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BOEO´TIA (Βοιωτία: Eth. Βοιωτός, Eth. Boeoti), one of the political divisions of Greece, lying between Attica and Megaris on the south, and Locris and Phocis on the north, and bounded on the other two sides by the Euboean sea and Corinthian gulf respectively. It may be described as a large hollow basin, shut in on the south by Mts. Cithaeron and Parnes, on the west by Mt. Helicon, on the north by the slopes of Mt. Parnassus and the Opuntian mountains, and on the west by mountains, a continuation of the Opuntian range, which extend along the Euripus under the names of Ptoum and Messapium as far as the mouth of the Asopus. This basin however is not an uniform tract, but is divided into two distinct portions by Mts. Ptoum and Phoenicium or Sphingiunm, which run across the country from the Euboean sea to Mt. Helicon. The northern of these two divisions is drained by the Cephissus and its tributaries, the waters of which form the lake Copais: the southern is drained by the Asopus, which discharges its waters into the Euboean sea. Each of these two basins is again broken into smaller vallies and plains. The surface of Boeotia contains 1119 square miles, according to the calculation of Clinton.


1. Basin of the Copais and its subterraneous Channels.

This district is enclosed by mountains on every side; and like the vallies of Stympalus and Pheneus in Arcadia, the streams which flow into it only find an outlet for their waters by subterraneous channels called katavóthra in the limestone mountains. There are several of these katavóthra at the eastern end of the lake Copais, which is separated from the sea by Mt. Ptourn, about four or five miles across. The basin of the Copais is the receptacle of an extensive drainage. The river Cephissus, which finds its way into this plain through a cleft in the mountains, brings with it a large quantity of water from Doris and Phocis, and receives in Boeotia numerous steams, descending from Mt. Helicon and its offshoots. It flows in a south-easterly direction towards the katavóthra at the eastern end of the lake. If these katavóthra were sufficient to carry off the waters of the Cephissus and its tributaries, there would never be a lake in the plain. In the summer time the lake Copais almost entirely disappears; and even in the winter its waters scarcely deserve the name of a lake. Col. Mure, who visited it when its waters were at their full, describes it as “a large yellow swamip, overgrown with sedge, reeds, and canes, through which the river could be distinguished oozing its sluggish path for several miles. Even where the course of the stream could no longer be traced in one uninterrupted line, the partial openings among the reeds in the distance appeared but a continuation of its windings. Nor is the transition from dry land to water in any place distinctly perceptible; the only visible line of boundary between them, unless where the mountains stretch down to the shore, is the encroachment of the reeds on the arable soil, or the absence of the little villages with which the terra firma is here studded in greater numbers than usual.” (Tour in Greece, vol. i. p. 227.)

The number of katavóthra of the lake Copais is considerable, but several of these unite under the mountains; and if we reckon their number by their separate outlets, there are only four main channels. Of these three flow from the eastern extremity of the lake, between the Opuntian mountains (Clom&)acute; and Ptoumrn into the Euboean sea ; and the fourth from the southern side of the lake under Mt. Sphingiumn into the lake Hylica. The most northerly of the three katavóthra issues from the mountains south of the southern long walls of Opus. The central one, which carries off the greater part of the waters of the Cephissus, after a subterraneous course of nearly four miles, emerges in a broad and rapid stream at Upper Larymna, from which it flows above ground for about a mile and a half, till it joins the sea at Lower Larymna. (Strab. ix. p.405, seq.) The third katavóthrum on the east side falls into the Euboean sea at Skroponéri, the ancient Anthedon. The fourth katavóthrum, as mentioned above, flows under Mt. Sphingion into the lake Hylica. From Hylica there is probably a subterraneous channel into the small lake of Morítzi or Paralímni, and [p. 1.411]from the latter another channel flowing under Mt. Messapium into the Euboean sea.

These katavthra were not sufficient to carry off the waters of the lake, which consequently often inundated the surrounding plain. The tradition of the Ogygian deluge probably refers to such an inundation; and it is also related that a Boeotian Athens and Eleusis were also destroyed by a similar calamity. (Strah. ix. p. 407; Paus. 9.24.2.) To guard against this danger, the ancient inhabitants of the district constructed at a very early period two artificial Emissarii or Tunnels, of which the direction may still be distinctly traced. One of them runs from the eastern end of the lake, and is carried through the rock as far as Upper Larymna, almost parallel to the central of the three katavthra mentioned

  • 1. The Lake Copais.
  • 2. The Lake Hylica.
  • 3. The lake now called Morítzi or Paralímni.
  • 4. The River Cepbissus.
  • 5. Mt. Phicium or Sphingium.
  • 6. Mt. Ptourn.
  • 7. Mt. Messapium.
  • 8. Orchomenus.
  • 9. Aspledon.
  • 10. Copae.
  • 11. Acraephia.
  • 12. Haliartus.
  • 13. Alalcomenae.
  • 14. Coroneia.
  • 15. Larynina.
  • 16. Upper Larymna.
  • 17. Anthedon.
  • 18. Salganeus.
  • 19. Chalia.
  • 20. Aulis.
  • 21. Chalcis.
  • 22. The Euripus or Channel of Euboea.

