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ME´GARA (τὰ Μέγαρα, Megara--ōrum, sometimes Megara--ae: the territory Μεγαρίς, sometimes Μεγαρική, sc. γῆ: Eth. Μεγαρεύς, Eth. Megarensis: Adj. Μεγαρικός), a city in Greece Proper.


The city of Megara is situated rather more than a mile from the Saronic gulf, in a plain about 6 or 7 miles in length, and the same in breadth, bounded to the westward by the range of the Geraneian mountains, to the eastward by the range which terminates in the mountains called Kerata or the horns, and to the south by the sea; while on the north the plain loses itself in a gradual ascent. The city stood on a low hill with a double summit, on each of which there was an acropolis, one named CARIA (Καρία), and the other ALCATHOE (Ἀλκαθόη), the former probably being on the eastern, and the latter on the western height, upon which the modern village is chiefly situated. Immediately below the city was a port-town named NISAEA (Νίσαια and Νισαία), the port being formed by an island called MINOA (Μινώα). The city was connected with its port-town by Long Walls


There were two traditions respecting the early history of Megara. According to the Megarians, the town owed its origin to Car, the son of Phoroneus, who built the citadel called Caria and the temples of Demeter called Megara, from which the place derived its name. (Paus. 1.39.5, 1.40.6.) Twelve generations afterwards Lelex came from Egypt and gave the inhabitants the name of Leleges, whence we read in Ovid (Ov. Met. 7.443):-- “Tutus ad Alcathoen, Lelegeia moenia, limes Composito Scirone patet.

Lelex was succeeded by his son Cleson, the latter by his son Pylas, whose son Sciron married the daughter of Pandion, king of Athens. But Nisus, the son of Pandion, disputing with Sciron the possession of Megara, Aeacus, who had been called in as arbiter, assigned the kingdom to Nisus and his posterity, and to Sciron the command in war. Nisus was succeeded by Megareus, the son of Poseidon, who had married Iphinoë, the daughter of Nisus; and Megareus was followed by his son Alcathous, who built the other citadel named after him. Such was the account of the Megarians, who purposely suppressed the story of the capture of their city by Minos during the reign of Nisus. (Paus. 1.39. § § 5, 6, 1.41.5.)

The other tradition, which was preserved by the Boeotians and adopted by the rest of Greece, differs widely from the preceding one. In the reign of Pylas, Pandion being expelled from Athens by the Metionidae, fled to Megara, married the daughter of Pylas, and succeeded his father-in-law in the kingdom. (Paus. 1.39.4; Apollod. 3.15.) The Metionidae were in their turn driven out of Athens; and when the dominions of Pandion were divided among his four sons, Nisus, the youngest, obtained Megaris. The city was called after him Nisa (Νίσα), and the same name was given to the port-town which he built. When Minos attacked Nisus, Megareus, son of Poseidon, came from Onchestus in Boeotia to assist the latter, and was buried in the city, which was called after him Megara. The name of Nisa, subsequently Nisaea, was henceforth confined to the port-town. (Paus. 1.39. § § 4, 6.) But even the inhabitants of Megara were sometimes called Nisaei, to distinguish them from the Megarians of Sicily, their colonists (Theocr. Id 12.27.) Through the treachery of his daughter Scylla, Nisus perished, and Minos obtained possession of the city, and demolished its walls. They were subsequently restored by Alcathous; son of Pelops, who came from Elis. In this work he was assisted by Apollo. (Paus. 1.41.6; Theogn. 771; Ov. Met. 8.14) It was further related, that Hyperion, the son of Agamemnon, was the last king of Megara, and that after his death a democratical [p. 2.312]form of government was established. (Paus. 1.43.3.)

Into the value of those traditions it would be useless to inquire. It may, however, be regarded as certain, that Megara and its territory were in early times regarded as part of Attica; and hence Strabo accounts for the omission of their names in the Iliad, because they were comprehended along with the Athenians under the general name of Ionians. (Strab. ix. p.392.) The most certain event in the history of Megara is its conquest by the Dorians. This event is connected in tradition with the expedition of the Peloponnesians against Athens. The Dorian invaders were defeated by the voluntary sacrifice of Codrus; but Megaris was notwithstanding permanently conquered, and a Corinthian and Messenian colony founded at Megara. The pillar at the isthmus of Corinth, which had hitherto marked the boundaries of Ionia and Peloponnesus, was now removed; and Megara was henceforth a Dorian state, and its territory included in Peloponnesus. (Strab. ix. p.393; Scymn. Ch. 502.) Megara, however, continued for some time to be subject to Corinth, and it was not without frequent straggles and wars that it at length established its independence. (For authorities, see Müller, Dorians, 1.5.10.) Megara appears not to have become the ruling city in the district till it was independent of Corinth, since in earlier times it had been only one of the five hamlets (κῶμαι), into which the country was divided, namely, the Heraeans, Piraeans, Megarians, Cynosurians and Tripodiscaeans. (Plut. Quaest. Grace. 100.17, p. 387.)

After Megara had become an independent city, its prosperity rapidly increased, and in the seventh century before the Christian era it was one of the most flourishing commercial cities of Greece. For this it was chiefly indebted to its admirable situation, which gave its inhabitants great facilities for the prosecution of commerce both by land and sea. All the roads from Northern Greece to Peloponnesus passed through their country, while their shores being washed by the Corinthian and Saronic gulfs, enabled them to trade both with the West and East.

Megara founded some of the earlier Grecian colonies, both in Sicily and Thrace. In B.C. 728 it established Megara Hyblaea in Sicily, in 712, Astacus in Bithynia, in 675 Cyzicus in the Propontis, in the following year Chalcedon at the mouth of the Bosporus, and in 657 Byzantium opposite Chalcedon. About this time, or rather later, Comedy is said to have been invented by the Megarians. According to the common account, Susarion, a native of Tripodiscus in Megaris, introduced comedy into Attica. (Dict. of Biogr. art. SUSARION.) But, with the increase of wealth, the lower orders attempted to obtain a share in the government, which had hitherto been exclusively in the hands of the Dorian conquerors; and Theagenes, the father-in-law of Cylon, became tyrant or despot of Megara, by attacking the rich landed proprietors and advocating the claims of the poor. (Aristot. Rh. 1.2, Polit. 5.4.) He embellished the city by the construction of a beautiful aqueduct, which continued to exist down to the time of Pausanias (1.40.1). Theagenes ruled about B.C. 630--600; but he was subsequently driven from power, and Megara was for some time torn asunder by struggles between the aristocracy and democracy. The elegiac poet Theognis, who belonged to the aristocracy, deplores the sufferings of his party, and complains that the poor no longer paid the interest of their debts, and that they plundered the houses of the rich and even the temples.

About the same time the Megarians were engaged in frequent contests with their neighbours in Attica. The chief struggle between them was for the island of Salamis, which was at length gained by the Athenians in consequence of the well-known stratagem of Solon. (Paus. 1.40.5; Strab. ix. p.394.) The Megarians took their share in the Persian wars. They fought with 20 ships at the battles of Artemisium and Salamis. (Hdt. 8.1, 45.) They repulsed a body of Persians whom Mardonius sent to ravage their territory (Paus. 1.40.2), and finally 3000 of their troops fought at the battle of Plataea. (Hdt. 9.28.)

After the Persian War the Megarians were involved in hostilities with the Corinthians respecting the boundaries of their territories. This led the Megarians to desert the Peloponnesian alliance, and unite themselves with the Athenians, B. C 455. In order to secure their communication with Megara, the Athenians built two Long Walls connecting the city with Nisaea; and they garrisoned at the same time the town of Pegae, on the Corinthian gulf. (Thuc. 1.103.) But ten years afterwards the Megarians revolted from Athens, and having obtained the assistance of some Peloponnesian troops, they slew the Athenian garrison, with the exception of those who escaped into Nisaea. They continued to hold Nisaea nd Pegae, but they also surrendered these towns in the thirty years' truce made in the same year (445) with Sparta and her allies. (Thuc. 1.114, 115.) The Athenians thus lost all authority over Megaris; but they were so exasperated with the Megarians, that they passed a decree excluding them from their markets and ports. This decree pressed very hard upon the Megarians, whose unproductive soil was not sufficient to support the population, and who obtained most of their supplies from Attica: it was one of the reasons urged by the Peloponnesians for declaring war against Athens. (Thuc. 1.67, 139; Aristoph. Ach. 533.)

