Information about the place OLYNTHOS (Ancient city) HALKIDIKI - GTP - Greek Travel Pages

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Household & City Organization at Olynthus

Household and City Organization at Olynthus. Nicholas Cahill. Yale University Press. 2002.

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites


  About 3 km inland from the Bay of Terone and some 64 km SE of Thessalonika. Part of the site was inhabited in the Late Neolithic period but not in the Bronze Age. Continuously from perhaps as early as 1000 B.C. there was a small Iron Age settlement consisting, at least in part, of Boiotians. In 479 it was captured and turned over by the Persians to Terone and the Chalkidians. It appears on the tribute lists of the Delian League from 454 on (paying 2 talents) but in 432, encouraged by Macedon, it revolted and received a large accession of population from other revolting Chalkidic coastal cities. It was almost certainly at that time that the Chalkidic state (league) was formed and that a large new section of the city was laid out to accommodate the increased population. Olynthos weathered the Peloponnesian War successfully and about 389 B.C. made a treaty with Amyntas III of Macedon. Its growing prosperity and power led to an attack by Sparta and, after a lengthy siege, to its capitulation in 379 B.C. Though forced to become temporarily an ally of Sparta, its economy seems not to have suffered severely. At any rate Philip II, after his succession to the throne of Macedon in 360, seems to have found it expeditious to conclude a treaty (357) with the Chalkidians, a fragmentary copy of which was found close to the site. By his adroit political maneuvers Philip kept Olynthos and Athens from combining against him until 349 when open war broke out. Despite the Olynthiacs of Demosthenes, Athenian aid proved too little and too late; the city fell in 348 and was destroyed by the Macedonians. Coins indicate a slight continued habitation or rehabitation of a few poor houses at the extreme N end of the N Hill as late as ca. 316 B.C. when the few survivors were no doubt among those Olynthians settled by Kassander at Kassandreia on the site of Poteidaia (Diod. Sic. 19.52).
  Four expeditions between 1928 and 1938 uncovered a part of the S Hill (the site of the older town, with small irregular houses and slight remains of at least one public building), and about a quarter of the N Hill and slopes to the E (the site of the new housing district and of a stoa-like public building). The district was laid out on a very regular Hippodamian plan. Blocks of 300 Ionic feet (300 x 29.5 cm) E-W x 120 feet N-S were divided into two rows of five houses, each house approximately 60 feet square. Normal streets were 17 feet wide but Avenue B, the main N-S street, was 24 feet--the extra 7 feet being deducted from the length of the A blocks. The hundred-odd house plans recovered, including five complete blocks (50 houses) provide the best evidence available for the form of the Hellenic house (430-348 B.C.). Each block was evidently built as a unit with continuous rubble foundation walls, and the individual houses, though no two are exactly alike, conform to a general pattern with court on the S and portico on at least the N side off which most of the principal rooms open; this S orientation, for shelter in winter, agrees with the prescriptions for domestic architecture given by Xenophon and Aristotle.
  A typical house (A vii 4) has a porch (prothyron) opening from the street on the S into the SW corner of a cobble-paved court (aule) in the middle of the S side of the house (but the entrance is never axial). To the W of the court is a large storeroom or, possibly, shop; to the E is a cement-floored dining room (andron) with its anteroom; to the N is the broad portico (pastas--first identified at Olynthos) with a small storeroom at its E end. Off the N side of the pastas opens a series of rooms including a kitchen (ipnon), with flue (kapnodoke) and a cement-floored bathroom (balaneion) with built-in clay tub. A second story (with bedrooms?) was reached by wooden stairs from the court. The walls were of adobe brick on rubble foundations; the roof was sloping and tiled. The finest house discovered, the Villa of Good Fortune, measures about 85 x 55 feet; in addition to the pastas there were narrower and shorter porticos on the other three sides; pebble mosaic floors adorned four of the rooms, those in the andron and its anteroom having both patterns and mythological scenes (Dionysos in chariot; Thetis bringing armor to Achilles); the others bear inscriptions (Agathe tuche, Eutuchia kale, Aphrodite kale).
  The Olynthos mosaics, occurring principally in the andron, occasionally in the court or the pastas, constitute the most extensive and finest group of Greek pebble mosaics known in the period of the late 5th and early 4th c. B.C. Some sixteen inscriptions found in the houses give information regarding the sale, mortgage, or rental of houses, and mention values from 230 to 5300 drachmas.
  Public buildings so far discovered are few and unimportant: on the S Hill a fountain house and some remains of a larger structure; on the N Hill, at the E end of Block A iv, another fountain house, a building with a central row of Doric columns, and traces of what was apparently a stoa facing S on a large open space probably reserved for an agora to be enclosed eventually by other public buildings. A city wall of adobe brick on rubble foundations was traced along part of the W and N sides of the N Hill (at the rear of the houses). Two fairly extensive cemeteries with both inhumation (ca. 90 percent) and cremation burials were excavated, and a plundered stone chamber tomb was cleared on a hill to the W of the site.
  Most of the finds (large amounts of pottery, figurines, loom weights, grain mills, and other household objects) are housed in the archaeological museum in Thessalonika. The large numbers of Chalkidic silver tetradrachmas, tetrobols, and other coins (many found in hoards concealed in the houses) are in the Numismatic Museum in Athens.