The preceding map, copied from Forchhammer's Helleneika, is designed more particularly to show the course of the subterraneous channels which drained the lake Copais. Those marked--------are the katavóthra or natural channels; those marked--------are the artificial emissarii or tunnels.

above; it is nearly four miles in length, with about twenty vertical shafts let down into it along the whole distance. These shafts are now choked up, but the apertures, about four feet square, are still visible. The deepest of them is conjectured to have been from 100 to 150 feet deep. The second tunnel unites the lakes Copais and Hylica, running under the plain of Acraephium, and is much shorter. As the whole plain is now cultivated, the apertures of the shafts are more difficult to find, but Forchhammer counted eight, and he was informed that there were fifteen in all.

These two great works are perhaps the most striking monuments of what is called the heroic age. Respecting the time of their execution history is silent; but we may safely assign them to the old Minyae of Orchomenus, which was one of the most powerful and wealthy cities of Greece in the earliest times. Indeed, it was partly through these tunnels that Orchomenus obtained much of its wealth; for while they were in full operation, there was an abundant outlet for the waters of the Cephissus, and nearly the whole of what is now the lake Copais was a rich plain. These tunnels are said to have been stopped up by the Theban hero Heracles, who by this means inundated the lands of the Minyae of Orchomenus (Diod. 4.18; Paus. 9.38.5; Polyaen. 1.3.5), and it is probable that after the fall of the power of the Minyae these tunnels were neglected, and thus became gradually choked up. In the time of Alexander the Great Crates was employed to clear them out, and partially succeeded in his task; but the work was soon afterwards interrupted, and the tunnels again became obstructed. (Strab. ix. p.407.) Strabo states that Crates cleared out the katavóthra, but it is very improbable that these natural channels were ever choked up; and there is little doubt that he has confounded them with the two artificial tunnels, as many modern writers also have done. (The best account of the katavóthra and tunnels of the lake Copais is given by Forchhammer, Hellenika, p. 159, seq.; comp. Grote, vol. ii. sub fin.)

The lake COPAIS (Κωπαΐς λίμνη) was in more ancient times called CEPHISSIS (Κηφαίς λίμνη, Hom. Il. 5.709; Strab. ix. p.407), from the river of this name. It also bore separate denominations from the towns situated upon it, Haliartus, Orchomenus, Onchestus, Acraephia, and Copae (Strab.ix.p. 410, seq.); but the name of Copais finally became the general one, because the north-eastern extremity of the basin, upon which Copae stood, was the steep-est part. Strabo says (ix. p. 407) that the lake was 380 stadia in circumference; but it is impossible to make any exact statement respecting its extent, [p. 1.412]since it varied so much at different times of the year and in different seasons. On the northern and eastern sides its extent is limited by a range of heights, but on the opposite quarter there is no such natural boundary to its size.

2. Mountains.

At the northern extremity of the Copaic lake, and between the lake, the Cephissus, and the Assus, a tributary of the latter, there are four or five long bare mountains, offshoots of Mt. Chlomó. They bore the general name of HYPHANTEIUM (τὸ Γ̔φαντεῖον ὄρος, Strab. ix. p.424). Strabo says in one passage (l.c.) that Orchomenus was situated on HYPHANTEIUM; but since in another passage (ix. p. 416) he places this celebrated city on Mt. ACONTIUM (τὸ Ἀκόντιον ὄρος), we may regard the latter as one of the mountains of Hyphanteium. Between the latter range and the Assus there lies a smaller hill called HEDYLIUM (Τὸ Ἡδύλιον or Ἡδύλειον ὄρος, Strab. ix. p.424; Dem. de Fals. Leg. p. 387; Plut. Sull. 16, foll.).

PTOUN (Πτῶον), was situated at the south-eastern end of the lake, and extended from the Euboean sea inland as far as Lake Hylica. On this mountain was a celebrated sanctuary of Apollo Ptous. (Paus. 9.23.5; Hdt. 8.135; for details see ACRAEPHIA) It is a long even ridge, separated from Phoenicium or Phicium, mentioned below, by the opening in which stands the modern village of Kardhítza. It is now known in different parts by the names of Paleá, Strútzina, and Skroponéri.

