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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 square pilasters.

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 2d sér. IV (1867) 169-80; P. Jamot in BCH 19 (1895) 321-85; 26 (1902) 129-60; En Grèce (1914); Fiehn in RE (1933), 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.


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