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Information about the place (4)
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites
Capital city of the nome, situated at the mouth of the gorges of the
Herkyna on the foothills N of Mt. Helikon and near the W end of Lake Kopais.
The city was famous from the 6th c. B.C. for its Oracle of Trophonios,
which, together with those of Delphi, Abai in Phokis, Dodona, and the Amphiareion,
was one of the five great Greek oracles. It was consulted by Croesus (550 B.C.),
Mardonios (480), and later by Paulus Aemilius (168 B.C.). Pausanias describes
it in detail (9.39.5-13). Together with Koroneia and Haliartos, the city formed
one of the 11 Boiotian districts from 447-387 and from 371-338 B.C., then became
an autonomous city in the Boiotian Confederacy. It was sacked by Lysander in 395
B.C., then again by Mithridates' forces in 86 B.C. Flourishing once again from
the 2d c. A.D., it developed in the Byzantine period, thanks to its strategic
position and its cotton industry.
The ancient city, very little of which remains, was situated on the
right bank of the Herkyna, N of the modern town, at the foot of the acropolis
which has been placed at Trypolithari. In recent excavations some 4th c. buildings
have been discovered at Levadhia. The river Herkyna flows S of the town in a deep
narrow gorge between Mt. Haghios Ilias to the W and Mt. Granitsa (formerly Laphystios)
to the E. There are several abundant springs on both sides of the valley; people
consulting the oracle drank the waters of Lethe and Mnemosyne. In the rock on
the left bank are hollow niches for statues and a square chamber (4 m each side,
3 m high) with two seats, possibly the Sanctuary of Agathos Daimon and Agathe
Tyche. At the W end of the gorge the lower tower of the mediaeval fortress is
apparently built over the Temple of Trophonios.
On Mt. Haghios Ilias, on whose slopes the Catalans built a fortress
in the 14th c. that can still be seen, was the Sacred Grove, near the Chapel of
the Panagia, the Oracle of Trophonios, and the Temple of Zeus Basileus. Recently
discovered by Greek archaeologists, the site of the oracle is a few m SW of the
Temple of Zeus. It consists of a well ca. 4 m deep and 2 m in diameter (approximately
the dimensions given by Pausanias). At the bottom of the well, in the middle,
is a cavity the width of a man's body; it extended toward the SW underneath the
wall of the well. The cave was sealed with a rough stone. In its present state
the somewhat careless construction looks as if it dates from the 3d c. A.D. The
identification seems certain.
The Temple of Zeus Basileus, which was never finished, is in almost
complete ruin. The E foundations and some carved blocks have just been uncovered.
Construction was begun, or perhaps resumed, between 175 and 171 B.C. with money
offered by Antiochos IV Epiphanes, king of Syria. Several inscriptions give the
building plan in detail. It was apparently a large Doric temple, peripteral, oriented
E-W, with an apse in the rectangle of the sekos and a cross-wall with three doors
in it. It may have been intended for ceremonies involving processions around an
inner altar. The Boiotian Confederacy started the Basileia festivals at Lebadeia,
to commenorate the Spartans' defeat at Leuktra in 371; held in Panamos month (August-September),
they included athletic contests and horse races. Foreign delegations, notably
from Athens, took part in the religious ceremonies.
P. Roesch, 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 bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
A town in Boeotia, between Chaeronea and Mount Helicon, at the foot of a rock, in a cave of which was the celebrated oracle of Trophonius.
- Perseus: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
Lebadeia, Lebadea, Levadhia
Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)
Lebadia, Eth. Lebadeus, Livadhia. A town near the western frontier
of Boeotia, described by Strabo (ix.) as lying between Mt. Helicon and Chaeroneia.
It was situated at the foot of a precipitous height, which is an abrupt northerly
termination of Mt. Helicon. Pausanias relates (ix. 39. § 1) that this height was
originally occupied by the Homeric city of Mideia (Mideia, Il. ii. 507), from
whence the inhabitants, under the conduct of Lebadus, an Athenian, migrated into
the plain, and founded there the city named after him. On the other hand, Strabo
maintains that the Homeric cities Arne and Mideia were both swallowed up by the
lake Copais. Lebadeia was originally an insignificant place, but it rose into
importance in consequence of its possessing the celebrated oracle of Trophonius.
The oracle was consulted both by Croesus (Herod. i. 46) and by Mardonius (Herod.
viii. 134), and it continued to be consulted even in the time of Plutarch, when
all the other oracles in Boeotia had become dumb. (Plut. de Def. Orac. 5.) Pausanias
himself consulted the oracle, and he speaks of the town in terms which show that
it was in his time the most flourishing place in Boeotia. But notwithstanding
the sanctity of the oracle, Lebadeia did not always escape the ravages of war.