PHOENICIUM (Φοινίκιον, Strab. ix. p.410), PHICIUM (Φίκιον, Hes. Sc. Herc. 33; Φίκειον, Apollod. 3.5.8; Steph. B. sub voce or SPHINGIUM (Σφίγγιον, Palaeph. de Incred. 7.2), now called Fagá, the mountain between the lakes Copais and Hylica, connecting Mt. Ptoumn with the range of Helicon. Forch-hammer supposes that Phoenicium and Sphingium are the names of two different mountains separated from one another by the small plain of the stream Daulos; but the name of Phoenicium rests only on the authority of Strabo, and is probably a corruption of Phicium, which occurs in other writers besides those quoted above. Φίξ is the Aeolic form of Σφίγξ (Hes. Th. 326); and therefore there can be no doubt that Phicium and Sphingium are two different forms of the same name. This mountain rises immediately above the Copaic lake, and on the upper part of its surface there is a block of stone which resembles a woman's head looking into the lake. Hence arose the legend that the Sphinx threw her victims into the lake. (Comp. Paus. 9.26.)

TILPHOSSIUM (Τιλφώσσιον, Strab ix. p.413; Τιλφούσιον, Paus. 9.33.1; Τιλφωσσαῖον, Harpocrat. s. v.), a mountain on the southern side of the lake Copais, between the plains of Haliartus and Coroneia, maybe regarded as the furthest offshoot of Mt. Helicon, with which it is connected by means of Mount Leibethrium. At the foot of the hill was the small fountain Tilphossa or Tilphussa, where the seer Teiresias is said to have died. (Strab., Paus., ll. cc.) The hill bears the form of a letter T, with its foot turned towards the north. It is now called Petra. From its position between the lake and Leibethrium, there is a narrow pass on either side of the hill. The pass between Tilphossium and Leibethrium is now called the pass of Zagorá; the other, between Tilphossium and the lake, was one of great importance in antiquity, as the high road from northern Greece to Thebes passed through it. This pass was very narrow, and was completely commanded by the for-tress Tilphosnaeum or Tilphusium, on the summit of the hill. (Dem. de Fals. Leg. pp. 385, 387; comp. Diod. 4.67, 19.53.)

LEIBETHRIUM, one of the offshoots of Mt. Helicon, and connecting the latter with Tilphossium, now called Zagorá, is described under Helicon. [HELICON]

LAPHYSTIUM (Λαφύστιον), another offshoot of Mt. Helicon, running towards the Copaic lake, and separating the plains of Coroneia and Lebadeia. It is now called the Mountain of Gránitza, and is evidently of volcanic origin. In its crater the village of Gránitza is situated, and there are warm springs at its foot near the mills of Kalámi. Pausanias (9.34.5) describes Laphystium as distant about 20 stadia from Coroneia, and as possessing a temenos of Zeus Laphystius. According to the Boeotians, Hercules is said to have dragged Cerberus into the upper world at this spot; a tradition probably having reference to the volcanic nature of the mountain.

THIURIUM (Θον́ριον), also called ORTHOPAGUMI (Ὀρθοπάγον), described by Plutarch as a rugged pine-shaped mountain, separated the plains of Lebadeia and Chaeroneia. (Plut. Sull. 13.)

3. Passes across the Mountains.

The principal pass into northern Boeotia was along the valley of the Cephissus, which enters the plain of Chaeroneia from Phocis through a narrow defile, formed by a ridge of Mount Parnassus jutting out towards Mt. Hedylium. Since this pass was the high road from northern Greece, the position of Chaeroneia was one of great military importance; and hence the plain in which this city stood was the scene of some of the most memorable battles in antiquity. [CHAERONEIA] There was likewise a pass across the mountains leading from Chaeroneia by Panopeus to Daulis, and thence to Delphi. (Paus. 10.4.1.)

Boeotia was connected with Locris by a road leading across the mountains from Orchomenus to Abae and Hyampolis, and from thence to Opus on the Euboean sea. (Paus. 10.35.1.)

4. Rivers.

The only river of importance in the northern part of Boeotia is the CEPHISSUS (Κήφισσος), which rises in Phocis near the town of Lilaea, where it bursts forth from the rocks with a loud noise. (Hornm. Il. 2.522, Hymn. in Apoll. 240; Strab. ix. pp. 407. 424; Paus. 10.33. § § 4, 5; Plin. Nat. 4.3. s. 7; Stat. Theb. 7.348.) It first flows to the north-east, and thence to the south-east through the plain of Elateia, receives the river Assus near the city Parapotamii, and then enters Boeotia through a narrow defile in the mountains. [See above.] Its course through Boeotia, and its subterraneous passage through the katavóthra at the eastern end of the lake Copais, till it emerges at Upper Larymna, have been described above.

