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HE´LICON (Ἑλικών), a mountain in Boeotia lying between lake Copais and the Corinthian gulf, and which may be regarded as a continuation of the range of Parnassus. It is celebrated as the favourite haunt of the Muses, to whom the epithet of Heliconian is frequently given by both the Greek and Roman poets (αἱ Ἑλικώνιαι πάρθενοι, Pind. 1.7. 57; αἱ Ἑλικωνιάδες, Hes. Th. 1; Soph. Oed. Tyr. 1008; Heliconiades, Lucret. 3.1050; Heliconides, Pers. prooem. 4). Its poetical celebrity is owing to the fact of its having been the seat of the earliest school of poetry in Greece Proper; for at its foot was situated Ascra, the residence of Hesiod, the most eminent poet of this school.

Helicon is a range of mountains with several summits, of which the loftiest is a round mountain now called Paleovúni. Helicon is described by Strabo as equal to Parnassus, both in height and circumference (ix. p. 409); but this is a mistake as far as height is concerned, since the loftiest summit of Helicon is barely 5000 feet high, while that of Parnassus is upwards of 8000 feet. Pausanias says that of all the mountains in Greece Helicon is the most fertile, and produces the greatest number of trees and shrubs, though none of a poisonous character, while several of them are useful in counteracting the bites of venomous serpents. (Paus. 9.28.) There is, however, a considerable difference between the eastern and western sides of the mountain; for while the eastern slopes abounded in springs, groves, and fertile valleys, the western side was more rugged and less susceptible of cultivation. It was the eastern or Boeotian side of Helicon which was especially sacred to the Muses, and contained many objects connected with their worship, of which Pausanias has left us an account. On Helicon was a sacred grove of. the Muses, to which Pausanias ascended from Ascra. On the left of the road, before reaching the grove of the Muses, was the celebrated fountain of Aganippe (Ἀγανίππη), which was believed to inspire those who drank of it, and from which the Muses were called Aganippides. (Paus. 9.25.5; Catull 61.26; Verg. Ecl. 10.12.)

Placing Ascra at Pyrguáki, there is little doubt that Aganippe is the fountain which issues from the left, bank of the torrent, flowing midway between Paleo-panaghía and Pyrgaki. Around this fountain Leake observed numerous squared blocks, and in the neighbouring fields stones and remains or habitations. The position of the Grove of the Muses is fixed at St. Nicholas by an inscription which Leake discovered there relating to the Museia, of games of the Muses, which were celebrated there under the presidency of the Thespians. (Paus. 9.31.3.) St. Nicholas is a church and small convent beautifully situated in a theatre-shaped hollow at the foot of Mt. Marandáli, which is one of the summits of Helicon. In the time of Pausanias the grove of the Muses contained a larger number of statues than any other place in Boeotia; and this writer has given an account of many of them. The statues of the Muses were removed by Constantine from this place to his new capital, where they were destroyed by fire in A.D. 404. (Euseb. Vit. Const. 3.54; Sozom. 2.5; Zosim. 2.21, 5.24, quoted by Leake.)

Twenty stadia above the Grove of the Muses was the fountain HIPPOCRENE (Ἱπποκρήνη), which was said to have been produced by the horse Pegasus striking the ground with his feet. (Paus. 9.31.3; Strab. ix. p.410.) Hippocrene was probably at Makarioitissa, which is noted for a fine spring of water, although, as Leake remarks, the twenty stadia of Pausanias accord better with the direct distance than with that by the road. The two fountains of Aganippe and Hippocrene supplied the streams called Olmeius and Permessus, which, after uniting their waters, flowed by Haliartus into the lake Copais. (Hes. Th. 5, seq.; see BOEOTIA, p. 413a.)

Another part of Helicon, also sacred to the Muses, bore the name of Mount LEIBETHRIUM (Λειβήθριον). It is described by Pausanias (9.34.4) as distant 40 stadia from Coroneia, and is therefore probably the mountain of Zagará, which is completely separated from the great heights of Helicon by an elevated valley, in which are two villages named Zagará, and above them, on the rugged mountain, a monastery; This is Leake's opinion; but Dodwell and Gell identify it with Gránitza, which is, however, more probably Laphystium. [BEEOTIA, p. 412,. b.] On Mount Leibethrium there were statues of the Muses and of the Leibethrian nymphs, and two fountains called Leibethrias and Petra, resembling the breasts of a woman, and pouring forth water like milk. (Paus. 9.34.4.) There was a grotto of the Leibethrian nymphs. (Strab. ix. p.410, x. p. 471; Serv. ad Virg. Ecl 7.21.) (See Leake, Northern Greece, vol. ii. pp. 141, 205, 489--500, 526.)

hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Hesiod, Theogony, 1
    • Hesiod, Theogony, 5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.25.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.31.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.28
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.34.4
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