SANCTUARY OF THE MUSES
Mt. Helikon, Greece.
Situated in the upper valley of the Permessos
(Archontitza) between Mt. Zagara and Mt. Marandali
(Helikon) to the S and Mt. Koursara and Mt. Pyrgaki
(Ascra) to the N, 8 km W of Thespiai. Formerly wooded, the valley was the alsos or Sacred Grove of the
Muses; the sanctuary has been located around the Haghia
Trias Chapel on the right bank of the Permessos.
Underneath the walls of the Chapel of Haghia Trias,
which stands on a terrace 50 m from the Permessos, was
found the base of the Great Altar of the Muses (until
1954 mistakenly called “Temple of the Muses”). It faces
E, is 5.80 m long and 9.80 m wide, and stands on two
courses of white poros and one leveling course of conglomerate. The platform, built of well-bonded limestone blocks, was approached up a step on the W side;
the altar covered two-thirds of its surface to the E.
Forty m W of the altar the remains of a long N-S
portico was discovered; it was open to the E and measured 96 x 10 m. The E colonnade (36 monolithic columns) was Ionic, the side colonnade, which supported the roof, Corinthian. Architectural fragments of this
portico, of stone and terracotta, are in the Thebes Museum. N of the altar, on the left bank of the Permessos,
a second portico was identified at least 48 m long. All
these monuments date from the 3d c. B.C. at the earliest.
Some 300 m SW of the great portico on the foothill of
the mountain is a natural semicircular depression that
marks the site of the theater. There were no stone tiers,
but the seats in the proedria row were no doubt of marble.
The skene, which was more than 7 m deep and erected
on an artificial terrace, has collapsed; the proskenion,
which was about 22 m wide and 3 m deep, was built on
the ground; the limestone stylobate supported 12 Doric
half-columns 2 m high, monolithic and engaged in
There were many statues in the Valley of the Muses,
some of the bases of which are in the Thebes Museum.
Near the altar and the portico, possibly, was the great
semicircle on which stood the statues of the nine Muses.
The site has been excavated.
P. Decharme, “Notice sur les ruines de
l'Hieron des Muses dans l'Hélicon,” ArchMiss
IV (1867) 169-80; P. Jamot in BCH
19 (1895) 321-85;
26 (1902) 129-60; En Grèce
(1914); Fiehn in RE
s.v. Musental; M. Mayer, ibid. s.v. Musai; G. Roux,
“Le Val des Muses et les Musées chez les auteurs anciens,” BCH
78 (1954) 22-45MPI
; N. Papahadjis, Pausaniou Hellados Periegesis
V (1969) 178-90MPI