previous next


LEBADEIA (Λεβάδεια, Herod., Strab., et alii; Λεβαδία, Plut. Lys. 28: Eth. Λεβαδεύς: Livadhía), a town near the western frontier of Boeotia, described by Strabo (ix. p.414) as lying between Mt. Helicon and Chaeroneia. It was situated at the foot of a precipitous height, which is an abrupt northerly termination of Mt. Helicon. Pausanias relates (9.39.1) that this height was originally occupied by the Homeric city of Mideia (Μίδεια, Il. 2.507), from whence the inhabitants, under the conduct of Lebadus, an Athenian, migrated into the plain, and founded there the city named after him. On the other hand, Strabo maintains (ix. p. 413) that the Homeric cities Arne and Mideia were both swallowed up by the lake Copais. Lebadeia was originally an insignificant place, but it rose into importance in consequence of its possessing the celebrated oracle of Trophonius. The oracle was consulted both by Croesus (Hdt. 1.46) and by Mardonius (Hdt. 8.134), and it continued to be consulted even in the time of Plutarch, when all the other oracles in Boeotia had become dumb. (Plut. de Def. Orac. 5.) Pausanias himself consulted the oracle, and he speaks of the town in terms which show that it was in his time the most flourishing place in Boeotia. But notwithstanding the sanctity of the oracle, Lebadeia did not always escape the ravages of war. It was taken and plundered both by Lysander and by Archelaus, the general of Mithridates. (Plut. Lys. 28, Sull. 16.) In the war against Perseus, it espoused the side of the Romans, while Thebes, Haliartus, and Coroneia declared in favour of the Macedonian king. (Plb. 27.1.) It continues to exist under the slightly altered name of Livadhía, and during the Turkish supremacy it gave its name to the whole province. It is still a considerable town, though it suffered greatly in the war of independence against the Turks.

The modern town is situated on two opposite hills, rising on each bank of a small stream, called Hercyna by Pausanias, but the greater part of the houses are on the western slope, on the summit of which is a ruined castle. Pausanias says that the Hercyna rose in a cavern, from two fountains, close to one another,. one called the fountain of Oblivion and the other the fountain of Memory, of which the persons who were going to consult the oracle were obliged to drink. The Hercyna is in reality a continuation of an occasional torrent from Mount Helicon; but at the southern extremity of the town, on the eastern side of the castle-hill, there are some copious sources, which were evidently the reputed fountains of the Hercyna. They issue from either side of the Hercyna, those on the right bank being the most copious, flowing from under the rocks in many large streams, and forming the main body of the river; and those on the left bank being insignificant, and flowing, in the time of Dodwell, through ten small spouts, of which there are still remains. The fountains on the right bank are warm, and are called Chiliá ( Χιλιά), and sometimes τὰ γλυφὰ νερά, or the water unfit for drinking; while the fountains on the left bank are cold and clear, and are named Krya ( κρύα, i. e. κρύα βρύσις, the cold source, in opposition to the warm, Chiliá). Neither of these two sets of fountains rise out of a cave, and so far do not correspond to the description of Pausanias; but there is a cavern close to each; and in the course of ages, since the destruction of the sacred buildings of Trophonius, the caverns may easily have been choked up, and the springs have emerged in different spots. The question, however, arises, which of the caverns contained the reputed sources of the Hercyna? The answer to this must depend upon the position we assign to the sacred grove of Trophonius, in which the source of the Hercyna was situated. Leake places the sacred grove on the right or eastern bank; but Ulrichs on the left, or western bank. The latter appears more probable, on account of the passage in Pausanias, διείργει δὲ [p. 2.152]ἀπ᾽ αὐτῆς (i. e. τῆς πόλεως) τὸ ἄλσος τοῦ Τροφωνίον, where there is little doubt that ποταμός, or some equivalent term, must be applied as the nominative of διείργει. The ancient city would, in that case, have stood on the right or eastern bank of the river, which also appears probable from the numerous fragments of antiquity still scattered over the eminence on this side of the river; and the grove of Trophonius would have been on the western side of the stream, on which the greater part of the modern town stands.

The most remarkable object in the grove of Trophonius was the temple of the hero, containing his statue by Praxiteles,resembling a statue of Asclepius; a temple of Demeter, surnamed Europe; a statue of Zeus Hyetius (Pluvius) in the open air; and higher up, upon the mountain, the oracle (τὸ μαντεῖον). Still higher up was the hunting place of Persephone; a large unfinished temple of Zeus Basileus, a temple of Apollo, and another temple, containing statues of Cronus, Zeus, and Hera. Pausanias likewise mentions a chapel of the Good Daemon and of Good Fortune, where those who were going to consult the oracle first passed a certain number of days.

In the Turkish mosque, now converted into a church of the Panagia, on the western side of the river, three inscriptions have been found, one of which contains a dedication to Trophonius, and the other a catalogue of dedications in the temple of Trophonius. (See Böckh, Inscr. 1571, 1588.) Hence it has been inferred that the temple of Trophonius occupied this site. Near the fountain of Krya, there is a square chamber, with seats cut out of the rock, which may perhaps be the chapel of the Good Daemon and Good Fortune. Near this chamber is a cavern, which is usually regarded as the entrance to the oracle. It is 25 feet in depth, and terminates in a hollow filled with water. But this could not have been the oracle, since the latter, according to the testimony both of Pausanias and Philostratus, was not situated in the valley upon the Hercyna, but higher up upon the mountain. (Paus. 9.39.4; Philostr. Vit. Apoll. 8.19.) Mure justly expresses his surprise that Leake, after quoting the description of Pausanias, who says that the oracle was ἐπὶ τοῦ ὄρους, should suppose that it was situated at the foot of the hill. A person who consulted the oracle descended a well constructed of masonry, 12 feet in depth, at the bottom of which was a small opening on the side of the wall. Upon reaching the bottom he lay upon his back and introduced his legs into the hole, when upon a sudden the rest of his body was rapidly carried forward into the sanctuary. The site of the oracle has not yet been discovered, and is not likely to be, without an extensive excavation. An account of the rites observed in consulting the oracle is given in the Dict. of Antiq. p. 841, 2nd ed. (Dodwell, Tour through Greece, vol. i. p. 216, seq.; Leake, Northern Greece, vol. ii. p. 118, seq.; Mure, Tour in Greece, vol. i. p. 233, seq.; Ulrichs, Reisen in Griechenland, p. 164, seq.)

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