In the Peloponnesian War the Megarians suffered greatly. In the first year of the war the Athenians invaded Megaris with a very large force, and laid waste the whole territory up to the city walls. At the same time the Athenian fleet blockaded the harbour of Nisaea, so that Megara was in the situation of a besieged city cut off from all its supplies. This invasion was repeated by the Athenians once in every year, and sometimes even twice; and the sufferings which the people then endured were remembered by them many centuries afterwards, and were assigned to Pausanias as the reason why one of their works of art had not been finished. (Thuc. 2.31; Plut. Per. 30; Paus. 1.40.4.) In the fifth year of the Peloponnesian War (B.C. 427), the Athenians under Nicias took possession of the island of Minoa, which lay in front of Nisaea, and left a garrison there, by which means the port of Nisaea was still more effectively blockaded. (Thuc. 3.51.) Of the position of this island, and of the causeway connecting it with the mainland, we shall speak presently. In the eighth year of the Peloponnesian War (B.C. 424), the democratical party in Megara fearing the return of the aristocratical exiles, who were at Pegae, entered into negotiations with the Athenians to surrender their city to them. The Athenians still held Minoa; and the Long Walls and Nisaea were occupied by an Athenian garrison. The Athenians [p. 2.313]were admitted within the Long Walls by their friends in Megara, and after a siege of two days they took Nisaea.1 Megara was saved by Brasidas, who advanced to the relief of the city with a large Peloponnesian force, and, after offering battle to the Athenians, which they declined, was admitted within the city. The aristocratical exiles were now recalled, and a strict and exclusive oligarchy established, which lasted for some time. (Thuc. 4.66-74.) A few months afterwards the Megarians captured the Long Walls from the Athenians and levelled them to the ground; but the Athenians still continued to hold Nisaea and Minoa. (Thuc. 4.109.) In the truce concluded between the Athenians and Peloponnesians in the following year, it was settled that the line of demarcation between the Athenians in Nisaea and Minoa, on one side, and the Megarians and their allies in Megara, on the other, should be the road leading from the gate of Nisaea near the monument of Nisus to the Poseidonium or temple of Poseidon, and from the latter in a straight line to the causeway leading to Minoa. (Thuc. 4.117.)

From this time Megara is seldom mentioned in Grecian history. Its prosperous condition at a later period is extolled by Isocrates, who says that it possessed the largest houses of any city in Greece, and that it remained at peace, though placed between the Peloponnesians, Thebans, and Athenians. (Isocr. de Pac. p. 183, ed. Steph.) Megara surrendered to Philip after the battle of Chaeroneia. (Aelian, Ael. VH 6.1.) After the death of Alexander it was for some time in the power of Cassander; but his garrison was expelled by Demetrius Poliorcetes, who proclaimed the freedom of the city B.C. 307. (Diod. 20.46; Plut. Demetr. 9.) Subsequently it again passed into the hands of the Macedonian kings, but it was united by Aratus to the Achaean League. (Plb. 2.43.) In the war between the Achaean League and the Romans, Megara surrendered to Metellus without a contest. (Paus. 7.15.11.) It is mentioned by Sulpicius, in his well-known letter to Cicero (Cic. Fam. 4.5), as one of the ruined cities of Greece. It still existed in the time of Strabo (ix. p.393), and it was subsequently made a Roman colony. (Plin. Nat. 4.7. s. 11.) Pausanias relates that it was the only city of Greece which Hadrian refused to assist, on account of the murder by its inhabitants of Anthemocritus, the Athenian herald (Paus. 1.36.3); but we learn from inscriptions that a new tribe at Megara was called Adrianis, in honour of the emperor, and that Sabina, the emperor's wife, was worshipped here under the title of νέα Δημήτηρ (Böckh, Inscr. vol. i. p. 566); and even Pausanias himself describes a temple of Apollo of white marble, built by Hadrian (1.42.5). It continued to coin money under the Antonines and subsequent emperors; and it appears in the Tabula Peuting. as a considerable place. In the fifth century its fortifications were repaired by Diogenes, an officer of the emperor Anastasius (Chandler, Inscr. Ant. 130); but from this time it appears to have rapidly sunk, and was frequently plundered by the pirates of the Mediterranean.

Megara was celebrated on account of its philosophical school, which was founded there by Eucleides, a disciple of Socrates, and which distinguished itself chiefly by the cultivation of dialectics. The philosophers of this school were called the Megarici (οἱ Μεγαρικοί, Strab. 9.393). It was, also less creditably distinguished for its courtezans, who were called Megarian Sphinxes. (Μεγαρικαὶ Σφίγγες, Suid. s. v.; comp. Plant. Pers. 1.3. 57.) The Megarians were addicted to the pleasures of the table. (Tertull. Apolog. 39.) They had a bad character throughout Greece, and were regarded as fraudulent, perfidious, and ignorant; but they may have owed much of this bad character to the representations of their enemies, the Athenians. (Aelian, V. II. 12.56; Schol. ad Aristoph. Pac. 248; Suid. s. v. Μεγαρέων ἄξιοι μερίδος, i. e. contemptible people.) Of the Megarian games and festivals we have three kinds mentioned; the Dioclean, celebrated in honour of the hero Diocles (Schol. ad Theocr. 12.28; Schol. ad Pind. Ol. 13.155; Schol. ad Aristoph. Acharn. 774), the Alcathoan, celebrated in honour of Alcathous, and the Smaller Pythian, in honour of the Pythian Apollo, whose worship was very ancient in Megara. (Philostr. Vit. Soph. 1.3; Schol. ad Pind. Nem. 5.84, Ol. 13.155; Krause, Die Pythien, Nemeen und Isthmien, p. 66.)

Dion Chrysostom (Orat. vi.) says that Megara is one day's journey from Athens, and Procopius (Bell. Vand. 1.1) makes it 210 stadia. According to modern travellers the journey takes 8 hours. (Dodwell, Classical Tour, vol. ii. p. 177.)


Pausanias has given a particular description of the public buildings of Megara (Paus. 1.40, seq.). He begins his account with the aqueduct of Theagenes, which was supplied with water from the fountain of the nymphs called Sithnides. The aqueduct was remarkable for its magnitude and numerous columns. Near it was an ancient temple, containing a statue of Artemis Soteira, statues of the twelve gods said to be by Praxiteles, and images of the Roman emperors. Beyond, in the Olympieium, or inclosure of Zeus Olympius, was a magnificent temple, containing a statue of the god, which was never finished, owing to the distress occasioned by the Athenians in the Peloponnesian War. From thence Pausanias ascended to the citadel, named Caria, passing by a temple of Dionysus Nyctelius, a sanctuary of Aphrodite Apostrophia, an oracle of Night, and a roofless temple of Zeus Cronius. Here, also, was the Megarum, or temple of Demeter, said to have been founded by Car during his reign.

Below the northern side of the Acropolis Caria was the tomb of Alcmena near the Olympieium. Hence Pausanias was conducted by his Megarian guide to a place called RHUS (Ῥοῦς; comp. Plut. Thes. 27), because the waters from the neighbouring mountains were collected here, until they were turned off by Theagenes, who erected on the spot an altar to Achelous. It was probably this water which supplied the fountain of the Sithnides. Near this place was the monument of Hyllas; and not far from the latter were temples of Isis, Apollo Agraeus, and Artemis Agrotera, which was said to have been dedicated by Alcathous after he had slain the Cithaeronian lion. Below these were the heroum of Pandion, and the monuments of Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons, and Tereus, who married Procne. [p. 2.314]

On the ascent to the citadel Alcathoë, Pausanias saw, on the right hand, the sepulchre of Megareus, and near it the hearth of the gods called Prodomeis, to whom Alcathous sacrificed when he was going to build the walls. Here was the stone upon which Apollo laid his lyre, when he was assisting Alcathous, and which, on being struck, returned a sound like that of a harp. (Comp. Theogn. 771; Ov. Met. 8.14) Beyond was the council-house (βουλευτήριον) of the Megarians, formerly the sepulchre of Timalcus ; and on the summit of the Acropolis was a temple of Athena, containing a statue of the goddess, entirely gilded, with the exception of the face, hands, and feet, which were of ivory. Here, also, were temples of Athena Nice, or Victory, and Aeantis. The temple of Apollo was originally of brick, but had been rebuilt of white marble by Hadrian. Here, also, was a temple of Demeter Thesmophorus, in descending from which occurred the tomb of Callipolis, daughter of Alcathous.