It was taken and plundered both by Lysander and by Archelaus, the general of Mithridates.
(Plut. Lys. 28, Sull. 16.) In the war against Perseus, it espoused the side of
the Romans, while Thebes, Haliartus, and Coroneia declared in favour of the Macedonian
king. (Polyb. xxvii. 1.) It continues to exist under the slightly altered name
of Livadhia, and during the Turkish supremacy it gave its name to the whole province.
It is still a considerable town, though it suffered greatly in the war of independence
against the Turks.
The modern town is situated on two opposite hills, rising on each
bank of a small stream, called Hercyna by Pausanias, but the greater part of the
houses are on the western slope, on the summit of which is a ruined castle. Pausanias
says that the Hercyna rose in a cavern, from two fountains, close to one another,.
one called the fountain of Oblivion and the other the fountain of Memory, of which
the persons who were going to consult the oracle were obliged to drink. The Hercyna
is in reality a continuation of an occasional torrent from Mount Helicon; but
at the southern extremity of the town, on the eastern side of the castle-hill,
there are some copious sources, which were evidently the reputed fountains of
the Hercyna. They issue from either side of the Hercyna, those on the right bank
being the most copious, flowing from under the rocks in many large streams, and
forming the main body of the river; and those on the left bank being insignificant,
and flowing, in the time of Dodwell, through ten small spouts, of which there
are still remains. The fountains on the right bank are warm, and are called Chilia
(he Chilia), and sometimes ta glupha Wera, or the water unfit for drinking; while
the fountains on the left bank are cold and clear, and are named Krya (he krua,
i. e. he krua brusis, the cold source, in opposition to the warm, Chilia). Neither
of these two sets of fountains rise out of a cave, and so far do not correspond
to the description of Pausanias; but there is a cavern close to each; and in the
course of ages, since the destruction of the sacred buildings of Trophonius, the
caverns may easily have been choked up, and the springs have emerged in different
spots. The question, however, arises, which of the caverns contained the reputed
sources of the Hercyna? The answer to this must depend upon the position we assign
to the sacred grove of Trophonius, in which the source of the Hercyna was situated.
Leake places the sacred grove on the right or eastern bank; but Ulrichs on the
left, or western bank. The latter appears more probable, on account of the passage
in Pausanias, dieirgei de ap autes (i. e. tes poleos) to alsos tou Trophonion,
where there is little doubt that potamos, or some equivalent term, must be applied
as the nominative of dieirgei. The ancient city would, in that case, have stood
on the right or eastern bank of the river, which also appears probable from the
numerous fragments of antiquity still scattered over the eminence on this side
of the river; and the grove of Trophonius would have been on the western side
of the stream, on which the greater part of the modern town stands.
The most remarkable object in the grove of Trophonius was the temple
of the hero, containing his statue by Praxiteles,resembling a statue of Asclepius;
a temple of Demeter, surnamed Europe; a statue of Zeus Hyetius (Pluvius) in the
open air; and higher up, upon the mountain, the oracle (to manteion). Still higher
up was the hunting place of Persephone; a large unfinished temple of Zeus Basileus,
a temple of Apollo, and another temple, containing statues of Cronus, Zeus, and
Hera. Pausanias likewise mentions a chapel of the Good Daemon and of Good Fortune,
where those who were going to consult the oracle first passed a certain number
In the Turkish mosque, now converted into a church of the Panagia,
on the western side of the river, three inscriptions have been found, one of which
contains a dedication to Trophonius, and the other a catalogue of dedications
in the temple of Trophonius. Hence it has been inferred that the temple of Trophonius
occupied this site. Near the fountain of Krya, there is a square chamber, with
seats cut out of the rock, which may perhaps be the chapel of the Good Daemon
and Good Fortune. Near this chamber is a cavern, which is usually regarded as
the entrance to the oracle. It is 25 feet in depth, and terminates in a hollow
filled with water. But this could not have been the oracle, since the latter,
according to the testimony both of Pausanias and Philostratus, was not situated
in the valley upon the Hercyna, but higher up upon the mountain. (Paus. ix. 39.
§ 4; Philostr. Vit. Apoll. viii. 19.) Mure justly expresses his surprise that
Leake, after quoting the description of Pausanias, who says that the oracle was
epi tou orous, should suppose that it was situated at the foot of the hill. A
person who consulted the oracle descended a well constructed of masonry, 12 feet
in depth, at the bottom of which was a small opening on the side of the wall.
Upon reaching the bottom he lay upon his back and introduced his legs into the
hole, when upon a sudden the rest of his body was rapidly carried forward into
the sanctuary. The site of the oracle has not yet been discovered, and is not
likely to be, without an extensive excavation.
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)