Charles Anthon.

A system of ancient and mediæval geography for the use of schools and colleges online

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be confounded with Ira on the borders of Arcadia. It possessed
a celebrated temple of Hercules, and another of ^Esculapius.
8. Cardamyle, farther south, now Scardamoula. Augustus
adjudged it to belong to Laconia. 9. Leuctrum, the last town
of Messenia on this coast, and from its frontier situation a
source of dispute between the Messenians and Laconians. The
ancient site is still called Leutro.

Advancing into the interior of Messenia, we come to, 1. Ge-
renia, to the northeast of Cardamyle, and a very ancient city,
where, according to some, Nestor was educated, and whence
he derived the epithet of Gerenian. Other accounts, however,
identify Gerenia with the Enope of Homer. 2. Limna?, some
distance to the north, sacred to Diana, and having a temple
where a festival was celebrated by both the Messenians and
Laconians. 3. Calamce, to the west, and near the modern
Calamata. 4. Thuria, to the north, annexed by Augustus to
Laconia, for having espoused the cause of Antony. 5. Steny-
clerus, to the north, said to have been the capital of the country
in the reign of Cresphontes. The region around was called the
Stenyclerian plain, and was celebrated in the songs of the na
tives as the scene of the achievements of Aristomenes. 6. Mes
sene, to the west, at the foot of Mount Ithome, founded, as we
have already remarked, by Epaminondas, after the overthrow
of the Spartan power. Pausanias says that the walls of the
city were the strongest he had ever seen. The citadel was on
Mount Ithome, now Mount Vourkano, and celebrated for the
long and obstinate defence which the Messenians there made
against the Spartans in their last revolt. On the summit was
the temple of Jupiter Ithomatas, to whom the mountain was
dedicated. This citadel and the Acrocorinthus were deemed
the two strongest places in Greece. The ruins of Messene are
still visible at the village otMavrommati. The River Balyra,


flowing near the town, was said to have derived its name from
the lyre of Thamyris, which the bard threw into the stream
after losing his sight. It is now the Mavro Zoumena, and is
the largest of the tributaries of the Pamisus.

Aulon was that district of Messenia which bordered on Tri-
phylia and part of Arcadia, being separated from them by the
Neda. It contained the city of Aulon, near the mouth of the
Neda. Higher up the river stood Ira, a mountain fortress, cel
ebrated in the history of the Messenian wars as the last strong
hold whither Aristomenes retreated, and which he so long de
fended against the enemies of his country.


I. The Greek name of this country was Laconice (AaKuviKfj,
scil. yrj). The Roman writers, however, call it Laconia.

II. Laconia was bounded on the north by Arcadia and Ar-
golis, on the west by Messenia, on the east and south by the
Mare Mg&um.

III. Laconia is a long, narrow valley, running from north to
south, and lying between two mountain masses, which stretch
from Arcadia to the southern extremities of the Peloponnesus.
The western range, which terminated in the Promontory of
Tcenarus, now Cape Matapan, was called Taygetus, and the
eastern, terminating in the Promontory of Malea, now Cape
S. Angelo, was known by the names of Parnon, Thornax, and
Zarex. The whole drainage of this valley is collected in the
River Eurotas, now the Basilipotamo, which flows from the
high lands of Arcadia, and is joined by the.QEnus, a little above

IV. From its source to its junction with the CEnus, the
Eurotas flows through a very deep and narrow valley, which
near Sparta is so much contracted as to leave room for little
more than the channel of the river. After it leaves Sparta, the
hills recede farther from the river ; but near CEnoe they again
approach it for a short distance, and afterward retire to the
west and east, toward the Capes of Tsenarus and Malea re
spectively, leaving between them a plain of considerable breadth,
through which the Eurotas flows to the sea.

V. The snow remains on the highest points of Taygetus, in


the neighborhood of Amyclse, to the month of June. The
streams on the eastern slope of this mountain range are abund
ant. Leake describes the soil of Laconia as in general a poor
mixture of white clay and stones, difficult to plough, and better
suited to olives than corn. This description is in conformity
to that of Euripides, who says that it possessed much arable
land, but difficult to work.

VI. Strabo informs us that there were some valuable stone
quarries near Tsenarus, and in the mountains of Taygetus;
and Pausanias also speaks of the shell-fish on the coast, which
produced a dye inferior only to the Tyrian. Laconia was sub
ject, in common with the southern countries of Greece, to earth
quakes, the most remarkable of which occurred B.C. 462, and
destroyed the whole of the city of Sparta, with the exception of
five houses.

