesia was occupied by the Macedonians under Philip II, and remained virtually Macedonian until the Roman liberation of Greece in 196 B.C. Meliboia is not mentioned as being part of the Magnetian synoecism which created Demetrias in 293 B.C. It was besieged by the Romans in 169 B.C. so as to facilitate a siege of Demetrias, but the siege was relieved (Livy 44.13). It was captured and plundered by the Romans the next year, at the time of, or after the battle of Pydna (Livy 44.46.3). The city was noted for its purple dye (Vergil Aen. 5.251; Lucr. 2.500).

At Palaiokastro (by Kato Polydendri) on the coast near the modern town of Polydendri (whose center is some 2 km inland) are the ruins of an ancient town. These are on a rocky hill which makes a promontory at the S end of a long beach (Agniokampos) extending from Cape Kissavos. The promontory is just S of the mouth of the river Bourboulithra. Scanty remains of the ancient city wall, apparently of good 4th c. construction, have been noted above an overgrown ravine at the S edge of the hill. Some sections of the W wall were seen by Stählin (writing in 1931). The area of the hill enclosed by the wall must have been very small. On the end of the promontory are quarried areas and rock-cut steps. To the N and S of the point are inlets which might serve as harbors. On the hill the foundations of a large rectangular building were noted in 1957. Good black-glazed sherds have been found here. Walls of modern houses in the vicinity contain ancient blocks. A tile fragment with the name of the Meliboians stamped on it was found at the “Kastro” of Polydendri, apparently identical with this site (see Woodward), which makes the identification most likely. From this area came an early 5th c. B.C. marble head of a young man, and two male and one female marble torsos of the 4th c. B.C. (now in Volo).

About 6 km inland, W of Palaiokastro and a little N of modern Skiti there is another ancient site. This is on a high bluff to the S of and overlooking the river Potamia or Aguiokampos which flows between the masses of Ossa and Pelion. The bluff falls off steeply to W, N, and E, so the only easy access is along the neck from the S. A city wall, ca. 1,250 m in circuit, ran around the bluff. It is best preserved where it was originally strongest, on the S, where one rectangular tower is preserved; the rest of the wall is somewhat zigzagged, but was apparently built without towers. The wall is about one m thick, built of rough field stones laid in fairly regular courses, cemented with mortar. Here and there some bigger stones are incorporated. In the SW part of the enclosure are the remains of a stuccoed cistern, and Leake reported some remains of buildings. The site at Skiti controls the only practicable route from the N along the Magnesian coast and inland to Larissa or the Gulf of Pagasni. It is argued by Pritchett that the site at Palaiokastro is Herodotos' Meliboia, and the site at Skiti the Meliboia of 169 B.C. The date of the Skiti site, however, remains uncertain, although evidently late. It has been suggested that it might be Byzantine Kentauropolis, a fort said to have been restored by Justinian (Procop. De aed. 4.3.13).


A. M. Woodward, AAA 3 (1910) 157f, nos. 11, 12 (cf. JHS 33 [1913] 313, n. 2); W. M. Leake, Nor. Gr. (1835) IV 412f (site at Skiti only, not identified with Meliboia); F. Stählin, Das Hellenische Thessalien (1924) 49-51M; id., RE (1931) s.v. Meliboia 2 (had visited both sites); N. I. Giannopoulos, ArchEph (1930) 169ffI; (1931) 175; (1932) parart. 19 (statues and inscriptions); F. Brommer, AM 65 (1940) 105-7I (5th c. head); H. Biesantz, AA (1957) 57I; (1959) 78-82I (site at Skiathá-Palaiokastro); id., Die Thessalischen Grabreliefs (1965) 129-30I (statues); W. K. Pritchett, AJA 67 (1963) 2I (both sites).


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