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for destination: "LEFKADA
Information about the place (6)
Perseus Project index
Total results on 15/5/2001: 34 for Leukas, 81 for Leucas, 1 for Lewcas.
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites
An island almost joined to the Akarnanian coast of Greece, and in
ancient times a peninsula. According to Strabo (10.451) the isthmus that joined
it to land was cut by Corinthian colonists, who founded the city of Leukas about
the middle of the 7th c. B.C. The island had been inhabited from the Neolithic
period until the Bronze Age, but the theory that Leukas was the Homeric Ithaca
now has little support. From the 5th to the 3 c. B.C. Leukas had its own coinage.
Probably in the 1st c. B.C. the isthmus was cut anew and a bridge, now submerged,
was built to the mainland.
Excavations in circular tumuli in the plain of Nidri on the E coast
have uncovered burials in pithoi, in rectangular pits, or in cist tombs, as well
as Early and Middle Helladic pottery. Remains of a large building were also identified.
In the ancient city of Leukas part of the polygonal enclosing wall of the acropolis
survives, some of the enclosing wall of the lower city, and part of the theater.
The necropolis was SW of the city. Near the church of Haghios Yoannis Rodaki in
the S part of the island the foundations of a Doric temple have been found, and
there are remains of several Greek lookout towers in various parts of the island.
At Cape Laukatas, the S end of the island, on the perpendicular cliff overlooking
the sea that gives the island its name, are the remains of the Temple of Apollo
cited by Strabo (10.452). It was from this point, according to tradition, that
Sappho threw herself. There is a small museum at Nidri in what was once the home
M. G. Picozzi, 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 bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
(Leukas sc. petra) or Leucadia (Leukadia). The modern Santa
Maura. An island in the Ionian Sea, off the western coast of Acarnania, about
twenty miles in length and from five to eight miles in breadth. It derived its
name from the numerous calcareous hills which cover its surface. It was originally
united to the mainland at its northeastern extremity by a narrow isthmus. Homer
speaks of it as a peninsula, and mentions its well-fortified town Nericus. It
was at that time inhabited by the Teleboans and Leleges. Subsequently the Corinthians
under Cypselus, between B.C. 665 and 625, founded a new town called Leucas. They
also cut a canal through the isthmus, and thus converted the peninsula into an
island. This canal was afterwards filled up by deposits of sand, but was opened
again by the Romans. At present the channel is dry in some parts, and has from
three to four feet of water in others. During the war between Philip and the Romans,
Leucas was the place where the meetings of the Acarnanian League were held. The
other towns of the island were Hellomenum and Phara.
At the southern extremity of the island, opposite Cephallenia,
was the celebrated promontory, variously called Leucas, Leucatas, Leucates, or
Leucate, on which was a temple of Apollo Leucadius. At the annual festival of
the god it was the custom to cast down a criminal from this promontory into the
sea; birds were attached to him in order to break his fall; and if he reached
the sea uninjured, boats were ready to pick him up. This appears to have been
an expiatory rite; and it gave rise to the well-known story that lovers leaped
from this rock in order to seek relief from the pangs of love. Thus Sappho is
said to have leaped down from this rock when in love with Phaon.
This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Perseus: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)
Leucas, Leucadia (Leukas, Thuc., Xen., Strab.; Leukadia, Thuc. Liv.:
Eth. Leukadios, an island in the Ionian sea, separated by a narrow channel from
the coast of Acarnania. It was originally part of the mainland, and as such is
described by Homer, who calls it the Acte or peninsula of the mamland. (Akte epeiroio,
Od. xxiv. 377; comp. Strab. x. pp. 451, 452.) Homer also mentions its well-fortified
town Nericus (Nerikos, l. c.) Its earliest inhabitants were Leleges and Teleboans
(Strab. vii. p. 322), but it was afterwards peopled by Acarnanians, who retained
possession of it till the middle of the seventh century B.C., when the Corinthians,
under Cypselus, founded a new town near the isthmus, which they called Leucas,
where they settled 1000 of their citizens, and to which they removed the inhabitants
of the old town of Nericus. (Strab. l. c.; Scylax, p. 13; Thuc. i. 30; Plut. Them.
24; Scymn. Chius, 464.) Scylax says that the town was first called Epileucadii.
