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THE´SPIAE (Θεσπιαί, also Θέσπεια or Θέσπια, Hom. Il. 2.498; Hdt. 8.50; Paus. 9.26.6: Eth. Θεσπιεύς, Eth. Thespiensis, fern. Θεσπίας, Θεσπίς: Adj. Θεσπιακός, Thespius, Thespiacus), an ancient city of Boeotia, situated at the foot of Mt. Helicon, looking towards the south and the Crissaean gulf, where stood its port-town Creusa or Creusis. (Strab. ix. p.409; Paus. 9.26.6; Steph. B. sub voce Thespiae was said to have derived its name from Thespia, a daughter of Asopus, or from Thespius, a son of Erechtheus, who migrated from Athens. (Paus. l.c.; Diod. 4.29.) The city is mentioned in the catalogue of Homer. (Il. 2.498.) Thespiae, like Plataea, was one of the Boeotian cities inimical to Thebes, which circumstance affected its whole history. Thus Thespiae and Plataea were the only two Boeotian cities that refused to give earth and water to the heralds of Xerxes. (Hdt. 7.132.) Seven hundred Thespians joined Leonidas at Thermopylae; and they remained to perish with the 300 Spartans, when the other Greeks retired. (Hdt. 7.202, 222.) Their city was burnt by Xerxes, when he overran Boeotia, and the inhabitants withdrew to Peloponnesus. (Hdt. 8.50.) The survivors, to the number of 1800, fought at the battle of Plataea in the following year, but they were reduced to such distress that they had no heavy armour. (Hdt. 9.30.) After the expulsion of the Persians from Greece, Thespiae was rebuilt, and the inhabitants recruited their numbers by the admission of strangers as citizens. (Hdt. 8.75.) At. the battle of Delium (B.C. 424) the Thespians fought on the left wing against the Athenians, and were almost all slain at their post. (Thuc. 4.93, seq.) In the following year (B.C. 423), the Thebans destroyed the walls of Thespiae, on the charge of Atticism, the Thespians being unable to offer any resistance in consequence of the heavy loss they had sustained while fighting upon the side of the Thebans. (Thuc. 4.133.) In B.C. 414 the democratical party at Thespiae attempted to overthrow the existing government; but the latter receiving assistance from Thebes, many of the conspirators withdrew to Athens. (Thuc. 6.95.) In B.C. 372 the walls of Thespiae were again destroyed by the Thebans. According to Diodorus (15.46) and Xenophon (Xenoph. Hell. 6.3.1) Thespiae was at this time destroyed by the Thebans, and the inhabitants driven out of Boeotia; but this happened after the battle of Leuctra, and Mr. Grote (Hist, of Greece, vol. x. p. 219) justly infers from a passage in Isocrates that the fortifications of the city were alone demolished at this period. Pausanias expressly states that a contingent of Thespians was present in the Theban army at the time of the battle of Leuctra, and availed themselves of the permission of Epaminondas to retire before the battle. (Paus. 9.13.8, 9.14.1.) Shortly afterwards the Thespians were expelled from Boeotia by the Thebans. (Paus. 9.14.2.) Thespiae was afterwards rebuilt, and is mentioned in the Roman wars in Greece. (Plb. 27.1; Liv. 42.43.) In the time of Strabo, Thespiae and Tanagra were the only places in Boeotia that deserved the name of cities. (Strab. ix. p.410.) Pliny calls Thespiae a free town ( “liberum oppidum,” 4.7. s. 12). It is also mentioned by Ptolemy (3.15.20) and in the Antonine Itinerary (p. 326, ed. Wess.), and it was still in existence in the sixth century (Hierocl. p. 645, ed. Wess.).

Eros or Love was the deity chiefly worshipped at Thespiae; and the earliest representation of the god in the form of a rude stone still existed in the city in the time of Pausanias (9.27.1). The courtesan Phryne, who was born at Thespiae, presented to her native city the celebrated statue of Love by Praxiteles, which added greatly to the prosperity of the place in consequence of the great numbers of strangers who visited the city for the purpose of seeing it. (Dicaearch. § 25, ed. Müller; Cic. Ver. 4.2; Strab. ix. p.410, who erroneously calls the courtesan Glycera; Paus. 9.27.3.) The story of the manner in which Phryne became possessed of this statue, and its subsequent history, are related in the life of PRAXITELES. [Dict. of Biogr. Vol. III. pp. 520, 521.] In the time of Pausanias there was only an imitation of it at Thespiae by Menodorus. Among the other works of art in this city Pausanias noticed a statue of Eros by Lysippus, statues of Aphrodite and Phryne by Praxiteles; the agora, containing a statue of Hesiod; the theatre, a temple of Aphrodite Melaenis, a temple of the Muses, containing their figures in stone of small size, and an ancient temple of Hercules. (Paus. 9.27.) Next to Eros, the Muses were specially honoured at Thespiae; and the festivals of the Ἐρωτίδια and Μούσεια celebrated by the Thespians on Mt. Helicon, at the end of every four years, are mentioned by several ancient writers. (Paus. 9.31.3; Plut. Amat. 1; Athen. 13.561; K. F. Hermann, Lehrbuch der gottesd. Alterth. § 63, n. 4.) Hence the Muses are frequently called Thespiades by the Latin writers. (Varr. L. L. 7.2; Cic. Ver. 2.4; Ov. Met. 5.310; Plin. Nat. 36.5. s. 4, § 39, ed. Sillig.)

The remains of Thespiae are situated at a place called Lefka from a deserted village of that name near the village of Erimókastro or Rimókastro. Unlike most other Greek cities, it stands in a plain surrounded by hills on either side, and its founders appear to have chosen the site in consequence of its abundant supply of water, the sources of the [p. 2.1165]river Kanavári rising here. Leake noticed the foundations of an oblong or oval enclosure, built of very solid masonry of a regular kind, about half a mile in circumference; but he observes that all the adjacent ground to the SE. is covered, like the interior of the fortress, with ancient foundations, squared stones, and other remains, proving that if the enclosure was the only fortified part of the city, many of the public and private edifices stood without the walls. The site of some of the ancient temples is probably marked by the churches, which contain fragments of architraves, columns, and other ancient remains. (Leake, Northern Greece, vol. ii. p. 479, seq.; Dodwell, vol. i. p. 253.)


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  • Cross-references from this page (27):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 15.46
    • Herodotus, Histories, 8.75
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.132
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.202
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.222
    • Herodotus, Histories, 8.50
    • Herodotus, Histories, 9.30
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.13.8
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.14.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.27.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.31.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.14.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.26.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.27
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.27.1
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.133
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.93
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.95
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 6.3.1
    • Homer, Iliad, 2.498
    • Polybius, Histories, 27.1
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.4
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 5.310
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 36.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 42, 43
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 4.29
    • Athenaeus, of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae, 13
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