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MESOPOTAMON (Likouresi, Haghios Kharalambos) Epeiros, Greece.

A site in Thesprotia lying E of the promontory known as Χειμέριον, downstream from the confluence of the Acheron and Kokytos rivers and N of the Acherusian marshes. The hill of Xylocastro with the Chapel of Haghios Joannis Prodromos (18th c.) on top of it dominates the village to the N, which is also called Ἐφύρα (Thuc. 1.46). In excavations carried out from 1958 to 1961, the nekyomanteion or oracle of the dead, which was famous in antiquity, was uncovered. Legend has it that Theseus and Herakles passed this way on their descent to Hades and that here Odysseus also passed to consult the prophet Tiresias.

In the historic period, Periander, tyrant of Corinth (early 6th c.), who had killed his wife Melissa (Hdt. 3.50), nevertheless wanted to find out from her where she had placed a certain sum of money when she was alive. He twice sent to consult Melissa's shade (Hdt. 5.92, end).

Strabo says that already in his day the appearance of the landscape had changed owing to the alluvial deposits of the Acheron (7.7.7), but the hill of Xylocastro had preserved the sanctuary almost intact. It consists of a rectangular temenos with an entrance to the N, bounded by a polygonal wall (3.2 m high and 3.3 m thick) measuring 62.4 x 46.3 m. Inside the temenos is a central monument, square in plan (21.8 x 21.3 m) which, in turn, encloses the nekyomanteion proper. This is a central building (15.3 x 4.4 m) with walls 1 m thick standing more than 3 m above ground. The middle bay was erected over a crypt whose roof was supported by arches on pillars; there was no entrance. This apparently was the House of Hades, Aidos doma. The way into the rooms lay along a kind of corridor in the form of a maze, no doubt illustrating the wanderings of the soul in Erebus. The consultant, after first undergoing incubation and purification, reached the sanctuary proper where he made his offerings; traces of these have been found (cereals, carbonized chick peas, small bowls, etc.). Figurines of Persephone (3d c.) ca. 22 cm high can be taken to confirm the purpose of the sanctuary, which still confronts the visitor with the sinister image of death. It is not known how the souls appeared to the consultant and were able to converse with him.

The complex was probably destroyed in 168 in the Roman invasion; indeed, the objects found on the site match this date (second half of the 2d c.). Pausanias (1.17.5) says that Homer must have seen the place, and that the Kokytos was a dismal stream.


A. Philippson & E. Kirsten, GL (1956) II.1 104; BCH (1959) 665-69; (1961) 729-33; S. Dakaris, “The Dark Palace of Hades,” Archaeology 15 (1962) 85-93; id., “Das Taubenorakel von Dodona und das Totenorakel bei Ephyra, Neue Ausgrabungen in Griechenland,” AntK suppl. (1963) 51-54MIP; R. Hope Simpson, A Gazetteer and Atlas of Mycenaean Sites (1965) 93, no. 318; N.G.L. Hammond, Epirus (1967) 64, 478, & passimMP; E. Meyer in Kl. Pauly s.v. Acheron, Ephyra, Orakel.


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