The Corinthian colonists dug a canal through this isthmus, and thus converted
the peninsula into an island. (Strab. l. c.) This canal, which was called Dioryctus,
and was, according to Pliny, 3 stadia in length (Lioruktos, Polyb. v. 5; Plin.
iv. 1. s. 2), was after filled up by deposits of sand; and in the Peloponnesian
War, it was no longer available for ships, which during that period were conveyed
across the isthmus on more than one occasion. (Thuc. iii. 81, iv. 8.) It was in
the same state in B.C. 218; for Polybius relates (v. 5) that Philip, the son of
Demetrius, had his galleys drawn across this isthmus in that year; and Livy, in
relating the siege of Leucas by the Romans in B.C. 197, says, Leucadia, nunc insula,
et vadoso freto quod perfossum manu est, ab Acarnania divisa (xxxiii. 17). The
subsequent restoration of the canal, and the construction of a stone bridge, both
of which were in existence in the time of Strabo, were no doubt the work of the
Romans; the canal was probably restored soon after the Roman conquest, when the
Romans separated Leucas from the Acarnanian confederacy, and the bridge was perhaps
constructed by order of Augustus, whose policy it was to facilitate communications
throughout his dominions.
Leucadia is about 20 miles in length, and from 5 to 8 miles in breadth.
It resembles the Isle of Man in shape and size. It consists of a range of limestone
mountains, terminating at its north-eastern extremity in a bold and rugged headland,
whence the coast runs in a south-west direction to the promontory, anciently called
Leucates, which has been corrupted by the Italians into Cape Ducato. The name
of the cape, as well as of the island, is of course derived from its white cliffs.
The southern shore is more soft in aspect, and more sloping and cultivated than
the rugged rocks of the northern coast; but the most populous and wooded district
is that opposite Acarnania. The interior of the island wears everywhere a rugged
aspect. There is but little cultivation, except where terraces have been planted
on the mountain sides, and covered with vineyards. The highest ridge of the mountains
rises about 3000 feet above the sea.
Between the northern coast of Leucadia and that of Acarnania there
is at present a lagoon about 3 miles in length, while its breadth varies from
100 yards to a mile and a half. The lagoon is in most parts only about 2 feet
deep. This part of the coast requires a more particular description, which will
be rendered clearer by the accompanying plan. At the north-eastern extremity of
Leucadia a lido, or spit, of sand, 4 miles in length, sweeps out towards Acarnania.
On an isolated point opposite the extremity of this sandbank, is the fort of Santa
Maura, erected in the middle ages by one of the Latin princes, but repaired and
modelled both by the Turks and Venetians. The fort was connected with the island
by an aqueduct, serving also as a causeway, 1300 yards in length, and with 260
arches. It was originally built by the Turks, but was ruined by an earthquake
in 1825, and has not since been repaired. It was formerly the residence of the
Venetian governor and the chief men of the island, who kept here their magazines
and the cars (hamaxai) on which they carried down their oil and wine from the
inland districts, at the nearest point of the island. The congregation of buildings
thus formed, and to which the inhabitants of the fortress gradually retired as
the seas became more free from corsairs, arose by degrees to be the capital and
seat of government, and is called, in memory of its origin, Amaxichi (Amaxichion).
Hence the fort alone is properly called Santa Maura, and the capital Amaxichi;
while the island at large retains its ancient name of Leucadia. The ruins of the
ancient town of Leucas are situated a mile and a half to the SE. of Amaxichi.
The site is called Kaligoni, and consists of irregular heights forming the last
falls of the central ridge of the island, at the foot of which is a narrow plain
between the heights and the lagoon. The ancient inclosure is almost entirely traceable,
as well round the brow of the height on the northern, western, and southern sides,
as from either end of the height across the plain to the lagoon, and along its
shore. This, as Leake observes, illustrates Livy, who remarks (xxxiii. 17) that
the lower parts of Leucas were on a level close to the shore. The remains on the
lower ground are of a more regular, and, therefore, more modern masonry than on
the heights above. The latter are probably the remains of Nericus, which continued
to be the ancient acropolis, while the Corinthians gave the name of Leucas to
the town which they erected on the shore below. This is, indeed, in opposition
to Strabo, who not only asserts that the name was changed by the Corinthian colony,
but also that Leucas was built on a different site from that of Neritus. (x. p.
452). But, on the other hand, the town continued to be called Nericus even as
late as the Peloponnesian War (Thuc. iii. 7); and numerous instances occur in
history of different quarters of the same city being known by distinct names.
Opposite to the middle of the ancient city are the remains of the bridge and causeway
which here crossed the lagoon. The bridge was rendered necessary by a channel,
which pervades the whole length of the lagoon, and admits a passage to boats drawing
5 or 6 feet of water, while the other parts of the lagoon are not more than 2
feet in depth. The great squared blocks which formed the ancient causeway are
still seen above the shallow water in several places on either side of the deep
channel, but particularly towards the Acarnanian shore. The bridge seems to have
been kept in repair at a late period of time, there being a solid cubical fabric
of masonry of more modern workmanship erected on the causeway on the western bank
of the channel. Leake, from whom this description is taken, argues that Strabo
could never have visited Leucadia, because he states that this isthmus, the ancient
canal, the Roman bridge, and the city of Leucas were all in the same place; whereas
the isthmus and the canal, according to Leake, were near the modern fort Santa
Maura, at the distance of 3 miles north of the city of Leucas. But K. O. Muller,
who is followed by Bowen and others, believe that the isthmus and canal were a
little south of the city of Leucas, that is, between Fort Alexander (Plan, 2)
on the island, and Paleocaglia on the mainland. The channel is narrowest at this
point, not being more than 100 yards across; and it is probable that the old capital
would have been built close to the isthmus connecting the peninsula with the mainland.
