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τοῦτο μέν, ‘firstly,’ answered by δὲ αὖ (2); cf. iii. 106. 2.

τὸ Ἀρτεμίσιον. The construction is loose, Ἀρτεμίσιον being put forward as the main subject of the following description. It was a beach looking northwards towards Olizon. The name no doubt comes from the temple of Artemis Proseoa (cf. inf., Plut. Them. 8).


Τρηχίς is used by H. for the city elsewhere (ch. 199, 201, and probably 203. 2), but here for the country Trachinia (ch. 199, 201; viii. 31), as also in viii. 21. 1, 66. 1; and Thuc. iv. 78, v. 12, 51.

τῆς ἄλλης. By an idiomatic compression the ‘narrowest part’ is included in the rest of the country with which it is really contrasted. Cf. Tac. Agr. 34 ‘ceterorum Britannorum fugacissimi’ and Milton's ‘fairest of her daughters Eve’. Though there is a verbal contradiction in saying ‘the pass through Trachis where narrowest is fifty feet broad, yet this is not the narrowest point but before and behind where it is only some six feet’, the meaning is pretty clear. Herodotus is first describing the best known and most defensible part of the pass, ‘the Middle Gate,’ near the Phocian wall (inf.), and the little hill where the last stand was made (ch. 225), which was about fifty feet wide; and then inconsistently adds further statements as to the western and eastern gates, in front of and behind the pass proper, where there was in his day but just room for the road.

[Macan's suggestion that H. meant by διὰ Τρηχῖνος ἔσοδος the entirely different pass up the gorge of the Asopus into Doris (cf. viii. 31 n.; vii. 199 n.) is impossible.]

H. here gives us in broad outline a general description, reserving details for ch. 198-200, chapters which should be studied in connexion with this. But the main points are here. The pass between mountain and sea has at either end an extremely narrow gate; the western gate, however, near Anthela, could be easily turned by crossing a projecting spur of the mountain, the eastern near Alpeni (ch. 216) is clearly behind the Greek position. In the three miles between them lay a double amphitheatre contracting about halfway at the Middle Gate; this is the true Thermopylae where are the hot springs and the Phocian wall (cf. 241 n.). For a full description cf. Grundy, p. 284 f.


Clear and good as is this description in general, the direction of the coast is wrongly given. H. evidently thought that the road through the pass ran from north to south, since he here describes various features on either side as lying east or west of it, and later (ch. 199, 200. 1, 201 ad fin.) speaks of points on the road as lying north or south of each other. In reality the coast and road bend to the east near Trachis. But the error is natural if, as appears likely from the route-map given (ch. 198-200), and from the expression ‘before’ and ‘behind’ Thermopylae (§ 2), H. visited Thermopylae while on a journey from the north to Greece, since the road from Lamia runs due north and south across the plain, and the bend in the ancient road may have been more gradual than that in the modern. Macan is surely wrong in doubting whether H. had been at Thermopylae (cf. Grundy, Quart. Rev., vol. ccii, p. 136).

The head of the Maliac gulf has now receded about four miles, and the pass itself is now separated from the sea by a tract of marshy ground a mile or more in width formed of the alluvial deposits brought down by the rivers and encircled by the precipitous sides of Mount Oeta and Callidromus (cf. ch. 198; Strabo 428). Even now, however, between the Asopus and the Middle Gate of Thermopylae the ground to the left of the road is impassable marsh. For H.'s sea and marsh cf. Liv. xxxvi. 18 ‘loca usque ad mare invia palustri limo et voraginibus’.

θερμὰ λουτρά. The hot springs, which are copious and over 120° F. in temperature, rise on the side of Callidromus, a great cliff mounting almost sheer to a height of 3,000 ft. and on the edge of a great fan-shaped mass of stream débris. The stream, which is of a bright clear green (cf. Paus. iv. 35. 9), first enters the baths and then turns two mills (cf. Grundy, p. 286).

Χύτροι: two ‘cauldrons’ or baths devoted in ancient times one to male and the other to female bathers; cf. Paus. iv. 35. 9γλαυκότατον μὲν οἶδα ὕδωρ θεασάμενος τὸ ἐν Θερμοπύλαις οὔτε που πᾶν ἀλλ᾽ ὅσον κάτεισιν ἐς τὴν κολυμβήθραν ἥντινα ὀνομάζουσιν οἱ ἐπιχώριοι Χύτρους γυναικείους”.

Warm springs were usually Ἡράκλεια λουτρά (Aristoph. Nub. 1051), being created by Athene or Hephaestus, according to different myths, to refresh the weary hero. So Peisander, ap. Schol. Ar. Nub. 1050 τῷ δ᾽ ἐν Θερμοπύλῃσι θεὰ γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη ποιεῖ θερμὰ λοετρὰ παρὰ ῥηγμῖνι θαλάσσης.

The whole district was the scene of many incidents in the life of Heracles and of his death (cf. ch. 193. 2, 198. 2, 216; and Sophocles, Trachiniae).

For the wall cf. ch. 208, 223, 225.

The existing remains of wall foundations on the neck by which the first mound is attached to the mountain side are believed by Grundy (pp. 288, 289) to be relics of a wall identical, at least in site, with the one which the Phocians built. It lies a little east of the Middle Gate and of the springs. It seems clear that the Phocians used the springs to channel (§ 4) the road in front, i. e. west of the wall, and so to hinder the Thessalian cavalry.


At this period Phocis no longer extended to the pass; the Malians who dwelt west of it were dependents of Thessaly, and east of the pass the Locrians dwelt (cf. 216. 1). But in old days the Phocians may have reached the Spercheius, as the names Anticyra and Trachis occur both in this region and in Phocis proper. Later the Phocians were driven out by Malians and Locrians, losing even their northern coasts except round Daphnus.

Cf. Thuc. i. 12Βοιωτοί τε γὰρ οἱ νῦν ἑξηκοστῷ ἔτει μετὰ Ἰλίου ἅλωσιν ἐξ Ἄρνης ἀναστάντες ὑπὸ Θεσσαλῶν τὴν νῦν μὲν Βοιωτίαν, πρότερον δὲ Καδμηίδα γῆν καλουμένην ᾤκισαν”.

Αἰολίδα: cf. 95. 1 n., 132. 1 n.

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hide References (4 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (4):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4.35.9
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.12
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.78
    • Plutarch, Themistocles, 8
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