OBS. Laconia is well described by Euripides as difficult of access to an enemy.
On the west the range of Taygetus formed almost an insuperable barrier to any
invading force ; and on the north there were only two natural passes by which
the country could be entered, one by the valley of the upper Eurotas, as the
course of that river above Sparta may be termed, and the other by the valley
of the QEnus. Both of these natural openings led to Sparta, which shows how
admirably the capital was situated for purposes of defence. The want of good
harbors on the coast also protected it from invasion by sea ; and the possession
of the island of Cythera, at the Sinus Laconicus, was therefore always consid
ered by the Lacedaemonians as a point of great importance.


I. ACCORDING to the most ancient traditions of Laconia, the Leleges were the
earliest inhabitants of the country. Lelex, the first king, was succeeded by his
son Mules, who left the kingdom to his son Eurotas. This last monarch, dying
without issue, bequeathed the kingdom to Lacedaemon, the son of Jupiter and
Taygeta, who married Sparta, the daughter of Eurotas. The sovereignty is said
to have remained in this family till shortly before the Trojan war, when the de
scendants of Pelops, Menelaus and Agamemnon, obtained possession of the coun
try by marrying, the former Helen, the latter Clytemnestra, daughters of Tyn-
dareus, the last monarch of the ancient dynasty. At the time of the Trojan
war we find the country in the possession of the Achaeans, who undoubtedly
settled in Laconia at a very early period, and probably conquered the Leleges.
Menelaus was succeeded by Orestes, who had married his daughter Hermione,
and Orestes by Tisamenus, during whose reign the Peloponnesus was invaded
by the Dorians.

II. The Heraclidae established a double dynasty of two kings at Sparta ; for
as neither the mother nor the Delphic oracle could decide which of the twin
sons of Aristodemus, namely, Eurysthenes and Procles, was first born, the coun
try of Laconia was assigned to them in common ; and it was determined that
the descendants of both should succeed them, f he previous inhabitants, how
ever, had little cause to rejoice in the arrival of these foreigners, whose fierce


disputes under seven rulers of both houses distracted the country with ems
feuds, while it was at the same time involved in constant wars with its neigh
bors. The royal authority was continually becoming feebler, and the popular
power was increased by these divisions, until Lycurgus came upon the scene
This distinguished man, the only individual in whom both parties confided, es
tablished a new constitution for Sparta about 880 B.C.

III. Lacedsemon now acquired new vigor, which was manifested in her wars
with her neighbors, particularly with the Messenians, whose country was sub
jugated. The battle of Thermopylae gave Sparta so much distinction among the
Greeks, that even Athens consented to yield the command of the confederate
forces by land and sea to the Spartans. Pausanias gained, in consequence, the
celebrated victory of Platseae, and, on the same day, the Grecian army and fleet,
under the command of the Spartan king Leotychides, and the Athenian general
Xanthippus, defeated the Persians at Mycale.

IV. With the rise of the political importance of Sparta, the social organiza
tion of the nation was developed. The power of the kings was gradually limited,
while that of the ephori was increased. After the Persians had been victori
ously repelled, the Grecian states, having now acquired warlike habits, carried
on hostilities against each other ; jealousy arose between Sparta and Athens*
and the Peloponnesian war ensued, B.C. 431. This ended in the ascendency
of Sparta, and the entire humiliation of her rival. The Spartans next became
involved in a war with Persia, and the Persian throne was shaken by the vic
tories of Agesilaus ; but Athens, Thebes, Corinth, and some of the Peloponne
sian states, were instigated by Persian gold to declare war against Sparta, and
Agesilaus was recalled. This commander defeated the Thebans at Coronea ;
but, on the other hand, Conon, the Athenian commander, gained a victory over
the Spartan fleet at Cnidus, and took fifty galleys. To this contest succeeded,
after some interval, the celebrated Theban war, in which Epaminondas broke
the power of Sparta, and this state thenceforth ceased to act a prominent part
in Greece.

V. The Macedonian power now gained the ascendency, and Sparta, along
with the other states, was compelled to succumb. Luxury and licentiousness
after this began to make gradual inroads, and after Cleomenes had in vain at
tempted to stem the torrent, the state fell under the power of the tyrants Ma-
chanidas and Nabis. Its final downfall, however, was effected by the Aehseans
and Romans, and, on being compelled to join the Achaean league, it passed
eventually with that confederacy under the dominion of the Romans.