J. W. Graham, 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 5 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities


   (Olunthos). A town of Chalcidice, at the head of the Toronaic Gulf, and the most important of the Greek cities on the coast of Macedonia. It was at the head of a confederacy of all the Greek towns in its neighbourhood, and maintained its independence, except for a short interval, when it was subject to Sparta (379-375), till it was taken and destroyed by Philip, B.C. 347. The Olynthiac orations of Demosthenes were delivered by the orator to urge the Athenians to send assistance to the city when it was attacked by Philip. When the supremacy of Sparta was destroyed by the Thebans, Olynthus recovered its independence, and even received an accession of power from Philip, who was anxious to make Olynthus a counterpoise to the influence of Athens in the north of the Aegean. With this view Philip gave Olynthus the territory of Potidaea, after he had wrested this town from the Athenians in 356. But when he had sufficiently consolidated his power to be able to set at defiance both Olynthus and Athens, he threw off the mask, and laid siege to the former city. The Olynthians earnestly besought Athens for assistance, and were warmly supported by Demosthenes in his Olynthiac orations; but as the Athenians did not render the city any effectual assistance, it was taken and destroyed by Philip, and all its inhabitants sold as slaves (347). Olynthus was never restored. Olynthus used the town of Mecyberna as its port.

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

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Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


  Olunthos, Eth. Olunthios. A town which stood at the head of the Toronaic gulf, between the peninsulas of Pallene and Sithonia, and was surrounded by a fertile plain. Originally a Bottiaean town, at the time of the Persian invasion it had passed into the hands of the Chalcidic Greeks (Herod. vii. 122; Strab. x. p. 447), to whom, under Critobulus of Torone, it was handed over, by the Persian Artabazus, after taking the town, and slaying all the inhabitants (Herod. viii. 127). Afterwards Perdiccas prevailed on many of the Chalcidian settlers to abandon the small towns on the sea-coast, and make Olynthus, which was several stadia from the sea, their central position (Thuc. i. 58). After this period the Bottiaei seem to have been the humble dependents of the Chalcidians, with whom they are found joined on two occasions (Thuc. i. 65, ii. 79). The expedition of Brasidas secured the independence of the Olynthians, which was distinctly recognised by treaty (Thuc. v. 19.) The town, from its maritime situation, became a place of great importance, B.C. 392. Owing to the weakness of Amyntas, the Macedonian king, they were enabled to take into their alliance the smaller towns of maritime Macedonia, and gradually advanced so far as to include the larger cities in this region, including even Pella. The military force of the Olynthian confederacy had now become so powerful from the just and generous principles upon which it was framed, including full liberty of inter-marriage, of commercial dealings, and landed proprietorship, that Acanthus and Apollonia, jealous of Olynthian supremacy, and menaced in their independence, applied to Sparta, then in the height of its power, B.C. 383, to solicit intervention. The Spartan Eudamidas was at once sent against Olynthus, with such force as could be got ready, to check the new power. Teleutias, the brother of Agesilaus, was after-wards sent there with a force of 10,000 men, which the Spartan assembly had previously voted, and was joined by Derdas, prince of Elimeia, with 400 Macedonian horse. But the conquest of Olynthus was no easy enterprise its cavalry was excellent, and enabled them to keep the Spartan infantry at bay. Teleutias, at first successful, becoming over confident, sustained a terrible defeat under the walls of the city. But the Spartans, not disheartened, thought only of repairing their dishonour by fresh exertions. Agesipolis, their king, was placed in command, and ordered to prosecute the war with vigour; the young prince died of a fever, and was succeeded by Polybiades as general, who put an end to the war, B.C. 379. The Olynthians were reduced to such straits, that they were obliged to sue for peace, and, breaking up their own federation, enrolled themselves as sworn members of the Lacedaemonian confederacy under obligations of fealty to Sparta (Xen. Hell. v. 2. 12, 3. ยง 18; Diodor. xv. 21 - 23; Dem. de Fals. Leg. c. 75. p. 425). The subjugation of Olynthus was disastrous to Greece, by removing the strongest bulwark against Macedonian aggrandisement. Sparta was the first to crush the bright promise of the confederacy; but it was reserved for Athens to deal it the most deadly blow, by the seizure of Pydna, Methone, and Potidaea, with the region about the Thermaic gulf, between B.C. 368 - 363, at the expense of Olynthus. The Olynthians, though humbled, were not subdued; alarmed at Philip's conquest of Amphipolis, B.C. 358, they sent to negotiate with Athens, where, through the intrigues of the Macedonians, they were repulsed. Irritated at their advances being rejected, they closed with Philip, and received at his hands the district of Anthemus, as well as the important Athenian possession of Potidaea. (Dem. Philipp. ii. p. 71. s. 22). Philip was too near and dangerous a neighbour; and, by a change of policy, Olynthus concluded a peace with Athens B.C. 352. After some time, during which there was a feeling of reciprocal mistrust between the Olynthians and Philip, war broke out in the middle of B.C. 350. Overtures for an alliance had been previously made by Athens, with which the Olynthians felt it prudent to close. On the first recognition of Olynthus as an ally, Demosthenes delivered the earliest of his memorable harangues; two other Olynthiac speeches followed. For a period of 80 years Olynthus had been the enemy of Athens, but the eloquence and statesman-like sagacity of Demosthenes induced the people to send succours to their ancient foes: and yet lie was not able to persuade them to assist Olynthus with sufficient vigour. Still the fate of the city was delayed; and the Olynthians, had they been on their guard against treachery within, might perhaps have saved themselves.. The detail of the capture is unknown, but the struggling. city fell, in. B.C. 347, into the hands of Philip, callidus emptor Olynthi (Juv. xiv. 47), through the treachery of Lasthenes and Euthycrates; its doom was that of one taken by storm (Dem. Philipp. iii. pp. 125 - 128, Fals. Leg. p. 426; Diod. xvi..53). All that survived--men, women, and. children--were sold as slaves; the town itself was destroyed. The fall of Olynthus completed the conquest of the Greek cities. from the Thessalian frontier as far as Thrace--in all 30 Chalcidic cities. Demosthenes (Philipp. iii. p. 117; comp. Strab. ii. p. 121; Justin. viii. 3), speaking of them about five years afterwards, says that they were so thoroughly destroyed, that it might be supposed that they had never been inhabited. The site of Olynthus at Aio Mamas is, however, known by its distance of 60 stadia front Potidaea, as well as by some vestiges of the city still existing, and by its lagoon, in which Artabazus slew the inhabitants. The name of this marsh was Bolyca (he Boluke limne, Hegisander, ap. Athen. p. 334). Two rivers, the Amitas and Olynthiacus (Olunthiakos), flowed into this lagoon from Apollonia (Athen. l. c.). Mecyberna was its harbour; and there was a spot near it, called Cantharolethron (Kantharolethron, Strab. vii. p. 330; Plut. de An. Tranq. 475. 45; Arist. Mirab. Ausc. 120; Plin. xi. 34), so called because black beetles could not live there. Eckhel (vol. ii. p. 73) speaks of only one extant coin of Olynthus--the type a head of Heracles, with the lion's skin; but Mr. Millingen has engraved one of those beautiful Chalcidian coins on which the legend OLUNTh surrounds the head of Apollo on the one side, and the word CHALCHIDEON, his lyre, on the reverse.

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

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