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THASOS Greece.

An island with a town of the same name, in the N Aegean Sea about 8 km off the Thracian coast. The island is roughly circular in shape and about 25 km in diameter. It is well wooded and well watered and rises to a height of 1203 m in Mt. Hypsarion. It was rich in minerals, and its gold mines were very productive in the 6th and 5th c. B.C. They were seen and described by Herodotos. The island also produced an excellent white marble with large crystals which was widely exported, and its wine was famous all over the ancient world. The climate of Thasos in the late 5th c. B.C. is described by the physician Hippokrates (Epidemics 1.1,4,13). The city-state of Thasos also held territory on the mainland opposite, both along the coast and inland. The most important spot was Skaptesyle on Mt. Pangaion, with its rich gold mines. Some of these were owned by the historian Thucydides, who lived here and wrote his history during his exile from Athens.

Before the arrival of the Greeks, the island had been called Odonis and was occupied by the Sintes, a Thracian tribe. Nothing had been known archaeologically about prehistoric Thasos until two sites were discovered in the S part of the island, a cave on the W coast near Maries with Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sherds, and an inland site at Kastri with a settlement that has Neolithic and perhaps later sherds and an extensive cemetery of the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages. At the dawn of history the Phoenicians were exploiting the mines under their leader Thasos, who gave his name to the island.

The history of Thasos really begins ca. 680 B.C. with the coming of Ionian Greek settlers from the island of Paros under the leadership of Telesikles, the father of the poet Archilochos. The poet himself was active there ca. 650 B.C. and his poems give us tantalizing glimpses of the place and the times. The funeral monument of Glaukos, son of Leptines, a companion of Archilochos, has been found in the Agora, identified by a contemporary inscription. Pottery of the 7th c. B.C. in Cycladic orientalizing style has been found in votive deposits, and house remains of the same period have been discovered. The 6th and early 5th c. B.C. were the time of Thasos' greatest prosperity. The mines, both on the island and on the mainland, were producing 200 talents a year on the average, and 300 m good years, and the city had built a circuit wall over 4 km long which had gates decorated with large sculptured reliefs. In 491 B.C., however, the Thasians yielded to Persian demands, demolished their walls, and surrendered their fleet. Again in 480 they offered no resistance to Xerxes. In 477 B.C. they joined the Delian League and contributed a force of 30 ships. In 465 they wanted to withdraw, but Athens resisted and laid siege to the town, which capitulated in the third year, leaving Thasos a dependency of Athens. In 411 B.C. they again tried to break away, calling in Spartan help, but the pro-Athenian party resisted and ten years of civil strife followed. In 377 B.C. Thasos joined the second Athenian Confederacy. In Macedonian and Roman times Thasos was politically subsidiary to the great powers, but her commercial prosperity was considerable. Polygnotos, the 5th c. painter, was a native of Thasos.

The town of Thasos lay on the N coast of the island, looking across the strait to the mainland. It had two harbors, one enclosed within the fortifications, the other next to it, unfortified but protected by a breakwater. The Agora lay near the closed harbor. It was a quadrangular area, ca. 100 m on a side, with colonnades on three of its sides and administrative and religious buildings on the fourth. Sanctuaries, altars, and monuments occupied some of the open spaces. Elsewhere in the lower town sanctuaries of Poseidon, Dionysos, Artemis, and Herakles have been found. Herakles was the principal god of the Thasians, and his image appears on their coins and the stamps on their wine jars. His worship had been introduced by the Phoenicians before the coming of the Greeks. On the acropolis, which rose steeply behind the town to a height of 150 m, were sanctuaries of Pythian Apollo, Athena Poliouchos, and Pan. A theater lay on the slopes.

Thasos was visited, described, and excavated by a number of persons in the 19th c., and antiquities were removed to museums abroad, particularly to Constantinople and Paris. The museum on the site contains more recent finds of sculpture, inscriptions, and pottery.


Ecole française d'Athènes, Guide de Thasos (1968)MPI (authoritative guide with bibl.); id., Etudes Thasiennes, I-VIII (1944-62, continuing)MPI; D. Lazarides, Thasos and its Peraia (1971)MP (Vol. V of Ancient Greek Cities); J. Pouilloux, “Archiloque et Thasos: Histoire et Poésie,” Entretiens X (1963); ArchEph (1970) Chronika 16-22 (cemetery).


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