previous next


CRISSA or CRISA (Κρίσσα, Κρῖσα: Eth. Κρισσαῖος, Eth. Κρισαῖος), and CIRRHA (Κίρρα: Eth. Κιρραῖος), in Phocis. There has been considerable discussion whether these two names denoted the same place or two different places. That there was a town of the name of Cirrha on the coast, which served as the harbour of Delphi, admits of no dispute. (Plb. 5.27; Liv. 42.15.) Pausanias (10.37.5) supposes this Cirrha to be a later name of the Homeric Crissa; and his authority has been followed by K. O. Müller, Dissen, Wachsmuth, K. F. Hermann, and most of the German scholars. Strabo (ix. p.418), on the other hand, distinguishes the two places; and his statement has been adopted by Leake, Kruse, Mannert, Ulrichs, and Grote. The most complete and satisfactory investigation of the subject has been made by Ulrichs, who carefully examined the topography of the district; and since the publication of his work, it has been generally admitted that Crissa and Cirrha were two separate places. The arguments in favour of this opinion will be best stated by narrating the history of the places.

Crissa was more ancient than Cirrha. It was situated inland a little SW. of Delphi, at the southern end of a projecting spur of Mt. Parnassus. Its ruins may still be seen at a short distance from the modern village of Chrysó, surrounding the church of the Forty Saints. They consist of very ancient polygonal walls, still as high as 10 feet in some parts, and as broad as 18 feet on the northern side, and 12 on the western. The ancient town of Crissa gave its name to the bay above which it stood; and the name was extended from this bay to the whole of the Corinthian gulf, which was called Crissaean in the most ancient times. (See above, p. 673.) Cirrha was built subsequently at the head of the bay, and rose into a town from being the port of Crissa. This is in accordance with what we find in the history of other Grecian states. The original town is built upon a height at some distance from the sea, to secure it against hostile attacks, especially by sea; but in course of time, when property has become more secure, and the town itself has grown in power, a second place springs up on that part of the coast which had served previously as the port of the inland town. This was undoubtedly the origin of Cirrha, which was situated at the mouth of the river Pleistus (Paus. 10.8.8), and at the foot of Mount Cirphis (Strab. ix. p.418). Its ruins may be seen close to the sea, at the distance of about ten minutes from the Pleistus. They bear the name of Magúla. The remains of walls, enclosing a quadrangular space about a mile in circuit, may still be traced; and both within and without this space are the foundations of many large and small buildings.

Although Strabo was correct in distinguishing between Crissa and Cirrha, he makes a mistake respecting the position of the former. Cirrha, as we have already seen, he rightly places on the coast at the foot of Mt. Cirphis; but he erroneously supposes [p. 1.707]that Crissa likewise was on the coast, more to the east, in the direction of Anticyra. Strabo, who had never visited this part of Greece, was probably led into this error from the name of the Crissaean gulf, which seemed to imply the existence of a maritime Crissa.

Between Crissa and Cirrha was a fertile plain, bounded on the north by Parnassus, on the east by Cirphis, and on the west by the mountains of the Ozolian Locrians. On the western side it extended as far north as Amphissa, which was situated at the head of that part of the plain. (Hdt. 8.32; Strab. ix. p.419.) This plain, as lying between Crissa and Cirrha, might be called either the Crissaean or Cirrhaean, and is sometimes so designated by the ancient writers; but, properly speaking, there appears to have been a distinction between the two plains. The Cirrhaean plain was the small plain near the town of Cirrha, extending from the sea as far as the modern village of Xeropégado, where it is divided by two projecting rocks from the larger and more fertile Crissaean plain, which stretches, as we have already said, as far as Crissa and Amphissa. The small Cirrhaean plain on the coast was the one dedicated to Apollo after the destruction of Cirrha, as related below (τὸ Κιρραῖον πεδίον, Aeschin. c. Ctesiph. p. 68, ed. Steph.; Κιρραία χώρα, Dem. de Cor. pp. 277, 278, Reiske; Diod. 16.23; D. C. 63.14; Polyaen. 3.5; ἱερὰ γᾶ, Böckh, Corp. Inscr. no. 1688; Κιρραία, Paus. 10.37.6). The name of the Crissaean plain in its more extended sense might include the Cirrhaean, so that the latter may be regarded as a part of the former. Tie boundaries of the land dedicated to the god were inscribed on one of the walls of the Delphian temple, and may perhaps be yet discovered among the ruins of the temple. (Böckh, Corp. Inscr. no. 1711.)