On the road leading to the Prytaneium the traveller passed the heroum of Ino, the heroum of Iphigeneia, and a temple of Artemis said to have been erected by Agamremnon. In the Prytaneium were tombs of Menippus, son of Megareus, and Echepolis, son of Alcathous; near which was a stone called Anaclethra, because here Demeter sat down and called her daughter. Pausanias next mentions the sepulchres of those Megarians who had fallen in battle against the Persians, and the Aesymnium, so named from its founder, which contained a monument of the heroes of Megara. There were several sepulchral monuments on the way from the Aesymnium to the heroum of Alcathous, in which the public records were preserved in the time of Pausanias. Beyond was the Dionysium or temple of Dionysus; close to which was the temple of Aphrodite, containing several statues by Praxiteles. Near the latter was a temple of Fortune, with an image of the goddess by Praxiteles. A neighbouring temple contained statues of the Muses, and a Jupiter in brass, by Lysippus.

In the Agora stood the tombs of Coroebus and of the athlete Orsippus, the former of which was ornamented by some of the most ancient specimens of sculpture which Pausanias had seen in Greece. On descending from the Agora by the street called Straight, there stood, a little to the right, the temple of Apollo Prostaterius, with a statue of the god of great merit, as well as other statues by Praxiteles. In the ancient gymnasium, near the gates called Nymphades, was a pyramidal stone, called by the natives Apollo Carinus, and a temple of the Eileithyiae.

On the road to the port of Nisaea was a temple of Demeter Malophorus. The Acropolis of Nisaea still remained; on descending from the Acropolis there was the tomb of Lelex on the sea-side. Near Nisaea was a small island, called Minoa, where the fleet of the Cretans was moored during the war against Nisus.

Megara still retains its ancient name, but it is a miserable place. It occupies only the western of the two ancient citadels, and as this was probably Alcathoë, the town on the summit is on the site of the temple of Athena. There are hardly any remains of antiquity at Megara. On the eastern acropolis there are a few remains of the ancient walls. None of the numerous temples mentioned by Pausanias can be identified; and only one of them is marked by the frusta of some Ionic columns. The magnificent aqueduct of Theagenes has disappeared; and some imperfect foundations and a large fountain on the northern side of the town are the only remains of the celebrated fountain of the Sithnide nymphs.

Of the Long Walls, uniting Megara with Nisaea, we have already spoken. They are noticed by Aristophanes under the name of τὰ Μεγαρικὰ σκέλη (Lysistr. 1172). They were destroyed by the Megarians themselves, as we have already seen, in the eighth year of the Peloponnesian War, but they were subsequently restored by Phocion. Strabo speaks of them as if they still existed in his time (ix. p. 391), but they would seem to have fallen to ruin before that of Pausanias, as he makes no mention of them. According to Thucydides (4.66) they were 8 stadia in length, but according to Strabo (l.c.) 18 stadia.

The position of Nisaea and Minoa has given rise to much dispute, as the localities described by Thucydides do not agree with the present features of the coast. The subject has been briefly discussed by Colonel Leake (Northern Greece, vol. ii. p. 401), and more fully by Dr. Arnold (Thucyd. vol. ii. p. 393) and Lieut. Spratt. (London Geographical Journal, vol. viii. p. 205.) Thucydides represents Minoa as an island close to Nisaea, and united to the latter by a bridge over a morass. On Minoa the Megarians had built a fortress (Thuc. 3.51). Strabo (ix. p.39) calls Minoa a promontory (ἄκρα). He says that, “after the Scironian rocks, we come to the promontory Minoa, forming the harbour of Nisaea.” Pausanias (1.44.3), however, agrees with Thucydides in calling it an island ; but it may be observed that the expression of Strabo (ἄκρα) is not inconsistent with its being an island, as stated by Thucydides and Pausanias. The difficulty in determining the site of Minoa and Nisaea arises from the fact, that there is at present no island off the coast which can be identified with Minoa. At the distance of nearly a mile and a half from Megara there is a small rocky peninsula, and further off two islands, the inner one of which affords shelter to a few of the small class of coasters. Hence it has been supposed that the inner island was Minoa, as it forms the port of the Megarians of the present day. But this island is distant from the promontory about 200 yards, with 7 fathoms of water between them ; consequently they could never have been connected by a bridge. It might, indeed, be argued, that the peninsula was once an island ; but this is disproved by the fact that its isthmus is of equal height with its extremity. Moreover there are no ancient remains, either on this island or the peninsula.

