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THASOS (Θάσος, sometimes Θάσσος: Eth. Θάσιος: Thaso or Tasso), an island in the N. of the Aegaean sea, off the coast of Thrace, and distant only 3 1/4 miles from the plain of the river Nestus or Kara-Su. It was distant half a day's sail from Amphipolis (Thuc. 4.104), and 32 miles from Abdera. (Plin. Nat. 4.12. s. 23.) It was also called Aeria or Aethra (Plin. l.c.; Steph. B. sub voce and Chryse, from its gold mines (Eustath. ad Dionys. Per. 517), which were the chief source of the prosperity of the island. The earliest known inhabitants of Thasos were the Phoenicians, who were doubtless attracted to the island by its valuable mines, but who are said to have come thither in search of Europa, five generations before the birth of the Grecian Hercules. They were led by Thasos, the son of Agenor, from whom the island derived its name. (Hdt. 2.44, 6.47; Paus. 5.25.12; Scymn. 660; Conon 100.37; Steph. B. sub voce Thasos was afterwards colonised in Ol. 15, or 18 (B.C. 720 or 708) by settlers from Paros, led by Telesicles, the father of the poet Archilochus. (Thuc. 4.104; Strab. ix. p.487; Clem. Al. Strom. i. p. 144; Euseb. Praep. Ev. 6.7.) There also existed at that time in the island a Thracian tribe called Saians, with whom the Parian settlers carried on war, but not always successfully; and on one occasion Archilochus was obliged to throw away his shield. (Archiloch. Fragm. 5, ed. Schneidewin; Aristoph. Pac. 1298, with the Schol.) The Greek colony rapidly rose in power, and obtained valuable possessions on the adjoining mainland, which contained even richer mines than those in the island. Shortly before the Persian invasion, the clear surplus revenue of the Thasians was 200, and sometimes even 300 talents yearly (46,000l., 66,000l.), of which Scaptê Hylê produced 80 talents, and the mines in the island rather less. (Hdt. 6.46.) Besides Scaptê Hylê the Thasians also possessed upon the mainland Galepsus and Oesyma (Thuc. iv. [p. 2.1136]107; Diod. 12.68), Stryme (Hdt. 7.118; Suid. s. v. Στρύμη), Datum, and at a later period Crenides. (Böckh, Publ. Econ. of Athens, p. 312, Engl. tr.) Herodotus, who visited Thasos, says that the most remarkable mines were those worked by the Phoenicians on the eastern side of the island between Aenyra and Coenyra opposite Samothrace, where a large mountain had been overturned in search of the gold. (Hdt. 6.47.) The Thasians appear to have been the only Greeks who worked the valuable mines in Thrace, till Histiaeus, the Milesian, settled upon the Strymon and built the town of Myrcinus, about B.C. 511. (Hdt. 5.11, 23.) After the capture of Miletus (B.C. 494), Histiaeus made an unsuccessful attempt to subdue Thasos (Hdt. 6.28), but the growing power of the Thasians excited the suspicions of Dareius, who commanded them in B.C. 492 to pull down their fortifications and remove their ships of war to Abdera,--an order which they did not venture to disobey. (Hdt. 6.46.) When Xerxes marched through Thrace on his way to Greece, the Thasians, on account of their possessions on the mainland, had to provide for the Persian army as it marched through their territories, the cost of which amounted to 400 talents (92,800l.). (Hdt. 7.118.) After the defeat of the Persians, Thasos became a member of the confederacy of Delos; but disputes having arisen between the Thasians and Athenians respecting the mines upon the mainland, a war ensued, and the Athenians sent a powerful force against the island under the command of Cimon, B.C. 465. After defeating the Thasians at sea, the Athenians disembarked, and laid siege to the city both by land and sea. The Thasians held out more than two years, and only surrendered in the third year. They were compelled to raze their fortifications; to surrender their ships of war; to give up their continental possessions; and to pay an immediate contribution in money, in addition to their annual tribute. (Thuc. 1.100, 101; Diod. 11.70; Plut. Cim. 14.) In B.C. 411 the democracy in Thasos was overthrown, and an oligarchical government established by Peisander and the Four Hundred at Athens; but as soon as the oligarchy had got possession of the power they revolted from Athens, and received a Lacedaemonian garrison and harmost. (Thuc. 8.64.) Much internal dissension followed, till at length in B.C. 408 a party of the citizens, headed by Ecphantus, expelled the Lacedaemonian harmost Eteonicus with his garrison and admitted Thrasybulus, the Athenian commander. (Xen. Hell. 1.1. 12, 32, 1.4.9; Dem. c. Lept. p. 474.) After the battle of Aegospotamos, Thasos passed into the hands of the Lacedaemonians; but it was subsequently again dependent upon Athens, as we see from the disputes between Philip and the Athenians. (Dem. de Halon. p. 80; Philipp. Epist. p. 159.) In the Roman wars in Greece Thasos submitted to Philip V. (Plb. 15.24), but it received its freedom from the Romans after the battle of Cynoscephalae, B.C. 197 (Plb. 18.27, 31; Liv. 33.30, 35), and continued to be a free (libera) town in the time of Pliny (4.12. s. 23).

