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PHARSALOS Thessaly, Greece.

A city of (Tetras) Phthiotis. It lies in the E corner of Thessaly's W plain, on and at the foot of a N spur of Mt. Narthakion (Kassidhiaris), about 4 km S of the Enipeus River. Modern Pharsala (or Pharsalos) occupies the site of the lower city. The main road from the S via Thaumakoi to Larissa, etc., goes by Pharsalos. A road follows E up the river and then over a low pass to Pherai, or directly E to the gulf of Pagasni. Two more difficult roads lead to Phthiotic Thebes and Halos.

Pharsalos was the home of the aristocratic Echecratidai, allies of Athens after the Persian wars. In an attempt to restore one of the family the Athenians besieged the city in the mid 5th c. B.C., but failed to take it (Thuc. 1.111; Diod. Sic. 2.83). It issued coinage in the 5th c. and resisted the tyrants of Pherai from 400 B.C. although in 374 it was forced into an alliance with Jason (Xen. Hell. 6.1). It was an important member of the Thessalian League opposed to Pherai, and strong supporter of Philip II of Macedon. Before 346 B.C. with the help of Philip, it obtained the territory of Halos (Dem. 19.39, 334). After Alexander of Macedon's death, Pharsalos under Meno joined the anti-Macedonian revolt (Lamian war: Diod. Sic. 18.11-iS) but was taken by the Macedonians under Antipater in 322 B.C. (Plut. Mor. 846E). It seems to have dwindled in importance thereafter. Justinian renewed the walls (Procop. De aed. 4.3.5) and it was the site of a bishopric.

The walls of the ancient city are the most conspicuous remains. The wall surrounded the acropolis, two rocky, flat-topped peaks at E and W joined by a narrow saddle. From each end of the acropolis walls run N down the hill to the plain, where few traces are preserved. The wall ran a long tongue into the plain where the modern road to the railroad station runs directly N from the city. It included the hill directly above the spring of the ancient Apidanos stream (now called Apidanos, formerly Tabachana). A wall dividing the lower and upper city connects the E end of the acropolis with an isolated hill (301 m) just N of the W peak of the acropolis. Hill 301 and the W peak are joined by a double wall. The total wall circuit is ca. 6 km. Traces of polygonal masonry can be seen in the walls surrounding the acropolis, down the hill from the acropolis' E peak to the plain, connecting the W peak of the acropolis with Hill 301 and in the cross wall which runs from that hill to the E peak of the acropolis. There is no trace of the polygonal E city wall which must have connected the acropolis or Hill 301 with the W wall. The polygonal wall is probably that of the late 6th or 5th c. It was improved and overbuilt by a double-faced wall of rectangular and trapezoidal blocks, and the circuit was apparently then enlarged to include part of the plain, and a wide swing up the hill to the W peak of the acropolis. This wall was strengthened by towers at weak points. It is in places preserved to 8 courses in height. The enlargement and rebuilding of the city wall was very likely made in the time of greatest Pharsalian prosperity and power around the middle of the 4th c. B.C. The acropolis wall and the cross wall from it to Hill 301 were improved and strengthened in Byzantine times.

Very few ancient remains are to be seen in the city. Just above and to the S of the Apidanos spring, at the W side of the city is a mound on which is a Church of Haghios Paraskevi (earlier Fetiye Cami). The city wall runs along the edge of this mound, and traces of a square tower could be seen (1914). Test trenches here in 1964 turned up prehistoric sherds from the Neolithic period on, and through archaic to Roman, and some ancient remains including a poros capital of Early Classical times. Here or nearby was a Temple of Zeus Thaulios, to whom an inscription has been found. In the center of the modern town in the main plateia were found the foundations of a square building (13 x 13 m) with an inner peristyle court, of the 4th-3d c. B.C. Doric and Ionic architectural fragments from it are in the Volo Museum. In the Kurçunli Cami N of the plateia were to be seen (1914) some remains of an ancient temple. In the Varusi quarter, just above the plain by the E wall, inscriptions to and a head of Asklepios have been found, and a Hellenistic water channel. On the hill in 1966 fragments of 5th c. B.C. terracotta protomes turned up, probably of Demeter and Kore. Twenty minutes W of the city a Hellenic wall (neither end visible), perhaps part of a temple peribolos, was seen in 1952.

In recent years the most notable discoveries have been in the necropolis. To the W of Sourla hill (ca. 3 km E of Pharsalos) is a necropolis largely of the 4th c. B.C. In a block hollowed to receive it was a handsome 4th c. bronze hydria with Boreas and Oreithuia in relief under the horizontal handle (now in the Volo Museum). Just W of the city, on the road to Dhomoko, was another necropolis. Most notable among other Mycenaean and Classical tombs found here was the bottom part of a tholos tomb with dromos, of stones and earth with a facing of good polygonal masonry, containing two sarcophagi. The mound over it was surrounded with a handsome polygonal terrace wall. The tomb was built in archaic times directly over and as a successor to a Mycenaean shaft grave, and was used until the Hellenistic period. Near this in a hollowed block was a 4th c. bronze hydria with a Nike under the handle (National Museum of Athens).

To the SW of the city on the slope of the Karabla (Karafla?) is a cave of Pan and the nymph which was investigated in 1922. Votive statuettes and inscriptions dating from the 6th c. B.C. to the Hellenistic period were found.

In the territory was the Thetideion (Polyb. 18.20.6; Strab. 9.431; Plut. Pel. 31-32) possibly to be found N of the Enipeus on a hill between Orman Magoula and Dasolophos (Bekides) where a Church of Haghios Athanasios incorporates Hellenic and Byzantine remains.


W. M. Leake, Nor. Gr. (1835) I 449-54; IV 463-81; A. S. Arvanitopoullos, Praktika (1907) 148-52I; (1910) 176-83; F. Stählin, Pharsalos (1914)PI; id., Das hellenische Thessalien (1924) 135-44PI; ArchEph (1919-20) 48-53I (cave); D. Levi, ASAtene 6-7 (1923-24) 27-42PI (cave); M. Verdelis, ArchEph (1948-49) chron. 40-42MI; (1950-Si) 80-105I (bronze hydria); id., Praktika (1951) 154-63I; (1952) 185-204I; (1953) 127-32; (1954) 153-59I; (1955) 140-46PI; D. Theocharis, Deltion 16 (1960) chron. 175; 19 (1964) chron. 260-61I; 21 (1966) chron. 254I. H. Biesantz, Die Thessalischen Grabreliefs (1965) 101-8I (Greek sculpture from Pharsalos); W. K. Pritchett, Studies in Ancient Greek Topography, pt. 2 (1969) 114-17MI (Thetideion).


hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Demosthenes, On the False Embassy, 39
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.111
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 6.1
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 18.11
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