Crisa (Krissa, Krisa: Eth. Krissaios), and Cirrha (Kirrha: Eth. Kirraios),
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. (Polyb.
v. 27; Liv. xlii. 15.) Pausanias (x. 37.5) supposes this Cirrha to be a later
name of the Homeric Crissa; and his authority has been followed by K. O. Muller,
Dissen, Wachsmuth, K. F. Hermann, and most of the German scholars. Strabo (ix.), 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 Chryso,
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.
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. x. 8.
§ 8), and at the foot of Mount Cirphis (Strab. ix.). Its ruins may be seen
close to the sea, at the distance of about ten minutes from the Pleistus. They
bear the name of Magula. 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 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. (Herod. viii. 32; Strab. ix.) 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 Xeropegado, 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 (to Kirpaion pedion, Aeschin. c. Ctesiph.;
ps Kirrhaia chora, Dem. de Cor.; Diod. xvi. 23; Dion Cass.
lxiii. 14; Polyaen. iii. 5; he Kirrhaia,
Paus. x. 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.
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 (Krisa zathee,
Il. ii. 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.
(Horn. 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.
Moreover, the statement of Pindar, that the road to
Delphi from the Hippodrome on the coast led over the Crissaean hill (Pyth. v.
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 Chryso 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. ii. 26.) Metapontium in Italy is said to have been a
colony of Crissa. (Strab. vi.)
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.68; Strab. ix.; Athen. xiii.) 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. x. 37.7; Polyaen. iii. 6; Frontin.
Strateg. iii. 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. x. 37.4), and in the time of Pindar the Stadium also. (Pyth. xi. 20,
73.) The Hippodrome always remained in the maritime plain; but at a later time
the Stadium was removed to 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.
Cirrha, however, was afterwards rebuilt as the port of Delphi. It
is first mentioned again by Polybius (v. 27); and in the time of Pausanias it
contained a temple common to Apollo, Artemis, and Leto, in which were statues
of Attic work.
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD)