|June 20, 2013
|Information about the place
| The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites
The Kadmeia, the acropolis of Thebes, is situated midway along a chain
of hills running from Tanagra to Mt. Helikon, in a natural ridge. It is a huge
plateau 700 m long and 400 m wide with steep slopes on all sides except to the
S and flanked by two deep gullies: that of Dirke to the W and Ismenos to the E.
The Kadmeia rises some 50 m above the fertile Teneric plain. The lower city was
spread out N and E of the acropolis.
According to legend Thebes was founded by Kadmos after he had consulted
the oracle at Delphi. Theban mythology is among the richest in Greek civilization.
The legends surrounding the founding of the city, the birth of Herakles, the curse
that fell on the Labadakidai, the war of the Seven against Thebes, and the fate
of the Epigonoi inspired the tragic poets. The Kadmeion or "palace of Kadmos"
is beneath the modern city; the partial excavations at the beginning of the century
revealed traces dating probably from the 15th c. B.C. Recently a rich collection
of BabyIonian cylinder seals of the 15th and 14th c. was found, as well as, underneath
the palace, remains of buildings dating from the end of the third millennium.
The Kadmeia apparently was abandoned in the 13th c. as a result of fires.
Long a rival of Orchomenos, Thebes finally gained the upper hand
and from the 7th c. grouped a dozen cities into a koinon with itself at the head.
But for centuries three cities resisted Thebes: Orchomenos, Plataiai, and Thespiai.
From the 6th c. Thebes opposed Athens, sided with the Persians in 480 and was
defeated by Athens at Oinophyta in 457. Ten years later Thebes reorganized the
Boiotian League, dividing the region into 11 districts and becoming powerful by
absorbing the districts of Plataiai (427) and Thespiai (423). Faced with the Spartan
threat, Thebes made a short-lived alliance with Athens in 395 but was defeated
in 394 at Koroneia. At the King's Peace (386) the city recovered its power, thanks
to Epaminondas who fought the Spartans at Leuktra (371) and Pelopidas. Epaminondas'
death at the battle of Mantineia (362) marked the beginning of the decline of
Thebes. In 338 Philip II captured the Kadmeia and in 335 Alexander razed it. Rebuilt
from 316 by Kassander, the city once again took its place, modestly, in the new
Boiotian Koinon organized in 338, but was no longer at its head. It was captured
in 173 by the consul Licinius and destroyed in 146 by Mummius as reprisal for
a revolt. Barely rebuilt, Thebes was sacked by Sulla. After three centuries of
obscurity it regained importance with the advent of Christianity and, in spite
of the invasions, became a prosperous provincial capital.
Having seen so much destruction Thebes has few traces of the past.
The modern town is built over the Kadmeia, and its suburbs of Pyri and Hagioi
Theodori occupy the lower city. Only very partial excavations can be carried out.
The finds can be seen in the museum. Little remains of the Kadmeian walls: only
some Mycenaean traces near the Proitides gate and some remains of a 4th c. wall
near the "Frankish" tower and Electra gate. The rampart had seven gates:
Borrheai to the N, Proitides and Homoloides to the E, Electra, flanked by two
round 4th c. towers, and Onka to the S, and Kreneai and Neistai to the W. A second
rampart fortified the city and the Kadmeia; traces of its four square towers can
be seen on the hill E of the Ismenos gully and beside the Hypsistai gate to the
On the Kadmeia were Pindar's house and the Sanctuary of Dionysos
where a "statue fallen from heaven" was venerated. In his honor Thebes
celebrated the Agrionia, which included a musical contest. Apollo Hismenios had
an oracle to the SE of the Electra gate. The original temple (9th or 8th c.),
which was of wood and brick, was burned and replaced in the 6th c. by a poros
temple with Doric columns; this is the "temple of the golden tripods"
(Pind.) that Herodotos visited. The 4th c. temple was a peripteral Doric building
22.80 x 46.25 m with six columns in front and 12 on each side; the sekos (9.30
x 21.60 m) was fronted by a spacious pronaos.
E of the Kadmeia, near the Fountain of Oidipous, may have been the
agora with its great portico and next to it the Temple of Artemis Eukleia, the
Heroon of Alkmeon, and the funeral pyres of the Seven Chiefs of Argos. On the
hill of Kastelli a large Mycenaean chamber tomb has recently been discovered;
it has two dromoi and is decorated inside with frescos representing papyrus flowers
and female figures. On top of the hillock N of the Kadmeia was the Tomb of Amphion
and Zethos. In the middle of a circular tumulus (diameter 20 m) made of crude
bricks, the tomb is a mere cist (2.20 x 1.15 m); it was richly fitted as shown
by very fine gold jewels, but it had already been plundered in ancient times.