Other writers, among whom are Colonel Leake and Dr. Arnold, suppose the promontory of Tikho (see map, No. 6), further to the east, at the entrance of the strait of Salamis, to have been Minoa, since it may at one time have been an island. Accordingly, the statement of Strabo respecting the length of the Long Walls, is preferred to that of Thucydides. But this promontory is nearly 3 miles in length, which is larger than is implied in the description of Thucydides (3.51), who speaks of it as fortified only by a single fort. Moreover, Pausanias calls Minoa a small island. Lieutenant Spratt has offered a more probable solution of the difficulty. He supposes Minoa to be a rocky hill, surmounted by a ruined fortress, and standing on the margin of the sea south of Megara, at the distance of little more than a geographic mile, thus agreeing with the 8 stadia of Thucydides. “That this hill was once a peninsula, appears evident from the dry beds of two rivers, which pass close to its base ; one on each side. The eastern [p. 2.315]bed winds round the back of the hill, leaving only a narrow neck of elevated ground between it and that on the west side: and it is, therefore, clear, that when these two rivers had communication with the sea, the intermediate neck of land, with this hill, would have been a peninsula, or promontory. These two river beds were once the only outlets of the mountain streams which issue from the valleys on the north side of Mont Geraneia ; for the ancient course of the eastern bed, although now ploughed over and cultivated, can be traced through the plain to the northward, as far as its junction with that river, whose torrent at present flows in an easterly direction towards the shallow bay of Tikho, crossing the site of the Long Walls which connected Megara with Nisaea and Minoa, and losing themselves in the swamps bordering that bay. Although vestiges of the walls are not found in the bed of the river, yet, on examining the ground near it, the evidence is convincing that its present course does cross their site, as, at a short distance from it, on the Megarian side, their foundations may be traced in a direction transverse to the course of the river, and towards the castellated hill before mentioned. The dry watercourse on the western side of this isolated hill can be traced to within two or three hundred yards of the eastern one; and having no communi-cation with any other mountain stream, it may not be unreasonable to suppose that formerly the river split there into two branches or mouths. This hill would then have been an island, as Thucydides calls Minoa.” The subsequent deposit of earth brought down by the above mentioned stream, would have joined the hill to the mainland.

The accompanying map and drawing are taken from Lieut. Spratt's.


  • A. Megara.
  • B. Nisaea.
  • C. Minoa.
  • 1. Island formerly supposed to be Megara.
  • 2. Rocky peninsula.
  • 3. Ancient mole.
  • 4. Agios Nikolaos.
  • 5. Agios Georgios.
  • 6. Promontory of Tikho.
  • 7. Salamis.

If this hill is the site of Minoa, the town of Nisaea must have been near it; and Lieut. Spratt discovered many vestiges of an ancient site on the eastern side of the hill, between the sea and a low rock which stands in the plain a short distance to the northward. “Among these remains are four small heaps of ruins, with massive foundations, in one of which there are three broken shafts of small columns erect, and wanting apparently only the fourth to complete the original number. Probably they were monuments or temples; and two Greek churches, which are now in ruins, but standing on two ancient foundations, will not be unfavourable to the supposition. Another church, Agios Nikolaos, which is perfect, also occupies the site of an ancient building, but it stands nearer to the sea.” Lieut. [p. 2.316]Spratt further supposes that he has discovered remains of the ancient causeway. “Between the base of the hill on its north side, and the opposite bank of the dry bed of a former river, there are three platforms of heavy buildings, one of which lies immediately at the foot of the hill, another on the edge of the opposite bank, and the third nearly central; and as the course of that former river-bed clearly and indisputably passes between them, it is more than probable that the bridge of communication may be recognised in these ruins.” He also says, “that distinct remains of an ancient mole are to be seen extending from the south-eastern end of the hill, and curving to the eastward, so as to have formed a harbour between the hill and those ruins,” which is in accordance with the statement of Strabo, that the port of Nisaea was formed by the promontory of Minoa.


Megaris occupied the greater part of the large Isthmus, which extends from the foot of Mt. Cithaeron to the Acrocorinthus, and which connects Northern Greece with the Peloponnesus. The southern part of this Isthmus, including the Isthmus properly so called, belonged to Corinth; but the boundaries of Megaris and Corinth differed at an earlier and a later period. Originally Megaris extended as far as Crommyon on the Saronic, and Thermae on the Corinthian, gulfs, and a pillar was set up near the Isthmus proper, marking the boundaries between Peloponnesus and Ionia; but subsequently this pillar was removed, and the territory of Corinth reached as far as the Scironian rocks and the other passes of the Geraneian mountains. (Strab. ix. pp. 392, 393.) Towards the N., Megaris was separated from Boeotia by Mt. Cithaeron, and towards the E. and NE. from Attica by some high land, which terminates on the west side of the bay of Eleusis in two summits, formerly called KERATA or THE HORNS (τὰ Κέρατα), and now Kandíli. (Strab. ix. p.395; Diod. 13.65; Plut. Them. 13.) Here there is an immense deposit of conchiferous limestone, which Pausanias also noticed (1.44.6). The river Iapis, which flowed into the sea a little to the W. of the Horns, was the boundary of Megaris and Attica. [ATTICA p. 323a.] The extreme breadth of Megaris from Pagae to Nisaea is estimated by Strabo (viii. p.334) at 120 stadia; and, according to the calculation of Clinton, the area of the country is 143 square miles.

Megaris is a rugged and mountainous country, and contains no plain, except the one in which its capital, Megara, was situated. This plain was called the “White Plain” (τὸ Λευκὸν πεδίον, Schol. ad Hom. Od. 5.333, ed. Mai; Etymol. M. s. v. Λευκόθεα), and is the same as CIMOLIA (Κιμωλία, Diod. 11.79), which produced the Creta Cimolia or fullers' earth, and which Leake erroneously regards as a place (Northern Greece, vol. ii. p. 413). The main range of Mt. Cithaeron runs from W. to E., forming the boundary between Boeotia and Attica; but it is also prolonged southwards along the shores of the Corinthian gulf, and gradually rises into a new chain, which stretches across Megaris from W. to E., parallel to Mt. Cithaeron. This chain is highest on the western side, where it attains the height of 4217 feet (Paris), and gradually sinks down on the eastern side towards the Saronic gulf. On its western side it runs out into the promontory AEGIPLANCTUS (Αἰγίπλαγκτος, Aesch. Ag. 303, with Schol.), and also into those of OLMIAE and HERAEUM in the Corinthian territory. [CORINTHUS p. 685.] On its eastern side the island of Salamis and the surrounding rocks are only a continuation of this chain. The mountains were called GERANEIA in antiquity (Γεράνεια, Thuc. 1.105; Paus. 1.40.7), and are said to have received this name because, in the deluge of Deucalion, Megarus, the son of Zeus and a Sithonian nymph, was led by the cries of cranes (γέρανοι) to take refuge upon their summit. (Paus. l.c.) Towards the south the Geraneian mountains sink down into the plain of the Isthmus, while to the south of the Isthmus there rises another chain of mountains called the Oneian. Strabo (viii. p.380) confounds the Geraneia with the Oneia; and erroneously represents the latter extending as far as Boeotia and Cithaeron. His error has misled many modern writers, who, in consequence, speak of the Geraneia as a portion of the Oneia. (Curtius, Peloponnesos, vol. i. p. 25.)