VI. Under the Roman rule, the inhabitants of Laconia enjoyed a greater de
gree of freedom than was allowed to the other provinces of Greece, being, says
Strabo, regarded rather as allies than as subjects. A considerable part of the
nation, consisting of several maritime towns, was dignified with the title of
Eleuthero-Lacones, or Free Laconians, conferred upon it by Augustus, together
with other privileges, for the zeal which its inhabitants had early testified in
favor of the Romans.

VII. Laconia is said to have once contained one hundred towns. When the
Dorians conquered it, they selected Sparta for the place of their own residence,
and permitted the rest of the province to be occupied by a mixed population
composed of Dorians and other strangers, and of the Achaeans the previous in
habitants. The Dorians who held Sparta received from their city the name of
Spartans ; the Laconians who inhabited the surrounding towns were termed
nepioiKoi. The name of Lacedemonians was common to both. The Ksptotnoi
were treated generally with great oppression, and held their towns as subjects

GR.ECIA. 583

or vassals of the Spartans. They formed, however, a part of the military force,
and were sometimes even placed in offices of trust. The slaves were called
Helots. These Helots were originally composed of the inhabitants of Laconian
towns reduced to slavery ; but their name was afterward communicated to those
Messenians who remained in the country after the second Messenian war.


AFTER leaving the mouth of the Pamisus, which separated
Laconia from Messenia, we come to, 1. Pephnus, now Pekno,
according to Cramer. Leake places it at the harbor of Platza.
Opposite to it was a little island, also called Pephnus, in which
the Dioscuri were said to have been born. 2. Thalamce, now,
according to Gell, Calamo. 3. (Etylus, lower down, now Vi-
tulo. It contained a temple of Serapis. 4. Messa, some dis
tance below, and mentioned by Homer. Cramer makes it an
swer to the modern Maino, but Leake to the harbor of Me-
zapo. 5. Tcendrum, to the east of the Thyrides Promontorium,
or Cape Grosso. It was called Ccenepolis at a later period,
under the Roman sway, and was the chief place of the Eleu-
thero-Laconic confederation. The ruins are near Cyparisso.
Doubling the promontory of Tsenarus, now Cape Matapan, and
entering the Sinus Laconicus, sometimes called Gytheates Si
nus, now the Gulf of Colokytkia, we meet with no place of im
portance until we come to, 6. Gythium, at the head of the gulf,
frequently mentioned by ancient writers as the port of Sparta,
from which it was distant two hundred and forty stadia. Ac
cording to Pliny, it was the nearest point to embark from for
the island of Crete. The site is now called Palceopoli, but no
habitation is left upon it. The small island of Cranae lay off
this place, alluded to by Homer, according to some, in his ac
count of the abduction of Helen. It is now Marathonnisi.
Some, however, lay the scene of this adventure in the island
of Helena or Maoris, off the coast of Attica.

7. HeloSj to the east, on the opposite side of the gulf, and not
far from the mouth of the Eurotas. The inhabitants of this
town, having revolted against the Dorians and Heraclidse, were
reduced to slavery, and called Helots, which name was after
ward extended to the various people who were held in bondage
by the Spartans. Polybius says that the district of Helos was
the most extensive and fertile part of Laconia. But the coast
was marshy, from which circumstance it probably derived its
name (e Aof, "a marsh"). The site is uncertain, probably near


Priniko. 8. Cyparissia, according to Strabo, situate on a pen
insula. It lay to the south of Helos, and its site is now oc
cupied by the modern fortress of Rupino or Rampano, some
times called Castel Kyparissi. Doubling the promontory of
Onugnathus, we enter the Sinus Baedticus, now the Gulf of
Vathika, off which, to the southwest, lay the island of Cythera,
now Cerigo, celebrated as having received Venus on her birth
from the sea. According to Eustathius, it was once called
Porphyris, from the quantity of purple-yielding shell-fish found
on its shores. This island was of great importance to Sparta,
since its harbors sheltered the Spartan fleets, and afforded pro
tection to merchant vessels against the attacks of pirates. It
was taken by the Athenians in the Peloponnesian war, and the
Spartans were in consequence exposed to much annoyance from
the ravaging of the coast of Laconia. The principal town was
also called Cythera ; the principal harbor was called Scandea,
and is mentioned by Homer.

Returning to the coast of Laeonia, we come to, 9. Bosce, on
the Sinus Boeaticus, and giving name to it. The site is now
called Vathikd. Doubling the Promontory of Malea, now Cape
St. Angela or Malio, we pass to, 10. Epidelium, now, accord
ing to Cramer, S. Angela. Its ruins are near the modern Cape
Kamili. 11. Epidaums Limera, to the north, said to have
been founded by the Argives, to whom, at one time, this whole
coast, as far as the Malean promontory, belonged. This place
contained a celebrated temple of ^Esculapius. Its site is now
called Palcea Monembasia. The modern Monembasia, which
lies a little to the south, appears to correspond to the ancient

12. Sparta, sometimes called Lacedcemon, was the capital
of Laconia, and the chief city of the Peloponnesus. It was sit
uate on the right or western bank of the Eurotas, about twenty
miles from the sea. Sparta was built in a plain of some ex
tent, and was bounded on the east by the Eurotas, and on the
south by a smaller stream, called the Knakion, now Trypiotiko.
Polybius describes it as of a circular form, and, though situate
in a plain, containing within it several rising grounds and hills.
Homer calls it the "hollow Lacedsemon," from the mountain
ranges by which the plain is surrounded. Sparta was not reg
ularly fortified till the time of the Roman interference in Greece,


though fortifications had been hastily thrown up against the at
tacks of Demetrius Poliorcetes (B.C. 280) and Pyrrhus (B.C.
272). It was at last completely surrounded with walls by
order of Appius, the Roman legate. The ruins are about two
miles distant from the modern Mistra. The villages of Ma-
gula and Psykhik6 occupy a part of the immediate site. Sparta
was much subject to earthquakes, and, on one of these occa
sions, prior to the Peloponnesian war, only five houses were left

13. Therapne, on the left bank of the Eurotas, and south
east of Sparta. Here were to be seen the temple of Menelaus
and his tomb, as well as that of Helen. The ruins are near
the village of Amphisu. 14. Amy dee, south of Sparta, and to
the west of the Eurotas. It was one of the most ancient cities
of Laconia, having been founded long before the invasion of the
Dorians. It was celebrated for its temple of the Amyclsean
Apollo. Hyacinthus, the favorite of Apollo, was fabled to have
been buried here. It was also celebrated as the birth-place of
Castor and Pollux, who, according to another legend, were bom
on the island of Pephnus. The country around was beautifully
wooded, and is so still at the present day. Leake places the
site of Amyclae at Aia Kyriaki. 15. Selldsia, some distance
to the north of Sparta, near the confluence of the GEnus and
Gongylus, in a valley confined between two mountains, named
Euas and Olympus. It commanded the only road by which
an army could enter Laconia from the north, and was there
fore a position of great importance for the defence of the capital.
According to Boblaye and Ross, its site is near the Khan of
Krevata. Leake, however, places it more to the south.


I. Argolis derived its name from the Pelasgic term Argos,
which properly meant "a plain," but which served also to in
dicate as well the district of country afterward called Argolis,
as the city situate therein. Argos, too, as has already been re
marked, is sometimes put for the whole Peloponnesus.

II. Argolis was of a peninsular shape for the most part, and
was bounded on the north by Corinthia and Sicyonia, on the
west by Arcadia, on the south by Laconia and the Sinus Ar-


golicus, now the Gulf of NapoU, and on the east by the Sinus
Saronicus, now Gulf of Engia. Its greatest length, measured
in a straight line along its western frontier, was nearly thirty-
eight miles, and the peninsular part of it varied from twenty-
five to eleven miles in breadth.

III. Argolis is traversed by a ridge of mountains, which run
nearly in a continued line through the peninsula, from Mount
Cyllene in Arcadia, on its northwestern frontier, in an eastward
direction to the promontory of Scyllseum. These mountains
are intersected by deep valleys, through which flow rivulets,
generally dry during summer. The ancient name of part of
this ridge was Arachnceus, which was crossed by the road from
Argos to Epidaurus. The valleys are very numerous, and of
greatest breadth on the southern side of the ridge, but none of
them are of any great extent. That in which Argos and My
cenae were situate is the largest, and through it flowed the
Inachus. The coast is of an irregular shape, with numerous
indentations, and is generally low. The only good harbor was
Nauplia, now Napoli di Romania, at the head of the Sinus