It was covered with a stepped pyramid in the Egyptian or Oriental manner, built
at the beginning of the second millennium. Farther NE is a depression that may
mark the site of a theater built by Sulla in 86 B.C. In the plain, NE of the railroad
station, is said to be the site of the Temenos of Iolaus that included the heroon,
a gymnasium, and a stadium; remains of a portico can be seen. Near the stadium
were the hippodrome with Pindar's tomb and an ancient Sanctuary of Poseidon Hippodromios.
No trace remains of any of the monuments W of the city.
The Temple of Herakles was S of the Kadmeia, near the Haghios Nikolaos
Chapel, along with a stadium and a gymnasium. To honor Herakles Thebes celebrated
the Herakleia, a festival with gymnastic contests. To the SW, near the Paraporti
spring, is the Haghia Trias Chapel which is built on ancient foundations, perhaps
those of the Temple of Athena Onka.
Outside the city were a number of sanctuaries: the Amphiareion whose
oracle was consulted by Croesus (traces on the road to Athens, 2 km S of the Onka
gate); the Sanctuary of Herakles Hippodetes (in the Teneric plain on the road
to Kabeirion), that of Demeter Kabeiraia and Kore (no traces) and especially that
of the Kabeiroi. The Kabeirion, situated 8 km W of Thebes, in a valley opening
on the Teneric plain, has been excavated. A four-columned prostyle temple, roughly
7 x 23 m, was built to the E in the 4th c. on prehistoric, archaic and Classical
remains (a great peribolos wall, circular buildings outside the peribolos). To
the S of the temple a portico 40 x 6 m and open to the SE was modified in the
1st c. B.C. Behind the portico and N of the temple are several unidentified buildings.
In front of the pronaos of the temple a large Hellenistic and Roman theater was
uncovered (diameter of the orchestra: about 26 m); its tiers, 0.30 m high and
0.65 m wide, are of local limestone. The sanctuary has not yet been completely
excavated. Most of the bronze objects and vases dedicated to "the Kabeiros
and his son" are in the National Museum.
|P. Roesch, ed.|
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites,
Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Oct 2002 from
Perseus Project URL below, which contains 6 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
| Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
Thebai, in poetry Thebe (Thebe, Dor. Theba). Now Thion;
the chief city in Boeotia. It was situated in a plain southeast of Lake Helice
and northeast of Plataeae. Its acropolis, which was an oval eminence of no great
height, was called Cadmea (Kadmeia), because it was said to have been founded
by Cadmus, the leader of a Phoenician colony. On each side of this acropolis
is a small valley, running up from the Theban plain into the low ridge of hills
by which it is separated from that of Plataeae. Of these valleys, the one to
the west is watered by the Dirce, and the one to the east by the Ismenus, both
of which, however, are insignificant little streams, though so celebrated in
ancient story. The greater part of the city stood in these valleys, and was
built some time after the acropolis. It is said that the fortifications of the
city were constructed by Amphion and his brother Zethus; and that, when Amphion
played his lyre, the stones moved of their own accord and formed the wall. The
territory of Thebes was called Thebais (Thebais), and extended eastward as far
as the Euboean Sea. No city is more celebrated in the mythical ages of Greece
than Thebes. It was here that the use of letters was first introduced from Phoenicia
into western Europe. It was the reputed birthplace of the two great divinities,
Dionysus and Heracles. It was also the native city of the great seer Tiresias,
as well as of the great musician Amphion. It was the scene of the tragic fate
of Oedipus, and of one of the most celebrated wars in the mythical annals of
Greece. Polynices, who had been expelled from Thebes by his brother Eteocles,
induced six other heroes to espouse his cause, and marched against the city;
but they were all defeated and slain by the Thebans, with the exception of Adrastus,
Polynices, and Eteocles falling by each other's hands. This is usually called
the war of the Seven against Thebes. A few years afterwards the Epigoni, or
descendants of the seven heroes, marched against Thebes to avenge their fathers'
death; they took the city and razed it to the ground. Thebes is not mentioned
by Homer in the catalogue of the Greek cities which fought against Troy, as
it was probably supposed not yet to have recovered from its devastation by the
Epigoni. It appears, however, at the earliest historical period as a large and
flourishing city; and it is represented as possessing seven gates (heptapulos),
the number assigned to it in the ancient legends. Its government, after the
abolition of monarchy, was an aristocracy, or rather an oligarchy, which continued
to be the prevailing form of government for a long time, although occasionally
exchanged for that of a democracy. Towards the end of the Peloponnesian War,
however, the oligarchy finally disappears; and Thebes appears under a democratical
form of government from this time, till it became with the rest of Greece subject
to the Romans.
The Thebans were from an early period inveterate enemies
of their neighbours, the Athenians. Their hatred of the latter people was probably
one of the reasons which induced them to desert the cause of Grecian liberty
in the great struggle against the Persian power. In the Peloponnesian War the
Thebans naturally espoused the Spartan side, and contributed not a little to
the downfall of Athens. But, in common with the other Greek States, they soon
became disgnsted with the Spartan supremacy, and joined the confederacy formed
against Sparta in B.C. 394. The peace of Antalcidas in 387 put an end to hostilities
in Greece; but the treacherous seizure of the Cadmea by the Lacedaemonian general
Phoebidas in 382, and its recovery by the Theban exiles in 379, led to a war
between Thebes and Sparta, in which the former not only recovered its independence,
but forever destroyed the Lacedaemonian supremacy. This was the most glorious
period in the Theban annals; and the decisive defeat of the Spartans at the
battle of Leuctra in 371 made Thebes the first power in Greece. Her greatness,
however, was mainly due to the preeminent abilities of her citizens, Epaminondas
and Pelopidas; and with the death of the former at the battle of Mantinea in
362, she lost the supremacy which she had so recently gained. Soon afterwards
Philip of Macedon began to exercise a paramount influence over the greater part
of Greece. The Thebans were induced, by the eloquence of Demosthenes, to forget
their old animosities against the Athenians, and to join the latter in protecting
the liberties of Greece; but their united forces were defeated by Philip, at
the battle of Chaeronea, in 338. Soon after the death of Philip and the accession
of Alexander, the Thebans made a last attempt to recover their liberty, but
were cruelly punished by the young king. The city was taken by Alexander in
336, and was entirely destroyed, with the exception of the temples, and the
house of the poet Pindar; 6000 inhabitants were slain, and 30,000 sold as slaves.
In 316 the city was rebuilt by Cassander, with the assistance of the Athenians.
In 290 it was taken by Demetrius Poliorcetes, and again suffered greatly. Dicaearchus,
who flourished about this time, has left us an interesting account of the city.
He describes it as about seventy stadia (nearly nine miles) in circumference,
in form nearly circular, and in appearance somewhat gloomy. He says that it
is plentifully provided with water, and contains better gardens than any other
city in Greece; that it is most agreeable in summer, on account of its plentiful
supply of cool and fresh water, and its large gardens; but that in winter it
is very unpleasant, being destitute of fuel, exposed to floods and cold winds,
and frequently visited by heavy falls of snow. He further represents the people
as proud and insolent, and always ready to settle disputes by fighting, rather
than by the ordinary course of justice. It is supposed that the population of
the city at this time may have been between 50,000 and 60,000 souls.
After the Macedonian period Thebes rapidly declined in importance;
and it received its last blow from Sulla , who gave half of its territory to
the Delphians. Strabo describes it as only a village in his time; and Pausanias,
who visited it in the second century of the Christian era, says that the Cadmea
alone was then inhabited. The modern town is also confined to this spot, and
the surrounding country is covered with a confused heap of ruins.
|This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks|
| The Catholic Encyclopedia
A metropolitan titular see of Achaia
The city was founded by the Phoenician Cadmus in the sixteenth century
B.C., afterwards made illustrious by the legends of Laius, OEdipus, and of Antigone,
the rivalry of Eteocles and Polynices, and the unfortunate siege by the seven
chiefs of Argos. After the
taking of Troy, Thebes became
the capital of Boeotia, but
did not succeed in imposing its hegemony, for Athens
supported certain towns in their opposition. Thebes allied itself to the Persians
against the Greeks, but was conquered with them and submitted to Sparta,
until its two generals Pelopidas and Epaminondas restored it to the first rank.
The death of the latter before Mantinea
in 363 B.C., opened a new series of misfortunes for the city. Conquered by Philip
of Macedonia, in 338 B.C.,
it revolted two years after and drew on itself the vengeance of Alexander who
killed or sold all the inhabitants and destroyed all the houses save that of the
poet Pindar. Rebuilt in 316 B.C., by Cassander, it was taken and retaken again.
In the second century B.C., the acropolis alone was inhabited. In
the Middle Ages the city was repeopled through the silk industry. In 1040 the
Bulgarians took possession of it; six years after the Normans sacked it. In 1205
it was taken by Boniface III of Montferrat and assigned with Athens
to Othon de la Roche. In 1364 the Turks took it in behalf of Frederick III of
Sicily and later on their
own account, but its neighbour, Livadia,
soon supplanted it.
At first a suffragan, Thebes was an autocephalous archbishopric at
the beginning of the tenth century and until 970; about 1080 it was a metropolitan
see; and about 1170 it numbered five suffragan sees. In 1833 Thebes was reduced
to the rank of bishopric with the title of Boeotia;
since 1882 the diocese has had the title of Thebes and Livadia.
The bishop resides at Livadia
and exercises his jurisdiction over the entire district of Boeotia.
Since 1210 it has had a Latin metropolis which became by degrees a titular.
| Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)