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TANAGRA Boiotia, Greece.

An ancient city some 20 km E of Thebes and 5 km SE of Schimatari. The city was situated on a hill off the E end of Mt. Kerykeion, on the left bank of the Asopos where it meets the Lari stream. The hill, which slopes down in terraces toward the NE, stands in a rich rolling plain.

Tanagra, which is not mentioned in the Catalogue of Ships of the Iliad, is said to have played a part in the founding of Heraklea Pontica and of Cumae in Italy. From the 6th c. the city minted silver coins, and was part of the Boiotian League up to 480 B.C. Not far from the city were fought the battles of Tanagra and Oinophyta (457), and Delion (424), where many Tanagrans fell, their names being inscribed on a stele in the museum. From 386 to 374 or 372 it was occupied by a Spartan garrison. After 338 its territory comprised Delion, Hyria, the sanctuary of Aulis, Salganeus on the Euripos, and the Tetrakome (Mykalessos, Harma, Heleon, Pharai). In 145 B.C. Rome granted the city the status of civitas libera et immunis: in the 1st c. A.D. Tanagra and Thespiai were the only prosperous cities in Boiotia.

The site has never been excavated systematically. Only the Mycenaean necropolis (LH III B), at the place called Gephyra, has been excavated since 1969; a number of fine painted terracotta sarcophagi, now in the Thebes Museum, and pottery have been unearthed. The Classical city is covered over with a thick layer of spoiled earth. The rampart, which forms a rough irregular pentagon, runs round the edge of the hill. At the highest point, to the W, is a tower that overlooks the city and the Asopos valley. In the W wall, which is 1.90 m thick and built of irregular blocks of dark gray local limestone, was a gate that looked toward Chalkis; the N, NE, and SE walls are fortified with a number of towers (roughly one every 30 m) and surround the lower city. To the E was the Athens gate and in the S corner that of Thebes. The SW wall links up with the great tower on the top of the hill. In 1950 sections of the rampart were uncovered, intact, in the upper part of the city when a canal was dug to drain the waters of Lake Iliki to the Marathon reservoir.

Beside the citadel is a ruined chapel that was built on the foundations of a temple (of Dionysos?). Both the black stone of the foundations and entablature and the crumbly yellowish limestone of the columns and Ionic capitals were used for the building (remains in the museum). A little lower down to the NE is the great theater, without stone seats; here the musical contests of the Sarapieia were held in Hellenistic and Roman times. To the NE, on the next terrace down, Leake discovered the well-built foundations of a large rectangular building, possibly a temple, of local black stone; they are no longer visible. Beyond the N rampart some 20 m farther on are the foundations, still standing, of a small temple “outside the walls.” No trace can be seen of the temples, public buildings, or statues, including that of the poetess Korinna, mentioned by Pausanias. Several hundred inscriptions found on the site or nearby are in the museums at Schimatari and Thebes or are set in the walls of buildings (Church of Haghios Thomas).

A number of necropoleis were uncovered beginning in 1870, notably on the other side of the Lari, in the plain to the NW, and along the side of roads leading out of the city. In these tombs were found the thousands of terracotta figurines for which Tanagra is renowned. From the pre-Hellenic, then the archaic, period, the workshops of Tanagra, Rhitsona, Thebes, and Thespiai turned out statuettes, popular votive offerings that were placed in temples or familiar objects that were laid inside or on top of tombs. In the 7th c. the use of molds increased production and made it possible for these figurines to be sent out throughout the Greek world. The bell-shaped idols of the 8th c. were succeeded by flat idols with modeled, then molded, heads. In the 6th c. appeared replicas of the great religious statues, chariots, riders, everyday subjects. From the end of the 6th c. to ca. 350, these familiar subjects disappeared, giving way chiefly to statuettes inspired by the works of the great sculptors—Kalamis, Phidias, Polykleitos—offered in the sanctuaries. Toward 350-330 the production of Tanagra increased considerably and developed along different lines from the other workshops, possibly under the influence of Praxiteles. The beauty of these figurines, representing women in different attitudes, ephebes, actors, and people from everyday life, accounts for their growing popularity: statuettes and molds were exported in great numbers, especially to the Aeolian city of Myrina. Production slowed down at the beginning of the 2d c. B.C. and ceased in Imperial times.


J. G. Frazer, Paus. Des. Gr. V (1898) 76-91; Fiehn, in RE (1932), s.v. Tanagra; P. Roesch, Thespies et la Confédératian béotienne (1965); M. Calvet & P. Roesch, “Les Sarapieia de Tanagra,” RA (1966) 297-332I; W. K. Pritchett, Studies in Ancient Greek Topography, II (1969) 24-34MI; N. Papahadjis, Pausaniou Hellados Periegesis V (1969) 117-25MI; Th. Spyropoulos, AAA 3 (1970) 184-97; Ergon (1971) 11-21; J. P. Michaud, BCH 96 (1972) 695-99I.

On the terracottas: R. Kékulé von Stradonitz, Griechische Tonfiguren aus Tanagra (1878); G. Kleiner, Tanagrafiguren (1942); S. Mollard-Besques, Les terres cuites grecques (1963); R. A. Higgins, Greek Terracottas (1967).


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