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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites

Eretria

  The ancient city is partially covered by the modern village of the same name, some 18 km SE of Chalkis on the S-central coast of the island. The site is dominated by a prominent acropolis at the N and extends over an area of more than 80 ha, roughly delimited by the course of the ancient city walls. The archaeological remains are the most extensive in Euboia.
  First mentioned in the Homeric Catalogue of Ships (Il. 2.537: Eretria), there is a growing body of evidence to indicate that the site was occupied throughout most of the Bronze Age. Problems related to the location of Strabo's Old Eretria (9.2.6)--now thought by some to be at the nearby site of Lefkandi--still remain unsettled. With the dawn of the historical period, Eretria--along with its neighbor, Chalkis--appears among the leading cities of Greece in establishing colonies abroad. This contributed to a bitter rivalry between Chalkis and Eretria, manifested at home in a war over the control of the fertile coastal strip centering upon the Lelantine plain. The Lelantine War, which seems to have taken place at or near the end of the 8th c. B.C., may have resulted in a certain decline in the status of Eretria. But recent excavations have brought to light considerable evidence of occupation on the site in the 7th and 6th c. Near the end of the 6th c., Eretria supported the revolt of the Ionian Greek cities from Persian subjugation. This resulted in the destruction of the city at the hands of the vengeful Persians in 490 (Hdt. 6.43-44). Herodotos (6.99-101, 119) tells us that the temples were plundered and burned and many of the inhabitants taken captive and carried off to Persia. The city seems to have recovered somewhat for it managed to contribute both ships and men to the Greek forces in 480-479. After the Persian Wars, Eretria became a member of the Delian Confederacy and generally remained loyal to Athens until 411. At that time the Euboian cities revolted, and there is some evidence to indicate that they formed a league with Eretria at its head. Eretria supported Sparta through the balance of the Peloponnesian War but was back on good terms with Athens by the early 4th c. Thereafter its allegiance vacillated between Athens and Thebes until--by the end of the 4th c.--it had come under the thumb of the Macedonians and was to remain so for the next 100 years or more. Eretria came to be the most important city in Euboia in the late 4th and early 3d c., by which time its influence extended over most of S Euboia. The city flourished in the 3d c. and was the home of a well-known school of philosophy under the direction of Menedemos. But the great days of Eretria came to an end with a major destruction at the hands of a Roman-Pergamene coalition in 198 B.C. (Livy 32.16). Although the city was rebuilt and the site continued to be occupied for some time thereafter, no major monuments can be assigned to this period and it does not seem to have regained its old importance.
  Sporadic excavation has been carried out since the later 19th c. These investigations have uncovered the remains of numerous graves (including a well-built tomb of the Macedonian period a short distance to the W of the ancient town), large stretches of the city wall, a theater, a gymnasium, a Thesmophorion, a bathing establishment, a fountain-house, a tholos, a number of houses, and several temples or shrines (dedicated to Apollo Daphnephoros, Dionysos, and Isis), as well as lesser monuments. No clear-cut remains of the agora have yet been reported.
  The current excavations have been largely confined to the areas of the temple of Apollo Daphnephoros near the center of the ancient town and a major gate in the NW sector of the city. The Temple of Apollo--now visible only in its foundations--was first exposed around the turn of the century, but recent investigations have clarified its chronology and many details of construction. A peripteral temple of the Doric order, it seems to have been erected in the late archaic period (530-520 B.C.) but was razed shortly thereafter in the Persian destruction of 490. It is to this structure that the well-known pedimental group of Theseus and Antiope in the Chalkis Museum belongs. Recent excavation has shown that the 6th c. temple had several precursors including an early archaic hecatompedon of the Ionic order (670-650 B.C.), and a small apsidal shrine of the 8th c. The latter is the earliest building yet found at Eretria. All of the structures in this sequence are thought to have served in the worship of Apollo Daphnephoros.
  One of the most striking monuments at Eretria is the ancient theater, lying at the SW foot of the acropolis. A noteworthy feature of the complex is a subterranean vaulted passage which led by means of a stairway from the center of the orchestra to the stage building. It is thought that such an arrangement facilitated the sudden appearance of actors from the underworld. This structure seems to have been erected in the late 4th c. and serves as one of the best examples of the Greek theater during the Hellenistic period. The remains of a small temple and altar of Dionysos lie a short distance to the S of the theater.
  The site is dominated by the acropolis, from which the visitor gains a magnificent view of the S Euboian Gulf and the mainland beyond. Of particular interest here are the walls and towers which represent some of the best preserved examples of Classical Greek masonry. Although there is some evidence of the use of the acropolis during the Mycenaean period, the fortifications probably range in date from no earlier than the archaic period through Hellenistic times.
  A line of fortification can be traced intermittently from the acropolis along the W side of the city to a point just SW of the theater. Here lies a major gateway (W Gate) through which the ancient road to Chalkis and the Lelantine plain must have passed. The most recent excavators have concentrated much of their efforts upon the investigation of the W Gate and its environs. These investigations have shown that the major gate of the early Classical period (ca. 480 B.C.) overlay a gate and fortifications of the 7th c., which are among the earliest known fortifications of post-Bronze Age Greece. To the S of the W Gate, a complex of burials (both inhumation and cremation) within a modest architectural setting has been identified as a heroon. The rich finds from this area, whose foundation goes back to the 8th c., testify to the far-flung commercial activities of Eretria at that time. The heroon seems to have been incorporated into a Hellenistic structure of palatial proportions (Palace I), which may have belonged to the descendants of those who were buried in the heroon. An even larger and more impressive complex (Palace II), probably of the 4th c. B.C., has been exposed farther to the S.
  Apart from the pedimental sculpture from the Temple of Apollo Daphnephoros in the Chalkis Museum, all of the finds from the excavations at Eretria are now housed in a small museum on the site.

T. W. Jacobsen, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains 32 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.


Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

Eretria

   A town of the island of Euboea, situated on the coast of the Euripus southeast of Chalcis. It was said by some to have been founded by a colony from Triphylia in Peloponnesus; by others its origin was ascribed to a party of Athenians belonging to the deme of Eretria. The latter opinion is far more probable, as this city was doubtless of Ionic origin. We learn from Strabo that Eretria was formerly called Melaneis and Arotria, and that at an early period it had attained to a considerable degree of prosperity and power. The Eretrians conquered the islands of Ceos, Teos, Tenos, and others; and in their festival of Artemis, which was celebrated with great splendour, three thousand soldiers on foot, with six hundred cavalry and sixty chariots, were often employed to attend the procession. Eretria, at this period, was frequently engaged in war with Chalcis, and Thucydides reports that on one occasion most of the Grecian States took part in the contest. The assistance which Eretria then received from the Milesians induced that city to cooperate with the Athenians in sending a fleet and troops to the support of the Ionians, who had revolted from Persia at the instigation of Aristagoras, by which measure it became exposed, in conjunction with Athens, to the vengeance of Darius. That monarch accordingly gave orders to his commanders, Datis and Artaphernes, to subdue both Eretria and Athens and bring the inhabitants captive before him. Eretria was taken after six days' siege, and the captive inhabitants brought to Asia. Darius treated the prisoners kindly, and settled them in the district of Cissia. Eretria recovered from the effects of this disaster and was rebuilt soon after. We find it mentioned by Thucydides, towards the close of his history, as revolting from Athens on the approach of a Spartan fleet under Hegesandridas, and mainly contributing to the success obtained by that commander. After the death of Alexander, this city surrendered to Ptolemy, a general in the service of Antigonus; and in the Macedonian War, to the combined fleets of the Romans, the Rhodians, and Attalus. It was subsequently declared free by order of the Roman Senate. This place, as we learn from Athenaeus, was noted for the excellence of its flour and bread. At one time it possessed a distinguished school of philosophy and dialectics. The ruins of Eretria are still to be observed close to a headland which lies opposite to the mouth of the Asopus in Boeotia.

This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)

Eretria

  Eth. Erteieus, fem. Epetpis, Eretrias: Adj. Eretrikos, Eretriakos. One of the most ancient, and next to Chalcis the most powerful city in Euboea, was situated upon the western coast of the island, a little south of Chalcis, and at the south-western extremity of the extensive and fertile plain of Lelantum. The Eretrians are represented as Ionians (Herod. viii. 46), and were supposed to have come from Eretria in Attica. (Strab. viii.) It seems, however, that the population was not purely Ionic, and, accordingly, some writers related that it had been colonised from the Triphylian Macistus in Elis. (Strab. l. c.) Strabo relates that it was formerly called Melaneis and Arotria.
  At an early period Eretria was one of the chief maritime states in Greece, and attained a high degree of prosperity and power. Andros, Tenos, and Ceos, as well as other islands, were at one time subject to Eretria. (Strab. viii.) According to some accounts, they took part in the colonisation of Cromae, and they founded some colonies upon the peninsula of Chalcidice. Eretria is mentioned by Homer. (Il. ii. 537.). The military strength of the state was attested by an inscription, preserved in the temple of the Amarynthian Artemis, about a mile from the city, recording that in the procession to that temple the Eretrians had been accustomed to march with 3000 hoplites, 600 horsemen, and 60 chariots. (Strab. l. c.)
  Eretria and Chalcis were early engaged in war with each other. These wars seem to have been occasioned by disputes respecting the division of the plain of Lelantum, which lay between the two cities. (Strab. l. c.) In one of these early wars some of the most powerful states of Greece, such as Miletus and Samos, took part. (Thuc. i. 15; Herod. v. 99; Spanheim, ad Callim. Del. 289.) In gratitude for the assistance which the Eretrians had received on this occasion from Miletus, they sent five ships to the Athenian fleet which sailed to support Miletus and the other Ionic cities in their revolt from Persia, B.C. 500. (Herod. l. c.) But this step caused their ruin; for, in B.C. 490, a Persian force, under Datis and Artaphernes, sent to punish the Athenians and Eretrians, laid siege to Eretria, which was betrayed to the Persians after they had invested the place for six days. The town was razed to the ground, and the inhabitants carried away to Persia; but their lives were spared by Darius, who allowed them to settle in the Cissian territory. (Herod. vi. 125.) The old town continued in ruins, but a new town was rebuilt a little more to the south, which soon became a place of considerable importance. In B.C. 411, the Athenians were defeated by the Spartans in a sea-fight off the harbour of Eretria; and those of the Athenians who took refuge in Eretria, as a city in alliance with them, were put to death by the Eretrians, who therefore joined the rest of the Euboeans in their revolt from Athens. (Thuc. viii. 95.)
  After the Peloponnesian War we find Eretria in the hands of tyrants. One of these, named Themison, assisted the exiles of Oropus in recovering possession of their native city from the Athenians in B.C. 366. (Diod. xv. 76; comp. Dem. de Cor. p. 256; Xen. Hell. vii. 4. 1) Themison appears to have been succeeded in the tyranny by Plutarchus, who applied to the Athenians in B.C. 354 for aid against his rival, Callias of Chalcis, who had allied himself with Philip of Macedon. The Athenians sent a force to his assistance under the command of Phocion, who defeated Callias at Tamynae; but Phocion, suspecting Plutarchus of treachery, expelled him from Eretria. Popular government was then established; but shortly afterwards Philip sent a force, which destroyed Porthmus, the harbour of Eretria, and made Cleitarchus tyrant of the city. Cleitarchus governed the city in Philip's interests till B.C. 341, when Cleitarchus was expelled by Phocion, who had been sent into Euboea on the proposition of Demosthenes for the purpose of putting down the Macedonian interest in the island. Eretria was subsequently subject to Macedonia; but in the war with Philip V. it was taken by the combined fleets of the Romans, Attalus, and Rhodians, upon which occasion a great number of paintings, statues, and other works of art fell into the hands of the victors. (Liv. xxxii. 16.) After the battle of Cynoscephalae, Eretria was de. clared free by the Roman senate. (Polyb. xviii. 30.) Eretria was the seat of a celebrated school of philosophy founded by Menedemus, a native of this city, and a disciple of Plato. The philosophers of this school were called Eretrici (Eretrikoi, Strab. x. p. 448; Diog. Laert. i. 17, ii. 126; Athen. ii. p. 55, d.; Cic. Acad. ii. 4. 2, de Orat. iii. 17, Tusc. v. 39.) The tragic poet Achaeus, a contemporary of Aeschylus, was a native of Eretria. It appears from the comic poet Sopater that Eretria was celebrated for the excellence of its flour (ap. Athen. iv. p. 160).
  Strabo says that Old Eretria was opposite Oropus, and the passage across the strait 60 stadia; and that New Eretria was opposite Delphinium, and the passage across 40 stadia (ix.). Thucydides makes the passage from Oropus to New Eretria 60 stadia (viii. 95). New Eretria stood at Kastri, and Old Eretria in the neighbourhood of Vathy. There are considerable remains of New Eretria. The entire circuit of the ruined walls and towers of the Acropolis still subsist on a rocky height, which is separated from the shore by a marshy plain. At the foot of the hill are remains of the theatre, and in the plain a large portion of the town walls, with many foundations of buildings in the inclosed place. The situation was defended to the west by a river, and on the opposite side by a marsh.
  The territory of Eretria extended from sea to sea.: Between Old Eretria and New Eretria was Amaynthus; south of Old Eretria, Tamynae; and further south, Porthmus. In the interior were Dystus and Oechalia.
  The annexed coin represents on the obverse the head of Artemis, who was worshipped in the neighbouring town of Amarynthus: the bull on the. reverse probably has reference to the brazen bull which the Eretrians dedicated at Olympia. (Paus. v. 27. ยง 9)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited May 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Perseus Project

Eretria, Eretrians


Names of the place

Melaneis, Arotria

In earlier times Eretria was called Melaneis and Arotria.


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