Crissa was regarded as one of the most ancient cities in Greece. It is mentioned in the Catalogue of the Iliad as the “divine Crissa” (Κρῖσα ζαθέη, Il. 2.520). According to the Homeric hymn to Apollo, it was founded by a colony of Cretans, who were led to the spot by Apollo himself, and whom the god had chosen to be his priests in the sanctuary which he had intended to establish at Pytho. (Hom. Hymn. in Apoll. 438.) In this hymn, Crissa is described (1. 269) as situated under Parnassus, where no chariots rolled, and no trampling of horses was heard,--a description suitable to the site of Crissa upon the rocks, as explained above, but quite inapplicable to a town upon the sea-shore. In like manner, Nonnus, following the description of the ancient epic poets, speaks of Crissa as surrounded by rocks. (Dionys. p. 358, vs. 127.) Moreover, the statement of Pindar, that the road to Delphi from the Hippodrome on the coast led over the Crissaean hill (Pyth. 5.46), leaves no doubt of the true position of Crissa, since the road from the plain to Delphi must pass by the projecting spur of Parnassus on which Chrysó stands. In the Homeric hymn to Apollo, Crissa appears as a powerful place, possessing as its territory the rich plain stretching down to the sea, and also the adjoining sanctuary of Pytho itself, which had not yet become a separate town. In fact, Crissa is in this hymn identified with Delphi (1. 282, where the position of Delphi is clearly described under the name of Crissa). Even in Pindar, the name of Crissa is used as synonymous with Delphi, just as Pisa occurs in the poets as equivalent to Olympia. (Pind. Isthm. 2.26.) Metapontium in Italy is said to have been a colony of Crissa. (Strab. vi. p.264.)

In course of time the sea-port town of Cirrha increased at the expense of Crissa; and the sanctuary of Pytho grew into the town of Delphi, which claimed to be independent of Crissa. Thus Crissa declined, as Cirrha and Delphi rose in importance. The power of Cirrha excited the jealousy of the Delphians, more especially as the inhabitants of the former city commanded the approach to the temple by sea. Moreover, the Cirrhaeans levied exorbitant tolls upon the pilgrims who landed at the town upon their way to Delphi, and were said to have maltreated Phocian women on their return from the temple. (Aeschin. c. Ctesiph. p. 68; Strab. ix. p.418; Athen. 13.560.) In consequence of these outrages, the Amphictyons declared war against the Cirrhaeans about B.C. 595, and at the end of ten years succeeded in taking the city, which was razed to the ground, and the plain in its neighbourhood dedicated to the god, and curses imprecated upon any one who should till or dwell in it. Cirrha is said to have been taken by a stratagem which is ascribed by some to Solon. The town was supplied with water by a canal from the river Pleistus. This canal was turned off, filled with hellebore, and then allowed to resume its former course; but scarcely had the thirsty Crissaeans drank of the poisoned water, than they were so weakened by its purgative effects that they could no longer defend their walls. (Paus. 10.37.7; Polyaen. 3.6; Frontin. Strateg. 3.7.6.) This account sounds like a romance; but it is a curious circumstance that near the ruins of Cirrha there is a salt spring having a purgative effect like the hellebore of the ancients.

Cirrha was thus destroyed; but the fate of Crissa is uncertain. It is not improbable that Crissa had sunk into insignificance before this war, and that some of its inhabitants had settled at Delphi, and others at Cirrha. At all events, it is certain that Cirrha was the town against which the vengeance of the Amphictyons was directed; and Strabo, in his account of the war, substitutes Crissa for Cirrha, because he supposed Crissa to have been situated upon the coast.

The spoils of Cirrha were employed by the Am. phictyons in founding the Pythian games. Near the ruins of the town in the Cirrhaean plain was the Hippodrome (Paus. 10.37.4), and in the time of Pindar the Stadium also. (Pyth. 11.20, 73.) The Hippodrome always remained in the maritime plain; but at a later time the Stadium was removed to Delphi. [DELPHI]

Cirrha remained in ruins, and the Cirrhaean plain continued uncultivated down to the time of Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, when the Amphissians dared to cultivate again the sacred plain, and attempted to rebuild the ruined town. This led to the Second Sacred War, in which Amphissa was taken by Philip, to whom the Amphictyons had entrusted the conduct of the war, B.C. 338. [AMPHISSA]

Cirrha, however, was afterwards rebuilt as the port of Delphi. It is first mentioned again by Polybius (5.27); and in the time of Pausanias it contained a temple common to Apollo, Artemis, and Leto, in which were statues of Attic work. (Leake, Northern Greece, vol. ii. p. 583; and more especially Ulrichs, Reisen in Griechenland, p. 7, seq.),

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: