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ABDERA Thrace, Greece.

Coastal city situated on Cape Bulustra, about 17 km NE of the estuary of the river Nestos, birthplace of the philosopher Demokritos and other illustrious men. The founding of the city, according to ancient tradition, can be traced back to mythical times since it is related to the eighth labor of Herakles, the capture of the man-eating horses of King Diomedes of the Bistonians. Another tradition refers to Timesios of Klazomenai as an inhabitant of the city (656-652 B.C.), but his colonists were driven back by the Thracians. In 545 B.C., the Ionians of Teos, unable to suffer Persian domination any longer, settled on the site of Abdera, which they rebuilt (Hdt. 50.68). The city dominated a large and rich area, “covered with vineyards and fertile,” which it fought hard to wrest from the Thracians (Pind., Second Hymn).

Abdera was subjugated by the Persians during their period of action in Thrace and in 492 B.C. It was used as a base of operations (Hdt. 6.46,47; 7.120). As a member of the First Athenian Alliance, it contributed to the Athenian treasury the sum of 10 to 15 talents, starting in 454 B.C. This heavy taxation and the rich silver currency are an indication of the economic prosperity of the city.

In 376 B.C. Abdera was destroyed by the invasion of the Thracian tribe of the Triballi, who killed all the citizens who took part in the battle (Diod. Sic. 15.36). A little later, ca. 350 B.C., Philip II of Macedon conquered the city. About the 3d century B.C. it fell successively to King Lysimachos of Thrace, to the Seleucids, the Ptolemies, and again to the Macedonians, who dominated it until 196 B.C., when the Romans declared it a free state. Abdera suffered a second catastrophe in 170 B.C., when the Roman armies and those of Eumenes II, king of Pergamon besieged and sacked it (Diod. Sic. 30.6). During Roman Imperial times, it lost political importance and went into decline. In the 6th c. A.D. a small Byzantine town, the seat of a bishopric, was established on the NW hill of the great ancient city.

Large sections of the immense wall, which dated from the archaic period, were uncovered in the W, N, and E parts of the city. In the W wall a gate with two towers was uncovered, and to this led a central street of the city, as well as the road that came from the W harbor. (Under the surface of the sea, stone plinths and rocks that form a large breakwater have been preserved.) A second small open harbor appears to have been situated on the sandy shore of the E end of the city, where a round tower is preserved in the sea. In the N section near the wall the theater was uncovered. In the W part large clusters of habitations of the Hellenistic and Roman periods, with a strict N-S orientation, show that the area was built according to the Hippodamian system of city planning. A mosaic floor found in the courtyard of a house depicts dolphins, rosettes, and lilies. The foundations of a large building in the SW section appear to belong to Roman baths. N of the city stretched a large suburb, and at a distance of 2 to 4 km N and NW, a group of graves and tombs yielded findings that date from the late archaic and Classical periods.

The findings of the excavation—which consist mainly of pots, architectural fragments, corner tiles decorated with reliefs and lettering, sculptures, lamps, and especially a rich collection of terracotta figurines, the product of a local workshop of image-makers—are on exhibit in the Museum of Kavala. The agora and the sacred temples of the city, whose existence is known from ancient sources, have not yet been uncovered.


W. Regel, “Abdera,” AthMitt 12 (1887) 161ff; Fr. Munzer-M. L. Strack, Die Antiken Münzen Nordgriechenlands II (1912); Δημ.Λαζαρίδη, Πρακτικά Ἀρχαιολογικῆς Ἑταιπείας (1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1966); Πήλινα εἰδώλια (1960); Ἀρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον, Χπονικά (1961, 1963, 1964, 1967); Νεάπολισ-Χπιστούπολισ-Καβάλα, Ὁδηγός Μουσείου Καβάλας (1969); σελ.161 κ..; J.M.F. May, The Coinage of Abdera (1966).


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