There are several other smaller streams in the western part of northern Boeotia descending from Mt. Helicon and its offshoots, and flowing into the Cephissus or the Copais. Of these the names of the following have been preserved: i. MORIUS (Μώριος), rising in Mt. Thurium near Chaeroneia, and flowing into the Cephissus. Its name is perhaps preserved in Mera, a village in the valley. (Plut. Sull. 17; Leake, Northern Greece, vol. ii. p. 199.)--ii. HERCYNA (Ἕρκυνα, Paus. 9.39.2, seq.; Plut. Narr. Am. 1), rising near Lebadeia, at the foot of Mt. Laphystius, and falling into--iii. PROBATIA (Προβατία, Theophr. Hist. Plant. 4.12), which flows into the Copaic gulf.--iv, v. PHALARUS (Φάλαρος, Paus. 9.34.5; Φλίαρος, Plut. Lys. 29), and CUARIUS or CORALIUS (Κουάριος, Strab. ix. p.411; [p. 1.413]Κωράλιος, Alcaeus, ap. Strab. l.c.), the former flowing to the left, and the latter to the right of Coroneia, and from thence into the lake Copais. On the banks of the Cuarius stood the temple of Athena Itonia.--vi. ISOMANTUS (Ἰσόμαντος) or HOPLIAS (Ὁπλίας), a small stream flowing into the Phalarus. (Plut. Lys. 29.)--vii. TRITON (Τρίτων, Paus. 9.33.8), flowing by Alalcomenae into the lake Copais. It was from this stream, and not from the one in Libya, that Athena derived the surname of Tritogeneia.--viii. OCALEA (Ὠκαλέα, Strab. ix. p.410), a river flowing midway between Haliartus and Alalcomenae, with a city of the same name upon its banks. Leake describes it as rising in the eastern part of Mount Leibethrium, and issuing through a precipitous gorge lying between the eastern end of Tilphossium and a rocky peak (vol. ii. p. 205).--ix. LOPHIS (Λοφίς, Paus. 9.33.4), a small stream near Haliartus, apparently the same as the HOPELITES (Ὁπλίτης) of Plutarch (Plut. Lys. 29), where Lysander fell.--x, xi. PERMESSUS (Περμησσός) and OLMEIUS (Ὀλμειός), two streams rising in Mt. Helicon, which, after uniting their waters, flow into the lake Copais near Haliartus. Leake regards the Kefalári as the Permessus, and the river of Zagará as the Olmeius. (Strab. ix. pp. 407, 411; Schol. ad Hesiod. Theog. 5; Paus. 9.29.2; Leake, vol. ii. p. 212.)

There are very few streams flowing into the eastern side of the lake Copais, as the mountains rise almost immediately above this side of the lake. The only one of importance is the MELAS (Μέλας), now Mavropotámi, names derived from the dark colour of its deep transparent waters. It rises at the foot of the precipitous rocks on the northern side of Orchomenus, from two katavóthra, which accounts for the statement of Plutarch (Plut. Sull. 20), that the Melas was the only river of Greece navigable at its sources. These two fountains are probably those called Phoenix and Elaea by Plutarch (Plut. Pel. 16). They form two considerable rivers. One flows north-eastward, and joins the Cephissus at the distance of little more than half a mile; the other, which is to the west-ward of the former, follows for a considerable distance the foot of the cliffs of Orchomenus, and is then lost in the marshes of the lake Copais. (Plut. ll. cc.; Paus. 9.38.6; Strab. ix. pp. 407, 415; Leake, vol. ii. p. 154, seq.) Plutarch says (Sull. 20) that the Melas augmented at the summer solstice like the Nile. Strabo states (ix. p. 407) that the Melas flowed through the territory of Haliartus: hence some modern writers suppose that there was a river Melas on the western side of the lake Copais, and others that the territory of Haliartus extended to the other side of the lake; but it is more probable that Strabo was ignorant of the locality. The dark waters of the Melas are often contrasted with the white waters of the Cephissus; and hence it was said that the former dyed the wool of sheep black, and the latter white. (Plin. Nat. 2.103. s. 106; comp. Vitr. 8.3; Senec. N. Q. 3.25; Solin. 7.)


Southern Boeotia is divided into two distinct parts by the mountain Teumessus. The northern of these two divisions is to a great extent a plain, in which Thebes stands; the southern is drained by the Asopus and its tributaries. Hence the southern part of Boeotia may be divided into the plain of Thebes, and the valley of the Asopus.