I. THE earliest inhabitants of Argolis were Pelasgi. The term Argos itself
was one of Pelasgic origin, and we find it applied to cities in Thessaly and other
quarters of Greece, once in the occupation of this people. On the arrival of
Danaus, who is said to have come from Egypt, the inhabitants are reported to
have changed their ancient appellation of Pelasgi to that of Danai. At that
time the whole of what was afterward called Argolis acknowledged the au
thority of one sovereign ; but after the lapse of two generations, a division took
place, by which Argos and its territory were allotted to Acrisius, the lineal de
scendant of Danaus, while Tiryns and the maritime country became the inher
itance of his brother Prcetus. A third kingdom was subsequently established
by Perseus, son of the former, who founded Mycenae. But these were all finally
reunited in the person of Atreus, son of Pelops, who acquired, in right of the
houses of Pelops and Perseus, which he represented, possession of nearly the
whole of the Peloponnesus, which ample territory came in course of succession
to Agamemnon.

II. After the death of Agamemnon, the crown descended to Orestes, and sub
sequently to his son Tisamenus, who was forced to evacuate the throne by the
invasion of the Dorians and Heraclidae. Temenus, the lineal descendant of
Hercules, now became the founder of a new dynasty ; but the Argives, having
acquired a taste for liberty, curtailed so much the power of their sovereigns as
to leave them but the name and semblance of kings. At length, having deposed
Meltas, the last of the Temenid dynasty, they changed the constitution into a
republican form of government.

III. In the more certain historical ages, Argos becomes first known to us

GR^ECIA. 587

when engaged in war with the Spartans respecting the territory of Thyrea.
This war was contemporaneous with the capture of Sardes by Cyrus. Before
this epoch the possessions of Argos had extended along the coast to Cape Ma-
lea, and included Cythera and other islands. At a later period, B.C. 493, there
was another contest between Argos and Sparta, in which Argos was unsuccess
ful, and so many of the citizens fell in battle, that the slaves, or more probably
the Periceci, found no difficulty in seizing the government, and are said to have
retained it till the sons of their masters had grown up, when they were again
expelled from the city. It was probably on this account that the Argives took
no part in the Persian war, B.C. 480, though many believed them to have been
bribed by Xerxes.

IV. A few years afterward we find them at war with the inhabitants of My
cenae, who had refused to acknowledge the supremacy of Argos, and had been
supported for many years in their independence by the Spartans. Mycenae fell,
and never arose again from its ruins.

V. Though Argos remained neutral during the earlier part of the Pelopoime-
sian war, her feelings were at all times opposed to the Spartans, and she at last
took an active part with the Athenians. The defeat, however, of the Argives
at Mantinea, B.C. 418, dissolved the confederacy of which she was the head,
and Argos was compelled to accept an aristocratic constitution. She subse
quently shook off the yoke, and we find her assisting the Thebans at the battle
of Mantinea, B.C. 362. But her history becomes gradually less important ; nor
is there any fact worthy of being noticed till the unsuccessful attempt made by
Pyrrhus, B.C. 272, to take the city. It joined the Achaean league, and con
tinued to form a part of this confederacy until its final dissolution by the Romans.


ADVANCING from the Laconian frontier, we come to the small
territory of Cynuria, the possession of which led to frequent
disputes between the Spartans and Argives. Its principal town
was Thyrea, near which the celebrated battle was fought be
tween three hundred Spartans and an equal number of Argives.
The Argives being defeated in a general action not long after,
Thyrea was held by the Spartans, who established here the
jEginetce, upon the expulsion of that people from their island
by the Athenians. Thyrea was afterward ceded by treaty to
the Argives. Its site was probably not far from the modern
town of Astro. The Thyreates Sinus is now the Bay of Astro.

Leaving Cynuria, and moving upward along the coast, we
come to, 1. Lerna, a small lake or marsh, formed by several
sources which discharged themselves into its basin. It was
celebrated as the scene of the contest between Hercules and
the Hydra. The most famous of the streams which formed
this lake was the fountain Amymone. The Lernean Lake is
now a small marshy pool, overgrown with reeds. Bending our
course around the head of the bay, we come next to, 2. Nauplia,


the port of Argos, now Napoli di Romania. Both in ancient
and modern times this has been an important harbor, and, in
deed, the only good one in Argolis. 3. Argos, to the north
west, inland, and still preserving its name. It was generally
regarded as the oldest city of Greece. The walls of this city
were constructed of massive blocks of stone, or, in other words,
were of Cyclopean structure. It was also protected by two cit

Online LibraryCharles AnthonA system of ancient and mediæval geography for the use of schools and colleges → online text (page 64 of 89)