The city of Thasos was situated in the northern part of the island, and possessed two ports, of which one was closed. (Scylax, p. 27; Ptol. 3.11.14.) It stood on three eminences; and several remains of the ancient walls exist, intermixed with towers built by the Venetians, who obtained possession of the island after the capture of Constantinople by the Turks. In the neighbourhood is a large statue of Pan cut in the rocks. No remains have been discovered of Aenyra and Coenyra; and the mines have long ceased to be worked.

Archilochus describes Thasos as an “ass's backbone overspread with wild wood” (. . . ἥδε δ᾽ ὥστ᾽ ὄνου ῥάχις ἕστηκεν, ὕλης ἀγρίας ἐπιστεφής, Fragm. 17, 18, ed. Schneidewin), a description which is still strikingly applicable to the island after the lapse of 2500 years, as it is composed entirely of naked or woody mountains, with only scanty patches of cultivable soil, nearly all of which are close to the sea-shore. (Grote, Hist. of Greece, vol. iv. p. 34.) The highest mountain, called Mount Ipsarió, is 3428 feet above the sea, and is thickly covered with fir-trees. There is not enough corn grown in the island for its present population, which consists only of 6000 Greek inhabitants, dispersed in twelve small villages. Hence we are surprised to find it called by Dionysius (Dionys. Perieg. 532) Δημήτερος ἀκτή; but the praises of its fertility cannot have been written from personal observation, and must have arisen simply from the abundance possessed by its inhabitants in consequence of their wealth. Thasos produced marble and wine, both of which enjoyed considerable reputation in antiquity. (Athen. i. pp. 28, 32, iv. p. 129; Xen. Symp. 4 § 41; Virg. Geory. 2.91.) The chief produce of the island at present is oil, maize, honey, and timber; the latter, which is mostly fir, is the principal article of export.

The coins of Thasos are numerous. The one figured below represents on the obverse the head of Dionysus, and on the reverse a figure of Hercules kneeling.

(Prokesch von Osten, Denkwürdigkeiten, vol. iii. p. 611, seq.; Cousinery, Voyage dans la Macédoine, vol. ii. p. 85, seq.; Griesbach, Reise, vol. i. p. 210, seq.; Journal of Geogr. Society, vol. vii. p. 64.)


hide References (26 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (26):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 12.68
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 11.70
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.47
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.118
    • Herodotus, Histories, 2.44
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.11
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.23
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.28
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.46
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.25.12
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.100
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.101
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.104
    • Thucydides, Histories, 8.64
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 1.1.32
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 1.1.12
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 1.4.9
    • Xenophon, Symposium, 4
    • Polybius, Histories, 15.24
    • Polybius, Histories, 18.27
    • Polybius, Histories, 18.31
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.12
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 33, 35
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 33, 30
    • Plutarch, Cimon, 14
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.11
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