It has been conjectured that the long spit of sand, on which the fort Santa Maura
has been built, probably did not exist in antiquity, and may have been thrown
up at first by an earthquake.
Between the fort Santa Maura and the modern town Amaxichi, the Anglo-Ionian
government have constructed a canal, with a towing-path, for boats drawing not
more than 4 or 5 feet of water. A ship-canal, 16 feet deep, has also been commenced
across the whole length of the lagoon from Fort Santa Maura to Fort Alexander.
This work, if it is ever brought to a conclusion, will open a sheltered passage
for large vessels along the Acarnanian coast, and will increase and facilitate
the commerce of the island. (Bowen, p. 78.)
Of the history of the city of Leucas we have a few details. It sent
three ships to the battle of Salamis (Herod. viii. 45); and as a colony of Corinth,
it sided with the Lacedaemonians in the Peloponnesian War, and was hence exposed
to the hostility of Athens. (Thuc. iii. 7.) In the Macedonian period Leucas was
the chief town of Acarnania, and the place in which the meetings of the Acarnanian
confederacy were held. In the war between Philip and the Romans, it sided with
the Macedonian monarch, and was taken by the Romans after a gallant defence, B.C.
197. (Liv. xxxiii. 17.) After the conquest of Perseus, Leucas was separated by
the Romans from the Acarnanian confederacy. (Liv. xlv. 31.) It continued to be
a place of importance down to a late period, as appears from the fact that the
bishop of Leucas was one of the Fathers of the Council of Nice in A.D. 325. The
constitution of Leucas, like that of other Dorian towns, was originally aristocratical.
The large estates were in the possession of the nobles, who were not allowed to
alienate them; but when this law was abolished, a certain amount of property was
no longer required for the holding of public offices, by which the government
became democratic. (Aristot. Pol. ii. 4. § 4.)
Besides Leucas we have mention of two other places in the island,
Phara (Phara, Scylax, p. 13), and Hellomenum (ellomenon, Thuc. iii. 94). The latter
name is preserved in that of a harbour in the southern part of the island. Pherae
was also in the same direction, as it is described by Scylax as opposite to Ithaca.
It is perhaps represented by some Hellenic remains, which stand at the head of
the bay called Basilike.
The celebrated promontory Leucatas (Leukatas, Scylax, p. 13; Strab.
x. pp. 452, 456, 461), also called Leucates or Leucate (Plin. iv. 1. s. 2; Virg.
Aen. iii. 274, viii. 676; Claud. Bell. Get. 185; Liv. xxvi. 26), forming the south-western
extremity of the island, is a broken white cliff, rising on the western side perpendicularly
from the sea to the height of at least 2000 feet, and sloping precipitously into
it on the other. On its summit stood the temple of Apollo, hence surnamed Leucatas
(Strab. x. p. 452), and Leucadius (Ov. Trist. iii. 1. 42, v. 2. 76; Propert. iii.
11. 69). This cape was dreaded by mariners; hence the words of Virgil (Aen. iii.
Mox et Leucatae nimbosa cacumina montis,
Et formidatus nautis aperitur Apollo.
It still retains among the Greek mariners of the present day the evil
fame which it bore of old in consequence of the dark water, the strong currents,
and the fierce gales which they there encounter. Of the temple of Apollo nothing
but the substructions now exist. At the annual festival of the god here celebrated
it was the custom to throw a criminal from the cape into the sea; to break his
fall, birds of all kinds were attached to him, and if he reached the sea uninjured,
boats were ready to pick him up. (Strab. x. p. 452; Ov. Her. xv. 165, seq., Trist.
v. 2. 76; Cic. Tusc. iv. 1. 8) This appears to have been an expiatory rite, and
is supposed by most modern scholars to have given rise to the well-known story
of Sappho's leap from this rock in order to seek relief from the pangs of love.
Col. Mure, however, is disposed to consider Sappho's leap as an historical fact.
(History of the Literature of Greece, vol. iii. p. 285.) Many other persons are
reported to have followed Sappho's example, among whom the most celebrated was
Artemisia of Halicarnassus, the ally of Xerxes, in his invasion of Greece. (Ptolem.
Heph. ap. Phot. Cod. 190. p. 153, a., ed. Bekker.) (Leake, North. Greece, vol.
iii. p. 10, seq. ; Bowen, Handbook for Travellers in Greece, p. 75, seq.)
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited August 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD)