An island with a town of the
same name, in the N Aegean Sea about 8 km off the
Thracian coast. The island is roughly circular in shape
and about 25 km in diameter. It is well wooded and well
watered and rises to a height of 1203 m in Mt. Hypsarion.
It was rich in minerals, and its gold mines were very
productive in the 6th and 5th c. B.C. They were seen and
described by Herodotos. The island also produced an
excellent white marble with large crystals which was
widely exported, and its wine was famous all over the
ancient world. The climate of Thasos in the late 5th c.
B.C. is described by the physician Hippokrates (Epidemics
1.1,4,13). The city-state of Thasos also held territory on the mainland opposite, both along the coast and inland. The most important spot was Skaptesyle on Mt.
Pangaion, with its rich gold mines. Some of these were
owned by the historian Thucydides, who lived here and
wrote his history during his exile from Athens.
Before the arrival of the Greeks, the island had been
called Odonis and was occupied by the Sintes, a Thracian
tribe. Nothing had been known archaeologically about
prehistoric Thasos until two sites were discovered in the
S part of the island, a cave on the W coast near Maries
with Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sherds, and an inland site at Kastri with a settlement that has Neolithic and perhaps later sherds and an extensive cemetery of the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages. At the dawn of
history the Phoenicians were exploiting the mines under
their leader Thasos, who gave his name to the island.
The history of Thasos really begins ca. 680 B.C. with
the coming of Ionian Greek settlers from the island of
Paros under the leadership of Telesikles, the father of
the poet Archilochos. The poet himself was active there
ca. 650 B.C. and his poems give us tantalizing glimpses
of the place and the times. The funeral monument of
Glaukos, son of Leptines, a companion of Archilochos,
has been found in the Agora, identified by a contemporary inscription. Pottery of the 7th c. B.C. in Cycladic
orientalizing style has been found in votive deposits, and
house remains of the same period have been discovered.
The 6th and early 5th c. B.C. were the time of Thasos'
greatest prosperity. The mines, both on the island and
on the mainland, were producing 200 talents a year on
the average, and 300 m good years, and the city had
built a circuit wall over 4 km long which had gates decorated with large sculptured reliefs. In 491 B.C., however,
the Thasians yielded to Persian demands, demolished
their walls, and surrendered their fleet. Again in 480 they
offered no resistance to Xerxes. In 477 B.C. they joined
the Delian League and contributed a force of 30 ships.
In 465 they wanted to withdraw, but Athens resisted and
laid siege to the town, which capitulated in the third
year, leaving Thasos a dependency of Athens. In 411 B.C.
they again tried to break away, calling in Spartan help,
but the pro-Athenian party resisted and ten years of civil
strife followed. In 377 B.C. Thasos joined the second
Athenian Confederacy. In Macedonian and Roman times
Thasos was politically subsidiary to the great powers, but
her commercial prosperity was considerable. Polygnotos,
the 5th c. painter, was a native of Thasos.
The town of Thasos lay on the N coast of the island,
looking across the strait to the mainland. It had two
harbors, one enclosed within the fortifications, the other
next to it, unfortified but protected by a breakwater. The
Agora lay near the closed harbor. It was a quadrangular
area, ca. 100 m on a side, with colonnades on three of
its sides and administrative and religious buildings on
the fourth. Sanctuaries, altars, and monuments occupied
some of the open spaces. Elsewhere in the lower town
sanctuaries of Poseidon, Dionysos, Artemis, and Herakles have been found. Herakles was the principal god of
the Thasians, and his image appears on their coins and
the stamps on their wine jars. His worship had been introduced by the Phoenicians before the coming of the
Greeks. On the acropolis, which rose steeply behind the
town to a height of 150 m, were sanctuaries of Pythian
Apollo, Athena Poliouchos, and Pan. A theater lay on the slopes.
Thasos was visited, described, and excavated by a number of persons in the 19th c., and antiquities were removed to museums abroad, particularly to Constantinople and Paris. The museum on the site contains more recent
finds of sculpture, inscriptions, and pottery.
Ecole française d'Athènes, Guide de
(authoritative guide with bibl.); id.,
, I-VIII (1944-62, continuing)MPI
Lazarides, Thasos and its Peraia
(Vol. V of
Ancient Greek Cities
); J. Pouilloux, “Archiloque et
Thasos: Histoire et Poésie,” Entretiens
X (1963); ArchEph
(1970) Chronika 16-22 (cemetery).