1. Plain of Thebes.

In the northern part of the plain of Thebes is the lake HYLICA (Γ̔λικὴ λίμνη, Strab. ix. p.407, xv. p. 708), now called Livádhi or lake of Sénzina, separated, as we have already remarked, from the lake Copais by Mt. Phicium or Sphingium. This lake is a deep crater, entirely surrounded by mountains, with unusually clear and deep water. Hence the Ismenus and the other streams, descending from the mountains which bound the Theban plain, cannot flow into this lake, as is represented in the maps. They are said to flow into a separate marsh to the south of Hylica; but the waters of this marsh find their way into the lake Hylica through a narrow ravine in the mountains. (Forchhammer, p. 166.) The lake Hylica is much lower than the Copais; which fact accounts for the formation of the tunnel to carry off a portion of the waters of the latter into the former. It has been mentioned above that there was a small lake to the east of Hylica, now called Morítzi or Paralímni, and that there is probably a katavóthrum flowing from the Hylica to this lake, and from the latter again across Mount Messapium to the sea. This lake is only a shallow marsh, and in summer is reduced to small dimensions. Its ancient name is uncertain. Forchhammer calls it SCHOENUS (Σχοινοῦς, Strab. ix. p.410), the name of the river upon which the town of Schoenus stood. Leake, however, supposes that the river Schoenus is the Kanavári, which rises near Thespiae. Müller conjectures that it was called HARMA (τὴν καλουμένην Ἅρμα λίμνην, Aelian, Ael. VH 3.45), from a town of the same name.

The only running streams in the plain of Thebes are the Kanavári mentioned above, and the two rivulets, the ISMENUS and DIRCE upon which Thebes stood. The two latter are described under THEBAE Nicander (Theriac. 887) also mentions a river called CNOPUS (Κνῶπος), which the Scholiast says was the same as the Ismenus. The LEOPUS in Dicaearchus (106) is supposed by Muiller to be a false reading for Cnopus.

The north-western portion of the plain of Thebes, lying south-east of Mt. Phicium, was called the TENERIC PLAIN (τὸ Τηνερικὸν πεδίον, Strab. ix. p.413; Paus. 9.26.1.) To the west of Thebes were the plains of Thespiae and Leuctra.

2. Valley of the Asopus.

The course of the Asopus is described in a separate article. [ASOPUS] The only other rivers in the southern half of the southern portion of Boeotia are the OEROE (Ὠερόη), which rises in Mt. Helicon, flows by Plataeae, and falls into the Corinthian gulf [PLATAEAE]; and the THERMODON (Θερμώδων, Hdt. 9.43; Paus. 9.19.3), which rises in Mt. Hypatus, and flows into the Asopus near Tanagra. South-west of Thebes is the plain of Plataeae, forming a lofty track of table land. Its centre forms the point of partition for the waters which flow into the Euboean and Corinthian gulfs respectively.

The range of hills separating the plain of Thebes from the valley of the Asopus, to which we have given the name of Teumessus, is a low range branching from the eastern end of Mt. Helicon, and extending as far as the Euripus. The falls of these hills descending towards Parnes divide the valley of the Asopus into three parts--the plain of Parasopia, the plain of Tanagra, and the plain of Oropus. The highest peak in the range is now called Soró, from which an offshoot approaches so near to Mt. Parnes that there is only a narrow rocky ravine between them, through which the Asopus finds its way from the plain of Parasopia into that of Tanagra. (Leake, vol. ii. p. 221.) The plain of Oropus, which [p. 1.414]physically belonged to Boeotia, since it lies on the Boeotian side of Mt. Parnes, was eventually conquered by the Athenians, and annexed to Attica. [OROPUS.]

The name of Teumessus was given to this range of hills from an insulated height a little to the north of the range, upon which was a town bearing the same name, situated upon the road from Thebes to Chalcis. (Paus. 9.19. § § 1, 2; Hom. Hymns. in Apoll. 228; Eur. Phoen. 1107; Strab. ix. p.409; Steph. B. sub voce

The mountain called HYPATUS (Γ̔́πατος, Paus. 9.19.3) bounded the Theban plain on the east. It is described by Leake as bold and rocky, with a flat summit. Its modern name is Samata or Siamata.

MESSAPIUM (Μεσσάπιον), lying between Hypatus and the Euripus, now called Khtypá. It is connected with Mt. Ptoum on the north by a ridge of hills. At its foot was the town Anthedon. (Aesch. Ag. 293; Paus. 9.22.5; Strab. ix. p.405.)

CFERYCEIUM (Κηρύκειον, Paus. 9.20.3), one of the slopes of Teunessus descending down to Tanagra.

The important passes across Mts. Cithaeron and Parnes, connecting Boeotia and Attica, are described under the latter name [pp. 322, 329, 330].