The Geraneian mountains are almost, if not entirely, calcareous. They form the true boundary of Northern Greece, and rise above there Isthmus of Corinth like a vast wall from sea to sea. Three roads lead across these mountains into Peloponnesus. One runs from the western coast of Megaris, across the rocky peninsula of Perakhóra, the ancient Peiraeum of Corinth, down to the Corinthian gulf. It was the road by which armies frequently marched from Peloponnesus into Northern Greece, but in ordinary intercourse was not much used on account of its length. The second road passes through the centre of the Geraneia, and is called the road of the great Dervenia from the narrow pass (Turk. Derveni), which leads between two masses of rock, and where guards were stationed in Turkish times. According to Gell the top of this pass was anciently fortified with a wall. The same writer says that, from the top of this pass to Corinth the distance is 8 hours 37 minutes, and to Megara 2 hours 33 minutes. This road is now little used. The third road, which leads along the eastern coast of Megaris, is the shortest way between Megara and Corinth, and therefore has been the chief line of communication between Peloponnesus and Northern Greece from the earliest times to the present day. This road, soon after leaving Megara, runs for several miles along a narrow ledge or terrace, cut in the rock half-way up the sides of the cliffs. On his right hand the traveller has the precipitous rock, while on his left it descends perpendicularly to the sea, which is 600 or 700 feet beneath him. The road, which is now narrow and impracticable for carriages, was made wide enough by the emperor Hadrian for two carriages to pass abreast. From the higher level the road descends to the brink of the water by a most rugged and precipitous path cut between walls of rock. This pass is the celebrated Scironian rocks of antiquity, now called Kaké--skala, or bad ladder (Αἱ Σκειρωνίδες πέτραι, Strab. ix. p.391; αἱ Σκιρωνίδες and αἱ Σκιράδες, Plb. 16.16; Σκείρωνος ἀκταί, Eur. Hippol. 1208; the road itself Σκιρωνὶς ὁδός, Hdt. 8.71; Scironia saxa, Plin. Nat. 4.7. s. 11). According to a Megarian tradition, these rocks derived their name from Sciron, a polemarch of the Megarians, who was the first to make a footpath along the rocks (Paus. 1.44.6); but, according to the more common tradition, they were so called from the robber Sciron. Near the southern end of the pass, where the road [p. 2.317]begins to descend, we must place the Molurian rock ( Μολουρίς), from which Ino or Leucothea threw herself with her son Melicertes (Palaemon) into the sea; and close by were the execrable rocks (ἐναγεῖς), from which Sciron used to throw strangers into the sea, and from which lie was himself hurled by Theseus. (Paus. 1.44.7, seq.) The tortoise at the foot of the rock, which was said to devour the robbers, was probably a rock called by this name from its shape, and which gave rise to the tale (κατὰ τὴν καλουμένην χελώνην, /un>Diod. 4.59). On the summit of the mountain was a temple of Zeus Aphesius. On descending into the plain was the temple of Apollo Latous, near which were the boundaries of Megaris and the Corinthia. (Paus. 1.44. § § 9, 10.)

Megaris contained only one town of importance, MEGARA with its harbour NISAEA, which have been already described. The other towns in the country were AEGOSTHENA and PEGAE (Doric PAGAE), on the Alcyonian or Corinthian gulf; TRIPODISCUS and RHUS in the interior; PHIBALIS, on the confines of Attica (Schol. ad Aristoph. Acharn. 802); and PHALYCON and POLICHNE of which the site is uncertain. There was also a fortress, GERANEIA situated on one of the mountains of this name, but its position is also uncertain (Scylax, p. 15; Plin. Nat. 4.7. s. 11); it is apparently the same place as the ERENEIA (Ἐρένεια) of Pausanias (1.44.5). Scylax mentions a place Aris, but instead of Πηγαὶ, τεῖχος Γεράνεια, Ἄρις, it has been conjectured that we ought to read Πηγαὶ τεῖχος, Γεράνεια ἄκρις or ἄκρα. Whether there was a place of the name of Isus in Megaris seems doubtful. [ISUS] (Reinganum, Das alte Meyaris, Berlin, 1825; Dodwell, vol. ii. p. 181, seq.; Leake, Northern Greece, vol. ii. p. 388, seq.)


1 On this occasion Thucydides (4.66) calls Megara ἄνω πόλις, in contradistinction to the port-town. This expression cannot refer to the acropolis of Megara, as some critics interpret it.

hide References (54 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (53):
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 4.5
    • Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 303
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.15
    • Aristophanes, Acharnians, 533
    • Aristotle, Rhetoric, 1.2
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 11.79
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 13.65
    • Herodotus, Histories, 8.1
    • Herodotus, Histories, 8.45
    • Herodotus, Histories, 8.71
    • Herodotus, Histories, 9.28
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.36.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.39
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.39.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.40
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.40.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.40.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.41.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.44.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.44.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.44.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.44.7
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.39.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.40.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.40.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.40.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.43.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.44
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 7.15.11
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.105
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.66
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.103
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.67
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.31
    • Thucydides, Histories, 3.51
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.117
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.74
    • Polybius, Histories, 2.43
    • Polybius, Histories, 16.16
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 7.443
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 8.14
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.7
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.114
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.115
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.139
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.109
    • Plutarch, Themistocles, 13
    • Plutarch, Theseus, 27
    • Plutarch, Pericles, 30
    • Plutarch, Demetrius, 9
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 4.59
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 20.46
    • Aelian, Varia Historia, 6.1
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.66
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