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GYTHIUM (Γύθιον, Strab., Polyb., Plut.; Gytheum, Gythium, Liv.; Γυθεῖον, Steph. B. sub voce Gytheum, Cic.: Eth. Γυθεάτης), an ancient Achaean town in Laconia, situated near the head of the Laconian gulf, south-west of the mouth of the Eurotas, at the distance of 240 stadia from Sparta according to Strabo (viii. p.363), and 30 Roman miles according to the Table. This distance agrees with the 43 kilometres which the French commission found to be the distance by the road from the ruins of Gythium to the theatre of Sparta. In Polybius Gythium is said to be 30 stadia from Sparta; but this number is evidently corrupt. and for περὶ τριάκοντα we ought to read with Müller περὶ τριακόσια. (Plb. 5.19.) Gythium stood upon the small stream Gythius (Mela, 2.3), in a fertile and well-cultivated plain. (Plb. 5.19.) Its cheeses are celebrated in one of Lucian's dialogues. (Dial. Meretr. 14.) After the Dorian conquest it became the chief maritime town in Laconia, and was therefore regarded as the port of Sparta. It was also the ordinary station of their ships of war. Accordingly, when war broke out between Athens and Sparta, Gythium was one of the first places which the Athenians attacked with their superior fleet; and in B.C. 455 it was burnt by Tolmidas, the Athenian commander. (Thuc. 1.102; Diod. 11.84.) On the invasion of Laconia by Epaminondas in B.C. 370, after the battle of Leuctra, he advanced as far south as Gythium, but was unable to take it, though he laid siege to it for three days. (Xen. Hell. 6.5. 32) Even then it must have been well fortified, but its fortifications appear to have been still further increased by the tyrant Nabis; and when it was taken by the Romans in 195 it is described by Livy as “valida urbs, et multitudine civium incolarumque et omni bellico apparatu instructa(34.29). Augustus made it one of the Eleuthero-Laconian towns; and under the Roman empire it again became a place of importance, as is shown by its ruins, which belong almost exclusively to the Roman period. Its port, according to the information received by Strabo, was artificial (ἔχει δ᾽, ὥς φασι, τὸ ναύσταθμον ὀρυκτόν, Strab. viii. p.363).

Pausanias saw in the market-place of Gythium statues of Apollo and Hercules, who were reputed to be the founders of the city; near them a statue of Dionysus; and on the other side of the market-place a statue of Apollo Carneius, a temple of Ammon, a brazen statue of Asclepius, the temple of which had no roof, a fountain sacred to this god, a sanctuary of Demeter, and a statue of Poseidon Gaeaochus. A fountain still flowing between the shore and the Acropolis seems to have been the above-mentioned fountain of Asclepius, and thus indicates the site of the Agora. On the Acropolis was a temple of Athena; and the gates of Castor mentioned by Pausanias appear to have led from the lower city to the citadel. (Paus. 3.21. § § 8, 9.) Opposite Gythium was the island Crania, whither Paris was said to have carried off Helen from Sparta. [CRANAE]

The coast on the mainland south of Gythium was said to have derived its name of Migonium (Μιλώνιον from the union of Paris and Helen on the opposite island. On this coast was a temple of Aphrodite Migonitis, and above it a mountain sacred to Dionysus called Larysium (Λαρύσιον), where a festival was celebrated to this god in the beginning of spring. (Paus. 3.22.1.) Pausanias further describes, at the distance of three stadia from Gythium, a stone on which Orestes is said to have been relieved from his madness. This stone was called Ζεύς (according to Sylburg, λεύς) καππώτας, i. e. καταπαύτης, the Reliever. The town Marathonísi, which was built at the beginning of the present century, and is the chief port of the district Mani, occupies the site of Migonium; and the hill above it, called Kúmaro, is the ancient Larysium. The remains of Gythium, called Paleópoli, are situated a little north of Marathonísi. They lie upon the slope of some small hills, and in the plain between them and the sea. These remains, which are considerable, belong chiefly to the Roman period, as has been already stated. Near the edge of the shore are the remains of two large buildings, probably Roman baths, consisting of several small rooms and divisions. The foundations of buildings may also be seen under water. Ninety yards inland from the shore, on the slope of the larger hill, are the remains of the theatre, built of white marble. Some of the marble seats still remain in their places, but most of them have disappeared, as the space enclosed by the theatre has been converted into a vineyard. The diameter appears to have been about 150 feet. From 50 to 100 feet from the theatre, in a slight hollow between the hills, are the ruins of a Roman building of considerable size. The Acropolis was on the top of the hill above the theatre, but of its walls there are only a few fragments. All round the town, and especially on the hills, are twenty or thirty ruins of small buildings of tiles and mortar, in the Roman style, containing niches in the walls. These were Roman sepulchres: one of them was excavated by Ross, who found there some sepulchral lamps.

On the left of the road from Paleódpoli to Marathonísi is an inscription on the rock, which has not yet been deciphered (Böckh, Inscr. 1469); and close to it, hewn in the rock, is a chair with a foot-step, which appears to be the spot where Orestes was said to have been relieved from his madness. Most of the inscriptions found at Palepóli are of the Roman period. (Böckh, Inscr. 1325,1326,1391, 1392, 1469.) (Weber, de Gytheo et Lacedaemoniorum Rebus Navalibus, Heidelberg, 1833; Leake, Morea, vol. i. p. 244; Boblaye, Recherches, &c. p. 86; Ross, Wanderungen in Griechenland, vol. ii p. 232, seq.; Curtius, Peloponnesos, vol. ii. p. 270.)


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