The climate of Boeotia presents a striking contrast to that of Attica. Instead of the pure and transparent atmosphere, which is one of the chief characteristics of the Attic climate, the air of Boeotia is thick and heavy in consequence of the vapours rising from the valleys and lakes. Moreover, the winter in Boeotia is frequently very cold and stormy, and snow often lies upon the ground for many days together. (Theophr. de Vent. 32.) Hesiod gives a lively picture of the rigours of a Boeotian winter (Op. et Dies, 501, seq.); and the truth of his description is confirmed by the testimony of modern travellers. Thus Dr. Wordsworth, who suffered from excessive cold and snowstorms passing through Boeotia in the month of February, was surprised to hear, upon arriving at Athens, that the cold had not been severe, and that scarcely any snow had fallen. (Wordsworth, Athens and Attica, p. 241, seq.) The spring in Boeotia also commences later than in most other parts of Greece; and the snow sometimes covers the sides of the mountains even in the months of May and June. The soil of Boeotia presents an equally striking contrast to that of Attica. In the latter country the soil is light and arid, possessing little land adapted for the cultivation of corn; while the Boeotian soil, consisting for the most part of a rich mould, is very fertile, and produced in antiquity, as well as in the present day, abundant crops of corn. (Comp. Theophr. de Caus. Plant. 4.9.5, Hist. Plant. 8.4.15.) The plain of the Copais is particularly distinguished for its fertility. Colonel Leake counted 900 grains on one cob of maize. Nor was the country deficient in rich pasture land. Numerous flocks and herds were reared in the meadows around Orchomenus, Thebes, and Thespiae; and from the same meadows the Boeotian cavalry obtained excellent horses, which ranked among the best in Greece. Vegetables and fruit were also cultivated with great success, especially in the neighbourhood of Thebes, Anthedon, and Mycalessus. Even palmtrees flourished in the sheltered bay of Aulis. (Paus. 9.19.8.) The vine prospered on the sides of the mountains; and it was in Boeotia that the vine is said to have been first planted by Dionysus, whom the legends represent as a native of Thebes. (Paus. 9.25.1.)

From the mountains on the eastern coast of Boeotia, as well as from those on the opposite coast of Euboea, iron was obtained in very early times. The Boeotian swords and Aonian iron enjoyed great celebrity (Dionys. Perieg. 476, with the note of Eustathius). The mountains also yielded black and grey marble, which was used in public buildings, and gave the Boeotian cities a sombre appearance, very different from the dazzling whiteness of the Pentelic marble of Attica. Potter's earth was found near Aulis. (Paus. 9.19.8.)

Among the natural productions of Boeotia, one of the most important, on account of its influence upon the development of Greek music, was the auletic, or flutereed (δονάχ), which grew in the marshes of the lake Copais. (Pind. P. 12.46; Theophr. Hist. Plant. 4.12; Plin. Nat. 16.35. s. 66; Strab. ix. p.407.) The marshes of the Copais were frequently covered with water-fowl, and large quantities of fish were caught in the lake. These, as well as many other productions of Boeotia, found a ready sale in the Athenian market. (Aristoph.. Acharn. 872, seq.) The eels of the lake Copais were, however, most prized by the Athenians; they still retain their ancient celebrity, and are described by a modern traveller as “large, white, of delicate flavour, and light of digestion.” (Aristoph. Pac. 1005; Acharn. 880, seq.; Athen. 7.297, seq.; Pollux, 6.63; Leake, vol. ii. p. 157.) The plain of Thebes abounds with moles, and their, skins were an article of foreign commerce. (Aristoph. Ach. 879.) Pliny remarks (8.58. s. 83), that though moles are not found at Lebadeia, they exist in great numbers in the lands of Orchomenus; but he has probably made some confusion respecting the locality, since Colonel Mure did not observe a single mole-hill in any portion of the Cephissian Plain; but upon entering that of Thebes, he found the ground covered with then in every direction. (Mure, vol. ii. p. 252.)


Boeotia was originally inhabited by various barbarous tribes, known by the names of Aones, Ectenes, Temrnices, and Hyantes, some of whom were probably Leleges and others Pelasgians. (Strab. ix. p.401; Paus. 9.5; Lycophr. 644, 786, 1209.) Mention is also made of other ancient inhabitants of Boeotia, such as Thracians, Gephyraei, and Phlegyae, who are spoken of under their respective names. But in addition to all these tribes, there were two others, of far greater importance, who appear as the rulers of Boeotia in the heroic age. These two were the Minyae, and the Cadmeans or Cadmeones,--the former dwelling at Orchomenus, and the latter at Thebes. The history of these two tribes is given in another part of this work; and accordingly we pass over at present the question, whether the Cadmeans are to be regarded as a Phoenician colony, according to the general testimony of antiquity, or as Tyrrhenian Pelasgians, as is maintained by many modern scholars. [MINYAE; ORCHOMENUS; THEBAE.] It is only necessary to mention in this place that Orchomenus was originally the more powerful of the two cities, though it was afterwards obliged to yield to the supremacy of Thebes. The description previously given of the physical peculiarities of Boeotia, by which it is seen how completely the country is divided into two distinct valleys, almost leads one to [p. 1.415]expect the division of the country into two great political leagues, with Orchomenus and Thebes as the respective heads of each.

