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PHERAI Thessaly, Greece.

A city of Pelasgiotis, lying just S of the road between Larissa and the Gulf of Pagasai. The site is on the tail end of a N spur (modern Maluka) of the mountain Chalkedonion (modern Karadag); the spur flanked by two ravines, the Maluka revma to the SE and the Makalo to the NW. The city controls also the E end of a pass (modern railroad) which leads E from Pharsalos. Modern Velestinou occupies a part of the ancient city. The city site has been settled since prehistoric times. In antiquity it was known as the home of Admetos, whose son Eumelos figured in the Trojan war (Eur., Alk. etc.; Hom., Il. 2.711, Od. 4.798). It controlled the port of Pagasai by the late 5th c. B C partly from this it grew powerful under the tyrant Lycophron and much more under his successor, Jason, who tried to unite Thessaly under his leadership. Jason was killed in 370 B.C. and was soon succeeded by Alexander, who was defeated by a Thessalian League-Theban alliance in 364 B.C. and his territory reduced to Pherai, Pagasai, and part of Magnesia. He was killed in 358 B.C. but his expansionist policies continued until Philip II of Macedon took over Magnesia and Pagasai and in 344 B.C. placed a Macedonian garrison in Pherai. The city remained fairly prosperous and was important in the post 196 B.C. Thessalian League. It was besieged by Antiochos III in 192 B.C. (Livy 36.8f, 14.11); it was at that time divided into an upper and lower city. Steph. Byz. says (s.v.) that it was divided into Old and New Pherai, 8 stades (one km) apart. Remains from the Imperial period are practically nonexistent, and his statement remains enigmatic.

A flat-topped prehistoric mound (150 m) was the acropolis. This is protected at the back by the Makalo revma, which flows NE. The Maluka revma is roughly parallel to the Makalo, ca. one km to the S. Between the streams the land slopes from the acropolis to the plain, about 50 m away. At the edge of the plain, under the S face of a rocky hill (Kastraki) is a copious fountain. Traces of the city wall can be seen at the back (W) of the acropolis hill above the Makalo ravine and following its bank towards the plain for about 500 m where it disappears. The S wall ran from behind the acropolis towards the Makalo revma and along its N edge to the plain. A wall, of which few traces remain, ran along the edge of the hill just above the plain, presumably connecting the N and S sections of wall, but its junction with the NW side of the city wall is not clear. Béquignon saw blocks in the plain which led him to believe this wall along the edge of the hill was a cross wall, and that the lower city wall made a curve into the plain E of the modern railroad. The wall is double faced, ca. 3 to 5 m thick, of rough-faced rectangular and trapezoidal blocks laid in fairly regular courses. There are no towers visible. It must date from the first half of the 4th c. A short stretch of wall (or terrace wall?) on the N side of the Kastraki hill is built of careful, flat-faced polygonal masonry. No walls have been reported on or around the acropolis hill.

Very few ancient remains are to be seen within the city. Dedications to Herakles and a Doric column capital and parts of a wall (peribolos?) were found in 1907 by the Church of Haghios Charalambos S of the acropolis. Part of an early 5th c. marble statue of Athena, nearly life-sized, was found on the acropolis in 1967, which indicates the presence of a temple there. The fountain (ancient Hypereia) in the city center is bordered by a semicircular retaining wall of thin rectangular slabs laid in courses. This may or may not be ancient. The ground of the Kastraki hill above is littered with sherds, but no ancient foundations or blocks are visible. The sites of the ancient agora, theater, etc. are not determined. The most notable remains are those of a large Doric temple outside (?) the city walls, ca. 0.8 km NE of the acropolis, on the right bank of the Makalo revma. This was excavated in 1920-27. Here a temple of the later 4th c. had been built on the site of one of the 6th. The 4th c. temple was Doric, peripteral, 16 x 32 m, perhaps 6 x 12 columns. The foundations were of conglomerate and the exposed parts of the euthynteria and krepis of marble. At the E end the euthynteria and one step of the krepis were preserved. Of architectural fragments, some column drums, fragments of capitals, epistyle, a sima carved with a lotus and acanthus motif remain. Incorporated in the foundations are some Doric column drums of the earlier temple and around about were other architectural fragments including painted terracotta revetment and a capital fragment dating from the second half of the 6th c. B.C. In front of the later temple's E end were several small foundations for naiskoi, altar, and/or statues.

The temple had been built on top of an early Geometric necropolis. It must have been on or near the site of an early shrine, since a temple deposit pit S of it yielded a large number of terracotta and bronze offerings of the 8th through the 6th-5th c. Other bronzes had come from the area previously. Some are in the National Museum of Athens, some in Volo, and some probably in Cambridge. The temple, once thought to be to Zeus Thaulios, is more likely to be that of Artemis Ennodia, the chief goddess of Pherni.

The main necropolis of the city was on the road to Larissa, just outside the wall. Some grave mounds have been noted and/or excavated in the plain, near the railroad line. A chamber tomb was excavated at Souvleri Magoula in 1910. In 1899 a mound (Pilaf-Tepe, or Mal-Tepe) on the road about half way between Pherai and Pagasai was excavated. This contained a shaft grave and in it a silver situla of the 3d c. B.C. The grave seems to have dated from the 2d c. B.C. and may have held a notable citizen of Pherai. At Rizomylo, 5 km N of the city, foundations and various architectural remains have been discovered.


W. M. Leake, Nor. Gr. (1835) IV 439-44; C. D. Edmonds, “The Tumulus at Piláf-Tepé,” JHS 20 (1900) 20-25PI; A. S. Arvanitopoullos, Praktika (1907) 153-61; (1910) 229-33I; (1922-24) 107f; (1925-26) 37-42, 115-17I; F. Stählin, Das Hellenische Thessalien (1924) 104-8P; Y. Béquignon, BCH 53 (1929) 101-16I; id., Récherches archéologiques à Phères de Thessalie (1937)MPI; E. Kirsten, RE Supp. VII (1940) s.v. PheraiPM; H. Biesantz, Die Thessalischen Grabreliefs (1965) 108-14I; D. Theocharis, Deltion 22 (1967) chron. 296fI.


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