Astypalaia. Island lying between Anaphe and Kos, which was named after the ancient
town and capital. The modern capital now occupies the site of the ancient city,
as is testified by many ruins, inscriptions, and coins found there. The mole,
which protects the port from the N, was built evidently during the Roman Imperial
The island was inhabited first by the Carians, later by Minoans (Ov. Met. 7.456-62), and then, during the historical period, by Megarians and Dorians from the Argolis. It became a member (454-424 B.C.) of the Delian-Athenian Confederacy. As has been attested, especially from Hellenistic inscriptions, the city must have played an important role in the Aegean, owing to the seafaring ability of its inhabitants and the fertility of the soil. The town was governed by the boule, the demos, and gerousia.
There were a prytaneion, an agora, a theater, and the Sanctuaries of Athena and Asklepios, Apollo, and Artemis. Small Hellenistic coins represent Perseus, Gorgo, and later Dionysos, Athena, and Asklepios.
During the Roman period, Astypalaia became civitas foederata, while in the Imperial period it was autonomous.
G. S. Korres, 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.
Astupalaia, Eth. Astupalaieus, Astupalaiates, Astypalaeensis. Called
by the present inhabitants Astropalaea, and by the Franks Stampalia), an island
in the Carpathian sea, called by Strabo (x. p. 392) one of the Sporades, and by
Stephanus B. (s. v.) one of the Cyclades, said to be 125 (Roman) miles from Cadistus
in Crete (Plin. iv. 12. s. 23), and 800 stadia from Chalcia, an island near Rhodes.
(Strab. l. c.) Pliny describes Astypalaea (l. c.) as 88 miles in circumference.
The island consists of two large rocky masses, united in the centre by an isthmus,
which in its narrowest part is only 450 or 500 feet across. On the N. and S. the
sea enters two deep bays between the two halves of the island; and the town, which
bore the same name as the island, stood on the western side of the southern bay.
To the S. and E. of this bay lie several desert islands, to which Ovid (Ar. Am.
ii. 82) alludes in the line:--cinctaque piscosis Astypalaea vadis. From the castle
of the town there is an extensive prospect. Towards the E. may be seen Cos, Nisyros,
and Telos, and towards the S. in clear weather Casos, Carpathus, and Crete.
Of the history of Astypalaea we have hardly any account. Stephanus says that it was originally called Pyrrha, when the Carians possessed it, then Pylaea, next the Table of the Gods (Theon trapeza), on account of its verdure, and lastly Astypalaea, from the mother of Ancaeus. (Comp. Paus. vii. 4. § 1.) We learn from Scymnus (551) that Astypalaea was a colony of the Megarians, and Ovid mentions it as one of the islands subdued by Minos. ( Astypaleia regna, Met. vii. 461.) In B.C. 105 the Romans concluded an alliance with Astypalaea (Bockh, Inscr. vol. ii. n. 2485), a distinction probably granted to the island in consequence of its excellent harbours and of its central position among the European and Asiatic islands of the Aegaean. Under the Roman emperors Astypalaea was a libera civitas. (Plin. l. c.) The modern town contains 250 houses and not quite 1500 inhabitants. It belongs to Turkey, and is subject to the Pashah of Rhodes, who allows the inhabitants, however, to govern themselves, only exacting from them the small yearly tribute of 9500 piastres, or about 601. sterling. This small town contains an extraordinary number of churches and chapels, sometimes as many as six in a row. They are built to a great extent from the ruins of the ancient temples, and they contain numerous inscriptions. In every part of the town there are seen capitals of columns and other ancient remains. We learn from inscriptions that the ancient city contained many temples and other ancient buildings. The favourite hero of the island was Cleomedes, of whose romantic history an account is given elsewhere. Cicero probably confounds Achilles with this Cleomedes, when he says (de Nat. Deor. iii. 18) that the Astypalaeenses worship Achilles with the greatest veneration.
Hegesander related that a couple of hares having been brought into Astypalaea from Anaphe, the island became so overrun with them that the inhabitants were obliged to consult the Delphic oracle, which advised their hunting them with dogs, and that in this way more than 6000 were caught in one year. (Athen. ix. p. 400, d.) This tale is a counterpart to the one about the brace of partridges introduced from Astypalaea into Anaphe. Pliny (viii. 59) says that the muscles of Astypalaea were very celebrated; and we learn from Ross that they are still taken off the coast.
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
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