Sixty years after the Trojan war, according to the chronology of Thucydides, an important change took place in the population of Boeotia. The Boeotians, an Aeolian people, who had hitherto dwelt in the southern part of Phthiotis in Thessaly, on the Pagasacan gulf, and whose chief town was Arne, were expelled from their homes by the Thessalians, who are said to have come from Thesprotia. These expelled Boeotians thereupon penetrated southwards, and took possession of the land, then called Cadmeis, but to which they gave their own name of Boeotia. (Thuc. 1.12; comp. Strab. ix. p.401.) The Minyans and Cadmeans were partly driven out of their cities, and partly incorporated with the conquering race. A. difficulty has arisen respecting the time of this Boeotian immigration, from the fact that, in mentioning the wars of the Seven chiefs and of their sons against Thebes, Homer always calls the inhabitants of this city Cadmeones (Il. 4.385, 5.804, 23.680); while at the time of the Trojan war the inhabitants of the same country are invariably called Boeotians in the Iliad, and their chieftains, Peneleus, Leitus, Arcesilaus, Prothenor, and Clonius, are connected, both by genealogy and legends, with the Aeolic Boeotians who came from Thessaly. According to this it would follow that the migration of the Aeolian Boeotians ought to be placed between the time of the Epigoni and that of the Trojan war; but it is more probable that Thucydides has preserved the genuine legend, and that Homer only inserted the name of the Boeotians in the great national war of the Greeks to gratify the inhabitants of the country of his time. But so great was the authority of Homer, that in order to reconcile the statement of the poet with other accounts, Thucydides added (l.c.) that there was a portion of Aeolian Boeotians settled in Boeotia previously, and that to them belonged the Boeotians who sailed against Troy.

But at whatever time the Boeotians may have settled in the country named after them, it is certain that at the commencement of the historical period all the cities were inhabited by Boeotians, Orchornenus among the number, and that the Minyans and other ancient races had almost entirely disappeared. The most important of these cities formed a political confederacy under the presidency of Thebes. Orchomenus was the second city in importance after Thebes. Of these greater cities, which had smaller towns dependent upon them, there appear to have been originally fourteen, but their names are variously given by different writers. Müller supposes these fourteen states to have been Thebes, Orchomenus, Lebadeia, Coroneia, Copae, Haliartus, Thespiae, Tanagra, Anthedon, Plataeae, Ocaleae, Chalia, Onchestus. and Eleutherae. There can be little doubt that the first ten were members of the confederacy; but whether the last four belonged to it is questionable. Oropus, which was afterwards subject to Athens, was probably at one time a member of the league. Plataeae withdrew from the confederacy, and placed itself under the protection of Athens, as early as B.C. 519. The affairs of the confederacy were managed by certain magistrates or generals, called Boeotarchs, two being elected by Thebes, and one apparently by each of the other confederate states. At the time of the battle of Delium (B.C. 424) there were eleven Boeotarchs (Thuc. 4.91); whence it has been inferred that the confederacy at that time consisted of ten cities. There was a religious festival of the league, called Pamboeotia, which was held at the temple of Athena Itonia, in the neighbourhood of Coroneia. (Paus. 9.34.1.) Each of the confederate states was independent of the other; but the management of the confederacy was virtually in the hands of the Thebans, and exercised for their interests. For further details respecting the constitution of the Boeotian League, see Dict. of Ant. art. Boeotarches.

The political history of Boeotia cannot be separated from that of the separate towns; and even the events relating to the general history of the country are so connected with that of Thebes, that it is more convenient to relate them under the later name. After the battle of Chaeroneia (B.C. 338), and the destruction of Thebes by Alexander three years afterwards (B.C. 335), Boeotia rapidly declined, and so low had it sunk under the Romans, that even as early as the time of Strabo, Tanagra and Thespiae were the only two places in the country which could be called towns; of the other great Boeotian cities nothing remained but ruins and their names. (Strab. ix. pp. 403, 410.) Both Tanagra and Thespiae were free towns under the Romans. (Plin. Nat. 4.7. s. 12.)

The Boeotians are represented as a dull and heavy race, with little susceptibility and appreciation of intellectual pleasures. It was especially their lively neighbours the Athenians, who reproached them with this failing, which they designated by the name of ἀναισθησία. (Dem. de Coron. p. 240, de Pac. p. 61.) Their natural dulness was generally ascribed to the dampness and thickness of their atmosphere (Cic. de Fat. 4 ; Hor. Ep. 2.1.244), but was probably as much owing to the large quantities of food which they were accustomed to take, and which the fertility of their country furnished in abundance. Their dulness and sensuality gave rise to the proverbs Βοιωτία ὕς and Βοιώτιον οψ̓̂ς, which was an old national reproach even in the time of Pindar. (Ol. 6.151.) The Boeotians paid more attention to the development of their bodily powers than to the cultivation of their minds. (“Omnes Boeoti magis firmitati corporis quam ingenii acumini inserviunt,Corn. Nep. Alc. ii.; Diod. 15.50.) They therefore did not gain much distinction in literature and in art; but at the same time they do not deserve the universal condemnation which the Athenians passed upon them. In the quiet vallies of Mt. Helicon a taste for music and poetry was cultivated, which at all times gave the lie to the Βοιώτιον ὀ̂ς; and Hesiod, Corinna, Pindar, and Plutarch, all of whom were natives of Boeotia, are sufficient to redeem the people from the charge of universal dulness.


The following is a list of the Boeotian towns, of each of which an account is given separately. Upon the lake Copais and its immediate neighbourhood, beginning with Orchomenus, and turning to the east, were ORCHOMENUS; TEGYRA; ASPLEDON; OLMONES; COPAE; ERYTHRAE (?); ACRAEPHIA; ARNE; MEDEON; ONCHIESTUS; HALIARTUS; OCALEA; TILPHOSSIUM; ALALCOMENAE; CORONETA; LEBADEIA; MIDEIA. CHAERONEIA was situated at a little distance from the Copais, west of Orchomenus; and CYRTONE and HYETTUS north of the lake.

Along the Euripus from N. to S. were: LARYMNA and UPPER LARYMNA, at one time belonging to [p. 1.416]Locris; PIIOCAE,; ANTHEDON; ISUS probably at a little distance from the coast, south of Anthedon; CHALIA; SALGANEUS; MYCALESSUS at a little distance from the coast; AULIS; CERCAS; DELIUM; and lastly OROPUS which originally belonged to Boeotia, but was subsequently included in the territory of Attica.

Along the Corinthian gulf from W. to E., CHORSEIA upon the frontiers of Phocis; THISBE; TIPHAE or SIPHAE; CREUSIS. Inland between the Corinthian gulf and the cities on the lake Copais, also from W. to E., HIPPOTAE; ASCRA; CERESSUS and DONACON both S. of Ascra; THESPIAE; EUTRESIS, S. of Thespiae; LEUCTRA

THEBAE was situated in the plain between the lake Hylica and Mt. Teumessus. Near lake Hylica were HYLE; TRAPHEIA; PETEON and SCHOENUS Between Thebes and the Euripus TEUMESSUS; GLISAS; CNOPIA and HARMA S. of Thebes, POTNIAE and THERAPNAE

In the valley of the Asopus, between Mt. Teumessus and Attica from W. to E., PLATAEAE; HYSIAE; ERYTHRAE; SCOLUS; SIDAE; ETEONUS or SCARPHE; ELEUM; TANAGRA; PHERAE; OENOPHYTA.

(The principal works on Boeotia are the Travels of Clarke, Holland, Hobhouse, Dodwell, Gell, Mure, and more especially of Leake and Ulrichs; K. O. Müller, Orchomenos, Breslau, 1844, 2nd ed., and the article Boeotien in Ersch and Gruber's Encyclopädie, vol. xi.; Forchhammer, Hellenika, Berlin, 1837, a work of great value; Kruse, Hellas, vol. ii. pt. i.: Raoul-Rochette, Sur la forme, &c. de l‘état fédéatif des Béotiens, in Mém. de l'Acad. des Inscr., vol. viii. p. 214, seq.; Klütz, de Foedere Boeotico, Berol. 1821 ; ten Breujel, de Foedere Boeotico, Groning. 1834; Koppius, Specimen historiczum exhibens historiam reipublicae Boeotorunm, Groning. 1836.)


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  • Cross-references from this page (54):
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.5.8
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 15.50
    • Euripides, Phoenician Women, 1107
    • Herodotus, Histories, 8.135
    • Herodotus, Histories, 9.43
    • Hesiod, Theogony, 326
    • Homer, Iliad, 2.522
    • Homer, Iliad, 4.385
    • Homer, Iliad, 5.709
    • Homer, Iliad, 5.804
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.33
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.4.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.19
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.22.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.26
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.26.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.34.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.38.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.38.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.35.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.19.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.19.8
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.20.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.23.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.24.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.25.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.29.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.33.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.33.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.34.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.39.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.5
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.91
    • Homer, Iliad, 23.680
    • Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 293
    • Aristophanes, Acharnians, 879
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 8.3
    • Cornelius Nepos, Alcibiades, 2
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 16.35
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 2.103
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.3
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.7
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.12
    • Plutarch, Lysander, 29
    • Plutarch, Pelopidas, 16
    • Plutarch, Sulla, 20
    • Plutarch, Sulla, 16
    • Plutarch, Sulla, 17
    • Statius, Thebias, 7
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 4.18
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 4.67
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 19.53
    • Aelian, Varia Historia, 3.45
    • Athenaeus, of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae, 7
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